Do You Really Need a Cover Letter?

2020, Cover Letters

So, Do You Need a Cover Letter if Your Resume Says It All?

The job search mechanism has changed dramatically. In the past, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, you know, around 15 years ago, a job advertised in a local newspaper or trade publication prompted you to write and send off by mail a cover letter accompanying your resume.  The advent of *gasp* the fax machine brought about a change in that resumes could now be sent to employers and received within a few moments.  But certainly, the growing reach of email and expansion of job-related web resources has dramatically changed the landscape of how job seekers connect with employers. Email messages, resume attachments in various formats; on-line applications have all changed the format and speed of those interactions. Do you still need a formal cover letter in the age of 15-second assessments? The answer is simple – do whatever positions you most effectively with the employer.

How does the Cover Letter Best Serve Your Needs?

Many people write cover letters as though they were their own miniature resume. All this achieves is taking the wow-factor out of your actual resume as the highlights will already have been stated. When you’re faced with a blank sheet of paper, the inclination is to sell, sell, sell. And whilst the whole point it to sing your skills, do so in a way that enhances, not mimics.

Instead, use your cover letter to show your personality, and your passion in the field you are applying to work in. Think of it as a virtual handshake. The cover letter is necessary as an outline for employers to get a good enough idea to who you are. It should make them want to turn the page and read your resume and call you for an interview. That won’t happen if you’ve given them all the most important points without having to read your resume.

Additionally, given that your resume is a tool for gaining interviews in more than one company, use the real estate on the page of the cover letter to talk a little about the company you are applying to – how your ethos aligns with theirs, and why you want to particularly work at ABC Pty Ltd. A little genuine flattery can go a long way. 

The Cover Letter Reflects You – But Don’t Go Overboard

Your cover letter has to giver the hirer a taste of you as an individual, not just a list of job positions and qualifications. It should reflect your history to date, your aspirations, your passion for your chosen industry. 

However, too much personalisation can be a mistake. As tempting as it may be to pepper your cover letter with positive adjectives, employers and hiring managers say the tone of the letter should be serious.

If it’s too flippant, you may not be perceived as serious. The company you may be targeting could be a dynamic, vibrant brand, and you may be tempted to reflect that in your cover letter, but  the first impression that you need to show ought to be, “Here’s who I am, and this is what I can bring to the table.”

Why you still need a cover letter

The Age of Applicant Tracking Systems

Uploading your resume into a resume database (ATS or Applicant Tracking System) has become the default approach to job search. 

ATS allows recruiters to access resume databases with keyword searches in much the same way as you use a Google search. The resumes with the most keywords – in the right places and used most frequently – rise to the top. The recruiter will probably look at no more than the top twenty results.

Resume databases are commercial enterprises, tailored to the needs of its paying customers: Human Resource departments from larger companies, hiring managers from smaller companies. Consequently, when you see one of these online options:

  • A dialogue box for inserting a cover letter
  • A dialogue box requesting a cover letter as part of the application process
  • A dialogue box demanding a cover letter as part of the application process
  • A dialogue box requesting specific information as to your suitability

It means that someone in the selection cycle thinks information in addition to the resume will speed the recruitment process. Because ATS functions by tracking keywords, a cover letter with keywords relevant to the job posting can help your resume’s ranking, and therefore the likelihood of it being reviewed by a recruiter’s eyes, where it can increase your desirability by adding insights additional to the resume.

So, when a resume database has the option for uploading a cover letter, it would be crazy not to take advantage of the opportunity to promote yourself.


Think of a cover letter as a written pitch.  You are attempting to entice a buyer for your product, and that product is you.  Remember to be convincing and compelling and give the employer a reason to be excited about calling you for an interview.

Are you seeking a professional resume writing service? Select Resumes can provide this service to you at the highest standard. Select Resumes also offers dedicated selection criteria writers to give you the help that you need for even the most complex government job applications. Once you have secured your interview, talk to us about our experienced and passionate interview skills coaches so that you can feel more confident at your next job interview.