Do I really need a cover letter > Post > Blog

Do I really need a cover letter

Interviews, Career Development / Career Growth, CV / Resume.   Thursday, Feb 3, 2022

Farhan U


Done! You’ve spent many days perfecting and crafting your resume and you are finally just about happy with it. Just as you open the job application portal to attach it and press ‘send’, you come across this line: Cover letter (optional)

Oh no! The buttons in your brain hit red and now you are wondering a thousand thoughts a second. “Do I really need to submit a cover letter with my resume?”, “It says optional”, “But does that then mean I don’t put effort?”, “No one even reads cover letters anymore…??”, “But why have they asked for it?”

Well, no fear, Careers360 is here.

We did our research, speaking to recruiters from many companies in Sri Lanka to see whether cover letters still hold some value in the recruitment process today, and here’s a summary of what we found out.

Hiring managers & recruiters spend less than 10 seconds on a CV

Submitting a cover letter is a best practice for any job, internship, or opportunity you apply for (unless they request you not to).

However, a scary but nevertheless very real statistic for job seekers to keep in mind is that many hiring managers personally confirmed that they don’t have a lot of time amidst multiple recruitments. Therefore, the most important details on a resume are quickly scanned and added to the pipeline to follow through on the recruitment process.

In today’s day and age, 84% of employers are using social media to recruit talent according to SHRM. Most recruiters in Sri Lanka will refer candidates via tools like LinkedIn, and in the process, the cover letter is very likely to become obsolete. However, there are still some roles that mandate a cover letter and recruitment managers are likely to skim through, especially if you are shortlisted!

So, what can you do?

Here’s when you don’t really need to include a cover letter

  • When the job opening doesn’t mandate one - Most job openings specifically mention that cover letters are optional or not required. Some job application platforms don’t even have a slot or space to upload one. Obviously, in these cases, you don’t need to submit them.
  • Go big or go home! - Cover letters need to be the bridge between the candidate and the recruiter/hiring manager. So, it should be a well-thought-out document that describes why you are fit for the role and customized for the company it is being sent to, instead of sending a copied template. 

Add this in place of your cover letter

  • Put time and effort into setting up a proper resume. Adding references is a great opportunity for you to prove your worth to a potential employer.
  • Customize the email or short online note sent to each company and make sure your pitch is personalized to the job role and company you are applying to.

When should you submit a cover letter?

  • When it is mandated or required, or you are applying for global opportunities.
  • You have important information to share - There may be some details that you wish to disclose or share, that you may not have the space to in a resume. For example, a career gap, career change, relocation, you have previously worked with the company etc.
  • You really want to work in this role, and it has been your dream and career aspiration forever! Cover letters give you a chance to personally build a connection and share why you want to apply for this opportunity. You can express why you really want to work here and share more about your passion! It can really go a long way!

A cover letter shows the level of effort you have put in and recruiters understand that you really want this job! It can also set you apart from other candidates and give you more visibility.

A few tips when writing your cover letter…

  • Keep it short and follow instructions - Your cover letter at maximum should not exceed a page (250-400 words). Refer the job advert and look out for specifics like if you should submit in Word/PDF format, any formatting and content requirements.
  • Proofread! Grammar and spelling mistakes can really be a turn-off! Use spell check software and tools like Grammarly or any others to stay error-free. Get someone to read it and give input as well (take that input with a grain of salt though!).
  • Enhance your resume - Make your resume readable and appealing by using a consistent font, color theme and style and find a way to tie it all together, perhaps with a header/footer or following similar formatting.
  • Opt for action words than ‘buzz words and catchy phrases - Avoid cliches and common phrases like ‘I am an effective communicator and a great leader’, instead back them up with an experience like “Under my leadership, my team was recognized at APAC conference and awarded with BEST TEAM OF THE YEAR” or use tangible results like “In the year 2021, I have managed to hit 130% of my target, having closed 50+ deals, ending the year with a lead conversion rate of 80%.”
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