There are plenty of resources out there for job seekers that spout the continued importance of cover letters. However, this continues to be a widely debated subject. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer from the people who matter to you the job seeker; that is, hiring managers, recruiters, and human resource departments. That being said, we at Ashley Ellis are going to come right out and say that, in the IT world, the answer is no, you don’t need a cover letter.
To be frank, the number one reason cover letters aren’t read by hiring managers is the sheer volume of people applying and the hours it would take to direct personal attention to each and every person’s cover letter. Today’s world is one of speed and efficiency, and the practice of the cover letter just doesn’t seem to fit in with that vision. This is especially true in the IT realm: since IT Directors and Managers typically embrace that vision, a cover letter isn’t going to do much for them.
However, even if there was an extra hour in each day to read cover letters, hiring managers are unanimous in the view that if a resume doesn’t hold its own, then a cover letter will not help you get an interview. If a resume is bad, a cover letter won’t be read at all. On the other hand, if your resume does stand out from the masses, the chance your letter might be read increases. However, if your resume is good enough to get you an interview by itself, why create a second chance for you to be weeded out with a cover letter that potentially just doesn’t cut it? In other words, a great resume by itself can get you an interview. If you add a cover letter into the mix, your chance at an interview might be hurt.
If you’re still tempted to write a cover letter despite all this, keep a few things in mind before you put pen to paper. If cover letters are read at all, they are not read in depth, so stay brief and to the point. A cover letter that consists of an autobiography, a detailed explanation of personal issues or requirements, or an extended version of the resume just won’t cut it. Essentially, a cover letter should be a snap shot of your resume that can reach out to both technical and non-technical people. Briefly highlight both your technical and non-technical skills, especially ones that were specifically mentioned in the job description.
Watch for any inconsistencies between the letter and your resume that may inadvertently pop up. Also, personalization is good: Put some effort into researching the company and briefly explain why you want to work for them and what you can bring to their table. Finally, please resist any temptation to enclose an autobiography within your cover letter, even an abridged version. Ultimately, if you really need a measure, a cover letter shouldn’t be more than two or three short and concise paragraphs.
The bottom line is all signs indicate that we’re speeding towards a world where a cover letter is simply not worth your time or brain cells, especially in the IT world. If you choose to get ahead of this train, then great. If, however, you’re still intent on writing a cover letter, then our tips will definitely help you on your way.
–Clare Webster – Interactive Copywriter at Ashley Ellis
Ashley Ellis is an Information Technology Recruiting/Staffing firm, focused on staying ahead of the industry through our excellent customer service and constant drive toward improvement.