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Cover Letters, are they Really Needed?

Cover Letters, are they Really Needed?

Tips for Jobseekers

For years, experts have told job seekers that they must include a cover letter with every resume they send out. But is this really necessary? Or is a cover letter just a waste of time?

“All the recruiters I know don’t even read cover letters,” said Anne-Marie Baiynd, President and CEO of TheTradingBook.com and the former CEO of a recruiting firm. “The managers don’t read them either because it’s all fluff.”

Baiynd told StreetID that she doesn’t care what job applicants have to say, “I just want to see what it is that you’ve done, because the proof is always going to be in the pudding.”

What about the belief that your cover letter can serve as an attention-grabbing catalyst?

“Your attention-getter is the objective statement at the very top of the resume,” said Baiynd. “That’s your 35-word blurb that you get to give to them.”

If you’re still tempted to write a cover letter, Baiynd said that you can write “eloquently enough” to “inject those types of power words” (which normally appear in a cover letter) in your actual resume.

Standing Out in the Digital World

Instead of relying on a cover letter to get the attention of prospective employers, Baiynd said that you need to be prepared to give before you get. In fact, it is that very attitude — giving without expecting anything in return — that led her to TheTradingBook.com.

“About two years into trading I found Twitter,” said Baiynd. “I began to tweet everything that I was doing. I had no intention of doing anything other than trading and giving to the community because there are tons of people that need that. But it’s that excess pushing of energy where I expected really nothing in return, and it just opened up wide.”

Baiynd said that she honestly believes that if you can build yourself a brand — “a presence, where you become a specialist in some space” — you can move on to the next level, whatever that may be.

“The internet is so pervasive that anything that you do gets seen in some fashion,” she said. “If you work at building enough of a brand for yourself — I’m not talking about a position as a junior analyst, although you can do that — I’m talking about someone who comes with real skills and says, ‘I’ve been downsized, what can I do, where can I get seen?’ Everybody is so digitally wired that there are going to be large organizations that are looking through Twitter feeds.”

Baiynd said that for the Twitter followers she has obtained, “the growth has been purely organic.”

“I’ve done nothing to feed that beast but put free information out there,” she said. “And it has built a brand that has allowed me to sell a lot of books.”

Jesse Marrus is the Founder and CEO of StreetID, a financial career matchmaking, news and networking site.  He has unique insight into the financial services job industry including career advice, employment trends, fund formations, layoffs and hiring developments.

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12 comments

  1. Weird. Most people say, including this site, that the objective statement on a resume is outdated and should not be used. But here, this woman says to use the objective statement instead of a cover letter. I understand the potential negatives of a cover letter, but they’re very necessary. Of course, they need to be well written.

  2. I feel this is another issue that varies by industry/position. I believe higher level positions merit a cover letter for sure, as well as consulting roles, as each require the ability to communicate well, which you can convey, to an extent, via a cover letter. I would caution job seekers that if you are going to include a cover letter, keep it fairly brief (half a page roughly). I have received cover letters that are a full page and those will most likely not get read.

  3. I do not agree that cover letters are merely “fluff”; rather, I think they serve as a great tool to introduce yourself to potential employers. Cover letters allow you to highlight your best attributes, while also directing the employer’s attention to the parts of your resume that you want them to focus on. It also gives employers a sense of how eager you are to work for them, and what you think you can bring to the company. What I took away from the article is that one should avoid fluff in a cover letter, rather than avoiding the cover letter altogether.

  4. While it’s true that some employers may not bother with a cover letter, something that you failed to address is that a cover letter is used to explain why you are interested in that particular employer.

    That’s what the opening paragraph should be: explaining why you are interested in that company and that position. If you were a CEO that built a company from scratch, you very much care that someone is interested in your company. Your company is your pride and legacy.

    However, a bad cover letter can hurt you just as much. It’s much better to just submit a resume if your cover letter is not strong or done incorrectly. I’ve actually critiqued a really bad cover letter here and explained what can be done to improve it:
    http://www.girafferesume.com/career-blog/how-to-write-a-cover-letter-that-smiles-like-the-mona-lisa.php

    The point is, if you make sure you write your cover letter correctly and with brevity (by starting off with why you are interested in the company, then selling yourself in 1 paragraph, then signing off), the old truism of “always write a cover letter” still applies. In a way that’s unfortunate because they are such a pain to write, but it also is an instant way to stand out if you do it correctly.

    That’s my two cents :).

  5. While I agree with David and Gary that the topic of this article is a little too sparse, we cannot ignore using social media as a tool to get job we want. I have friends that have successfully used social media to get 6-figure annual income jobs. Their secret formulae is to constantly network online, provide value to people and brand themselves well.

  6. I don’t agree with your post that writing cover letter is mere waste of time. According to me very few employers won’t consider it, but many still read resume based on your cover letter. Its way of introducing yourself to potential employers and explaining the suitability for the desired position

  7. I agree with David, if you can’t write well or speak your own language, you go to the bottom of the pile.

  8. I agree with Gary. This article is extremely confusing. I would also like to take a moment (as a wordsmith) to disagree with the author. The ability to write an effective cover letter shows (a) your writing ability, which is important in nearly any career which involves give and take with clients, prospective clients, vendors, supervisors, employees and team members and (b) your sincere interest in the position… enough so to write a cover letter that shows knowledge of the position and employer (anyone can hire someone to prepare a resume; a cover letter is different). If I were hiring a coffee barista or a plumbing assistant, I wouldn’t care. If I were hiring someone to work in the business, non-profit or public service arena wherein they were communicating with others via email, chat or blogs… if you can’t write well, you go straight to the bottom of my resume pile.

  9. Thanks for the feedback. We actually did a follow up from the perspective of another recruiter which I hope to have posted this week. It is a little bit of a different take

  10. OK, I’m confused. The title of the article is “Cover Letters, are they really needed?”

    So how come half of it talked about Tweeter?

    It has been about 7 years since I have been in Human Resources. Back then if the applicant did not include a cover letter, the resume went to the bottom of the pile.

    Yes, there can be a lot of fluff in a cover letter. Yet, I wanted to learn more about the person which I could gain from reading the cover letter.

    The resume itself just states facts in a very concise format and usually the writer does not complete it to a specific job (which they should do).

    I was always interested in hiring someone who was more than a robot and the cover letter would give me some insights into that aspect of their personality.

    It appears Jesse Marrus wrote the article and he only sited one person as his “expert” in the hiring process. I would like to hear from other HR people/managers regarding this topic.

  11. Interesting. They don’t care what the job seeker has to say but rather what they have done.They can see the fluff so be careful with too much fluff in your resume.

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