Originally Posted on Recruiter.com on August 9, 2013.
Ask any corporate recruiter for a large company drowning in a sea of resumes and dealing with a massive, frustrating ATS what he/she thinks of cover letters, and the person’s answer is likely to be “pointless” at best and “irritating” at worst. When a recruiter is already dealing with an onslaught of information from a constantly streaming fire hose of candidates, chances are, he or she may not even SEE a cover letter. Here’s why:
It didn’t come through:
Lots of Applicant Tracking Systems and job board portals give you the option of adding your cover letter to your application, but that’s not the whole story. Many times, depending on the (internet) proximity to the actual company, your application (cover letter and resume included) is torn apart, stripped down, parsed into sections that will work inside of the company’s internal system and put back together in that organization’s particular protocol before human eyes even see it. Since resumes are the lifeblood of the recruiting application, the information in these usually makes it through, but since cover letters are a block of text that can be ignored easily or error-ed out all—many don’t make it through.
They don’t have time:
The average time that a recruiter scans or reads a resume is between 6-30 seconds and it seems to be going down every year. These people are racing through your resume and probably would love to read your cover letter (if you are their cousin or best friend). Right now, though, it’s get through that stack of resumes or miss Burrito Day in the cafeteria. Which would YOU choose?
They aren’t ready to emotionally invest in you:
I know this one sounds like a stretch, but stick with me. The truth is recruiters are trying to find the very closest match to the job they have open. For all the talk about workforce planning and cultural fit, that’s not what their brains are thinking about right now. So before they read your cover letter, they need to see what skills you have. Otherwise, why risk liking you because of your killer cover letter?