Yes, cover letters are still necessary in job applications: survey

cover letter for job application
Are you attending a career fair soon? Here are some statistics by Resume Genius, a popular resume-building platform, to show why it's still important for you to prepare a cover letter. Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

Is it okay to not write a cover letter? The short answer is no, it is not okay.

You need a cover letter for job applications. They are still pivotal, according to a survey by Resume Genius

The resume-building platform reached out to 625 hiring managers from a range of small businesses with less than 100 employees to large companies that employ over 1,000 employees across the US on their thoughts about cover letters

They found: 

  • 78% of recruiters prefer applicants to submit a cover letter for job applications
  • 45% of hiring managers read a cover letter before a resume
  • 72% of hiring managers expect applicants to submit a cover letter even if the job posting says that it is optional to do so

“Our goal was to gain insight into the minds of people who actually read cover letters,” shares Rebecca Tay, Resume Genius’s in-house professional researcher, who compiled the results of this survey. 

“There’s a lot of data out there that looks at the views of cover letters from the job seeker’s perspective (and the consensus is they don’t like them and they avoid writing them), but what really matters is how important hiring managers think cover letters are.” 

job applications

While close to eight in 10 recruiters prefer applicants to provide a cover letter for job application, the answer is more complicated than that. Source: Manan Vatsyanana/AFP

What happens if you don’t include a cover letter?

That’ll depend on several factors. Your job application may not be prioritised, if the hiring manager is male.

The survey found that male hiring managers tend to prioritise cover letters compared to female hiring managers. They also felt that it was important for applicants to customise their cover letters.

Someone who hires but is not a dedicated HR professional is more likely to think that cover letters are important.

“Whether these hiring professionals would be working directly with the recruit and therefore care more about the person’s fit and personality, or if there are other reasons, is something that would be interesting to explore in the future,” Tay shares.

So, should you include a cover letter if it is optional?

Despite these findings, all hiring managers agreed that a cover letter should provide additional information and context as to why a person is applying for the position.

It also allows applicants to demonstrate why they are a right fit for the position and show their personality in their job applications, according to hiring managers in the survey.

Hortense Minishi, a Master of Human Rights student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, agrees.

“The cover letter allows me to share that ‘special sparkle’ that makes me uniquely qualified for the position I am applying for. It highlights my strengths, skills and experiences that are most relevant for that specific role,” she shares.

cover letter for job applications

Yes, you still need a cover letter for job applications. Source: Octavio Jones/Getty Images/AFP

It’s important to customise your cover letter for job applications

The results from their latest survey also show how important it is for applicants to customise their cover letter for job applications, no matter how similar one posting is to another.

If you plan on writing one soon, you should match your skills with the job posting, mention the company’s goals, use the company’s name, and address the hiring manager with their name (if possible).

Alternatively, hiring managers shared that “Dear Hiring Manager” was the most preferred intro if you can’t find their name after researching the company.