Do I Have to Write a Cover Letter? Many Job Seekers Just Say No – WSJ


imageTo Whom It May Concern: Job applicants are putting a hard stop to those dreaded cover letters.

Many hiring managers say a sharp cover letter remains one of the best ways to make the case for why you are the right person for the job.Yet many job seekers say the self-promoting exercise is too torturous and time-consuming to be worth the effort for a less-than-dream role.It’s also just plain insulting, they argue, since it’s often an algorithm , not a human, that screens and sorts the applications.

Now, as employers struggle to fill millions of openings , job seekers are using their leverage to say no to what, until recently, was a must for landing a decent position.

“People are fundamentally fed up with having to do so much to get a job,” said Gianni LaTange, a 27-year-old in New York who works in tech.Ms.LaTange calls cover letters an antiquated hiring practice and no longer applies to jobs that require them.

Photo Illustration: DAISY KORPICS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, ISTOCK To get her current role, she instead contacted employees at companies she wanted to work at over LinkedIn.One employee, after a brief conversation, connected her with a recruiter, and she ultimately got an offer without writing a letter, she said.

Some job seekers say writing cover letters is a job itself, and one that yields little reward for the effort.Before Devin Miller’s most recent job, he wrote about 10 cover letters to companies he wanted to work for.

Each was different, and he wanted to signal that he knew what the work would entail, he said.He heard back from none.To get his current role, he responded to a recruiter who had reached out to him and asked just for a résumé, the 33-year-old Mr.Miller said.

Mr.Miller briefly looked for a new information-technology job in November because he was moving to Boston.This time, though, he said he applied only for openings that didn’t require a cover letter—and got several interviews and an offer.

“It just doesn’t align with my or my peers’ current interests in how they want to proceed with their career,” said Mr.Miller, who, in the end, opted to stay with his existing team and work remotely.

Behind all of the cover-letter hate lurks a major disconnect between job seekers and the employers trying to hire them.

A recent ResumeLab survey of 200 hiring managers and recruiters found 83% said cover letters were important to deciding whom to hire, especially when it came to understanding why the applicant wanted the job or explaining a career switch or break .Nearly three-quarters said they expected a cover letter even if it wasn’t explicitly asked for.

Photo Illustration: DAISY KORPICS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, ISTOCK “If you don’t take the time to explain yourself, they’re not going to consider you,” said Jill Tipograph, co-founder of Early Stage Careers, a career-coaching company for college students and 20-somethings.Early-career applicants especially need cover letters to differentiate themselves, she said.It’s about “laying out the facts and the foundation of what you’re bringing to the table,” she said.

Yet only 38% of candidates attach cover letters to their applications even when it is requested, according to ResumeLab, which provides advice and online templates for building résumés and cover letters.

Kevin Grossman, president of the Talent Board, a nonprofit hiring and recruiting research group, said that many of the employers his organization works with no longer look at cover letters, in part because of automated application-screening tools.

The exception, he said, is when hiring volume is smaller and recruiters have the time.

Another reason cover letters often fail to impress: “Most of them are extremely generic,” said Keith Wolf, managing director of recruiting firm Murray Resources, who advises job seekers to tailor them to the specific job opening..

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