Cover letters were originally written as a formal introduction and a sign of courtesy. Hopeful job seekers would write them to express their intentions of applying for a desired position, outline some key reasons why they would be fit for the job, and close by saying that they were excited to hear back. The email era came in, and job hunting procedures were not so cut and dried anymore.
In 2010, most companies would decline printed resumes and ask applicants to email a person in HR. A few years after that, applicants would be referred to you by automated talent resource systems where you can upload your resume or answer a pre-made form. Some job sites even make cover letters optional.
These days when everything moves so quickly, do employers and recruiting managers still have enough time to go through stacks of cover letters? Do job applicants really need them? Here are just a few reasons why some people still do:
1. When it is required
This is obviously a no brainer. Although very few, there are still some agencies who prefer cover letters to get a better understanding of their applicant and get initial responses in questions included in the job post.
2. When you want to emphasize sincerity
In this world of automation, cover letters do add a personal touch. Cover letters give you a chance to show the company how well you know and admire their work. That's valuable space your resume cannot offer. It guarantee you will go past the first screening but adding that brief introduction might just make you more memorable.
3. When you were referred by contacts working with or within the office
This can be done via email as well but most professionals still take note of courtesy especially when it comes to bypassing the HR department and contacting them via their direct email addresses. It would be good to let them know who referred you and how you got their email address, so that your email doesn't get sent straight to their Spam folder.
Most job postings today are very specific with their application requirements to the point of saying which resumes and qualifications they will prioritize and not entertain. If there's no indication in the post whether a cover letter is required or not, consider points two and three above. Even if you do send cover letters, there could be a chance that the hiring process is so automated that no one will ever read it.
However, if you do get the chance to send one, either through a website or email, it's always better to err on the side of polite on this one. A great resume could get your closer to the job of your dreams, but a cover letter could seal the deal.