Is a Cover Letter Necessary? Why Should I Write a Cover Letter?

Is a Cover Letter Necessary? Why Should I Write a Cover Letter?

There have probably been times when you were trying to write your cover letter, working on it for the umpteenth hour, when you wondered: “Is it really necessary?”.


After all, 74% of recruiters openly admit to not reading cover letters. 


Why spend so much time writing it, personalising it, and making sure it’s top-notch?


Well, before we answer the question of whether the cover letter is necessary, let’s quickly discuss its purpose in the recruitment process.


What is the purpose of a cover letter?

  1. Give an insight into your personality
  2. Explain this there is no space to elaborate on in the CV
  3. Show your motivation
  4. A cover letter proves that you care


  1. Give an insight into your personality


Admit it: no matter how much you try to bend over backwards to personalise your CV and make it stand out, there is only so much you can do. Playing with colours, adding pictures, even experimenting with different formats are all methods that are becoming more popular when creating a resume, but they can still be risky. 


So, how to ensure you convey your personality and prove it matches the spirit of the team you are hoping you join without implementing unconventional methods? *Enter the cover letter*


Whereas in a resume, you only have short phrases and keywords to work with, a cover letter is an actual piece of text where you are given the opportunity to rock the socks off recruiters with your impressive writing skills and well-defined personal style. Of course, you shouldn’t make it too long - hiring managers agree that the optimal length of a cover letter falls between 250 and 300 words. That’s not a lot. 

Data taken from an article by Finances Online.

However, it is more than enough to give a small sneak peek of the real person behind the piece of paper listing their skills and their LinkedIn profile. It is your one opportunity to come off as an attractive candidate who stands out from the crowd before the recruiters get to meet you in person. So, in a way, you should be grateful for being given that chance - despite the effort it takes to create a decent cover letter. 


  1. Explain things there is no space to elaborate on in the CV

Maybe your university degree is unrelated to the career you’re pursuing. Maybe there is a significant gap in your “experience” section that has a perfectly valid explanation but would raise eyebrows if unable to provide one. Maybe you have decided it’s time for a career change and your previous positions have nothing to do with the job you’re applying for now. 


All of those cases are very common and perfectly acceptable - if given the chance to make them clear. It is okay to drop out of the job market for a while to take care of a relative or travel. It’s also perfectly fine to work in an industry you don’t have that much experience in. 


A cover letter is a place where you explain why those potential setbacks can actually be perceived as advantages. For example, if you have taken a gap year to do a trip around the world - prove how that experience has made you an even better fit for the job than if you had spent that time working behind a desk. If you are entering a completely new career path, demonstrate the reasons for leaving the previous one and show how you can still be the right candidate. 


Remember that a cover letter is a two-way street: it is supposed to help the employer get to know you better and make a good decision, but it’s also designed to allow you to express everything the CV doesn’t allow you to.


  1. Show your motivation


Let’s face it, even if you make your resume neon-pink (which we don’t recommend doing), it will be hard to find another way to demonstrate your enthusiasm there. You can’t exactly top your resume off with a catchy slogan of “Super excited to join your team!” or “There is no better choice for the position than me!”. Please don’t try. 


Instead, include all that in your cover letter. In the last paragraph, list the reasons why you are a good match for this position, how you can contribute to the growth of the business, and what motivated you for applying to this particular job. You can convey your enthusiasm in your style of writing - be positive, but not childish in expressing your willingness to join the team. Don’t overwhelm the recruiter; leave no room for an argument if they were to ask themselves how exactly you could be an asset to the company. 


There is no space on a CV to list the reasons why you find that particular job offer attractive and why you would like in this specific company. Recruiters want to know that salary is not the only thing motivating the potential candidate, so coming up with a few solid advantages of the position will demonstrate that you have thought everything through and are not just applying to random jobs on a whim. It will also be an opportunity for you to prove that you have taken the time to conduct basic research and have some knowledge about the company.


  1. A cover letter proves that you care


It is no secret that it takes much more time to write a personalised cover letter than to create a CV. While you can get by sending out the same resume to a few employers if the positions you are applying for are very similar, you absolutely shouldn’t try to create a universal cover letter. Even if the roles you seek are almost the same, just in different companies, you should still make the effort to create a whole new document. 


