Job searches are time consuming. Every part of them – reviewing job postings, networking, resume writing, interviewing – takes time. Even when you are between assignments, and arguably have more available time, it can be challenging to get it all done and natural to question how much time is good enough or to look for shortcuts. If you’re currently working, the idea of the time needed to write a cover letter and update your resume might actually be a deterrent to applying.
Well, while there are certainly exceptions to what we’re about to say, the cover letter is one place that you can save some time, just eliminate it. In many instances, especially in IT, a cover letter is just not necessary.
Our recruiters were the first people who told us that they don’t find them useful, and don’t miss them or hold it against a candidate when one isn’t included. But we also asked others who recruit in IT and heard the same thing, and online research turned up similar results and opinions.
What we heard from our recruiters is that the resume is king. Done right, it is designed to impart the best information in the most efficient way, and it’s what recruiters rely on.
Like those of us who feel writing a cover letter is a waste of time, recruiters aren’t fans of reading them. Most ATR recruiters told us “they just don’t tell me anything I can’t learn from the resume,” and noted that “they usually repeat the same information or say nice but meaningless things.” Recruiters are busy people too, and no one wants to waste time.
Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for information that tells them what you know and what your experience has really been. They want to see that you can do the job at hand – because you’ve done it before or have highly transferable skills. The best place for this is in your resume. One recruiter pointed out, “a useful cover letter would be one that highlighted your most relevant skills and gave an overview of your experience, but that’s what a good Summary section would do, and that’s in the resume, so it’s repetitive.” Hard to argue with that logic!
Another recruiter said that if a job had a significant writing component to it, maybe a cover letter would be useful and revealing but then quickly noted, “but in those cases, we’d ask them for a writing sample, so, again, it isn’t really that helpful in IT.”
Now, when do you still need a cover letter?
- When they ask for one. Absolutely, no exceptions. If they’ve asked for a cover letter and you don’t give one, forget it – you’ll be knocked out of the pile quickly.
- When you are making a big change. If you’re leaving one industry for a significantly different one or applying to be a computer science teacher instead of a software developer, or vice versa. Or maybe you are transitioning from the military. The cover letter is an opportunity to explain this and begin to show why you will be a good fit in the new role.
- When you are explaining something unusual. Is there a gap in your resume? Did you take off time to be a parent or to travel the world? Explain it in a cover letter.
- When you are not applying for a particular position. You might be writing to a company because you have always wanted to work there or maybe you are following up on a networking lead. In this case, a cover letter is a necessity.
But the truth is that if you don’t have the time, don’t worry. When it comes to recruiting – just send us your resume, with a good Summary section. No cover letter expected or needed!