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I think we should ditch them altogether. Here’s why.
I’ve read thousands of cover letters. Never have I once interviewed someone solely due to a cover letter. A lot of times they’re simply too generic, used for any number of different positions and companies. Sometimes they’re written by a friend or neighbor and not the actual candidate (which is usually obvious).
As someone managing the hiring process I spend only a few minutes per resume. I know this is depressing and sad, but it’s a fact. Most hiring managers spend less than that. I’m looking for key points in order to develop some thematic congruency with the job spec. After that I’m looking for a detail that stands out: specificity, a unique situation, leadership or initiative, strange and useful skills, or a an interesting quirk. The first goal of a hiring manager when running through a stack of resumes is to make that stack exceptionally smaller. Cull.
Cover letters create confusion. They add time. And they don’t really say much. Candidates don’t know what to do with them. Employers hardly glance at them. Let’s all make a pact here and now to just simply ditch the cover letter. For the children.