This is because company details will differ, so while doing your research, you should find one thing about your future place of employment that is unique and pay special attention to it. For example, what you might appreciate in one company are offices in different locations and the possibility to travel between them, while another will only have one headquarters but will be expanding at an impressive speed.


53% of employers prefer candidates who include a cover letter in their application. Why? Because it means that they have taken the time to actually write it. That their job-seeking process is not just mass production, based on copy-pasting and applying blindly to everywhere that hires. They need to be able to see that you are a dedicated employee even before you start working, and a cover letter is a perfect way to demonstrate that. 

Data taken from a 2021 survey by Live Career.

Right - now that you know the basic functions of a cover letter, you are probably more willing to admit that it may be worth writing in some cases.


So, are cover letters necessary?

The question of whether a cover letter is necessary has already answered itself in a way - it generally is, as it can work to your advantage. 


However, there are some cases when you shouldn’t provide a cover letter:

  1. The employer specifically asks you not to submit a cover letter
  2. The application platform doesn't provide space to upload a cover letter
  3. You don't have the time to customise your cover letter


  1. The employer specifically asks you not to submit a cover letter


It is not common, but a job description can sometimes explicitly state that the candidates are asked not to submit a cover letter with their application. You might think that going against the current and doing it anyway might help you stand out and show that you are willing to go the extra step, but in reality, it doesn’t always work that way. 


If you are specifically asked not to send a cover letter for a particular position, don’t send one. If you do, it might be interpreted as an inability to follow instructions, trying too hard, or simply indicate that you didn’t make the effort to read the whole job posting carefully. None of those things suggest a dutiful employee - there is a fine line between taking the initiative and being zealous.


  1. The application platform doesn’t provide space to upload a cover letter


Employers know what their application system looks like. If they didn’t include space where you can upload your cover letter, then that most likely means it was a conscious decision and that they simply do not require one. 


An example of a platform with such a system is us, Europe Language Jobs. When you click submit, your application is sent based on your candidate’s profile and the information you put there. You can upload a resume, but you won’t find any space for submitting a cover letter. The “About Me” section at the top of the page can serve as a cover letter of sorts, but given how all the employers see the same generic text, it is not technically one. Each company that cooperates with us is aware of that, and so they don’t require a cover letter when submitting an application through our portal. 


In cases like that, don’t go the extra mile and send the cover letter in a direct email to the recruiter, anyway. If they want one in the further stages of the recruitment process, they will ask for it. 


  1. You don’t have the time to customise your cover letter


A bad cover letter is worse than no cover letter. Generally, you should plan out your job-seeking process in a way that would allow you to create and send out all the required documents in time. But in case you had somehow lost track of time and remembered about an application for a job you really want the night before the deadline, scrape that cover letter. 


In the same way as a good cover letter can boost your chances of being employed, a bad one can drastically lower them. Don’t risk sending out one that you wrote stressed out and in a hurry. The same applies if you are planning on using a universal template you found online - if that is your intention, then think again. 


Of course, you can hire a writing service that will do the work for you, but remember that the main purpose of a cover letter is to find out more about you. In an event that you pass on to the further stage and get an interview, a well-trained recruiter will be able to tell that the person sitting in front of them was not the same one who wrote the cover letter. The tone, the style of expression, the personality will be different. 


There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help in your job hunt, but keep in mind that an employer wants to see you making an effort. If they have reasons to believe you commissioned your documents to someone else, it might discourage them as they could suspect it is because you didn’t want to take the time to write them yourself. 


Summing up, a cover letter is necessary - except in the three specific cases described above. We hope we have helped you understand the reasons behind its importance, and that the next time you write one, you will do so motivated by the vision of how it can increase your chances of getting the job. 


Given the competitiveness of the job market, a lot of us feel the pressure to make the cover letter perfect. We are never satisfied with the final result, never ready to send it, always thinking we could do more, prettier, better. The truth is, the most important thing is that it is truthful and honest. Demonstrate your real motivations, show clear ways how you can contribute to the company, and read it carefully to avoid any grammatical errors or typos. And there - you’re good to go!


If you’re seeking more cover letter advice, check out the tab of our blog dedicated to the topic!