Do You Need a Cover Letter? This Tech Recruiter Says Yes.

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February 27, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • It’s not time to retire your cover letter. 
  • Applications are not the only place to use your cover letter.
  • Teal’s AI Cover Letter Generator can drastically reduce the time it takes to tailor a cover letter to each job description.

Once expected, cover letters have become one of the bigger controversies in the job search.

So, what’s going on? Do you still need to write a cover letter?

The application process has changed

In the ‘80s, job seekers applied for a handful of jobs. They wrote a thoughtful cover letter to the hiring manager and then mailed it, faxed it, or even drove it over themselves! This was the only information on a candidate most hiring managers had, so this letter gave insight into who the person was and why they were a good fit for the job.

In 2024, many companies have robust application processes, and they can check out a candidate’s LinkedIn profile to learn more. As a result, some companies have stopped requesting them altogether. 

On the job seeker side, over 40% say they apply to 250+ jobs in their search. Many use “easy apply” features that make mass applying fast—but tough to stand out. In theory, a cover letter can help distinguish you from a pool of other candidates, but over the years it’s become table stakes.

Over the course of nine years in talent acquisition, I’ve had countless job seekers tell me a cover letter is a deal breaker for them and prefer applications that don’t ask for one. 

And for some companies, that’s fine. They’ve stopped requiring cover letters because they feel they can get the information they need via a resume, LinkedIn profile, or a short set of application questions.

Do recruiters and hiring managers even read cover letters?

There’s some controversy here! A couple of years ago, a recruiter at Meta went viral for sharing that they didn’t read cover letters. However, their employer wasn’t actually requesting cover letters.

I’ve been a manager for 15 years, and worked in recruiting for nine of those. In my experience, when a cover letter is requested, teams read it. I’ve also found that some hiring managers really love them as a way to get to know the candidate before an interview.

What if a cover letter is required?

The problem comes when you really want that job, and they ask for a cover letter. Now what? 

My suggestion: You write one.  

Not completing a cover letter tells the hiring team you either didn’t notice the requirement (which signals poor attention to detail), or that you chose not to complete it (which signals you don’t really care about the job). 

It takes extra time and effort, but in my experience, when a company asks for something in their application process, submitting an incomplete application will simply land your application in the “reject” pile. It’s an easy way to narrow down candidates, especially in a tough market where many will submit a cover letter. 

And as an added bonus, because many candidates DO skip this step, these types of roles may result in less competition.

Obviously, writing a cover letter can feel daunting, but you can write a single draft and then tailor a few lines of it for each job. (Teal’s AI Cover Letter Generator can help out here.)

So how do you write a great cover letter?

Here are six easy cover letter tips I recommend to job seekers looking to get a competitive edge over similar candidates.

1. Create job family templates

Like your resume, I recommend having one cover letter template for each job family or position type. 

So if you apply to Customer Success Manager and Technical Support roles, you’ll have two cover letters, each focusing on one job family. You can then use that cover letter for any application in that realm, and simply make a few tweaks to tailor it to each company hiring for that role.

AI tools like Teal’s Cover Letter Builder can be really helpful here to keep the tailoring and editing process efficient, so you can apply to more roles.

2. Tailor the intro paragraph

The first paragraph should focus on your excitement about the role and company, with a line or two about how you found the role or what got you excited about the position. 

3. Write an experience paragraph

There is where you highlight a few (not all!) key experiences that make you extremely well-qualified for the role. 

I like to tie these into the job description, bringing to life how I delivered results similar to those the company is hoping to accomplish. There are a few ways to do this. You can study the job description and recent company news. You can also go to the Cover Letter section of Teal's Resume Builder and select a saved job description to attach and match.

If you write these well, they should not require much editing.

4. Tailor your fit paragraph

Follow up your experience section with a paragraph expanding on why the company is such a good match. Demonstrate how you align with the culture and mission with your past experience and areas of passion. (I always try to highlight some personal connection to the product or service as well!)

5. End on a high note

Close the letter with a paragraph reiterating your interest and enthusiasm about  the opportunity.

6. Add contact information

Don't forget to include your contact information for easy access. It should also be included on your resume as well, but in the case that the two get separated you want the hiring manager to know 1) it’s your cover letter. 2) how to get a hold of you to set up an interview.

Teal’s got a great collection of 1,200+ cover letter examples if you want to see these principles in action.

Underrated benefits of a cover letter

The shelf life of a cover letter can  be longer than the formal application process. 

In addition to bolstering each application by including one, you can also use your cover letter for networking and follow-ups.

If you want an excuse to reach back out, a cover letter is something you can send to recruiters and hiring managers after applying for a role. This gives you a chance to highlight what a great fit you are and signal your strong interest—hopefully leading to them checking out your application more quickly!

It can feel overwhelming to do this for every role. I would reserve it for roles I was really excited about. But by leveraging Teal’s AI Cover Letter Builder, you can draft your cover letter versions quickly, and use it to get hiring managers excited about you as a candidate!

Common cover letter mistakes

Once you've drafted and tailored your cover letter, go back over it to ensure you avoided these common pitfalls.

Keeping it generic

Your cover letter is an opportunity to paint a picture of why you are the perfect candidate for the job. When your job titles don’t match up as well, your cover letter gives you a chance to connect the dots between your career and the role. So make sure to highlight your most relevant experiences and accomplishments. 

Poor writing

A cover letter is a great chance to show off your writing skills and communication style. Make sure your cover letter is free of errors and shows some personality. If you’re using AI to create the first draft, edit it before submitting so it sounds more like you.

Restating your resume

Your cover letter is an opportunity to expand on your resume, or offer additional information that helps prove alignment with the role. 

Applying with a non-profit working to solve climate change? This is your chance to talk about your passion and volunteer work in that space, even if that’s not reflected in your resume. Applying for project management roles? This is where you can go deeper into a project you’ve led that’s relevant to the role. 

In short, if your cover letter offers nothing new, there’s no reason to read it.

Should you retire your cover letter? Not yet.

Cover letters will continue to be a controversial part of the application process, and are not required by all companies. But I still think it’s a fantastic way to differentiate yourself and really show your enthusiasm about an opportunity. In a pool where a lot of candidates skip this step, it’s also a way to show that you’re someone who goes above and beyond. 

And that might just be the signal that gets a team to say yes to an interview!

Frequently Asked Questions

What specific elements make a cover letter stand out to tech recruiters?

A standout cover letter for tech recruiters should be concise and tailored to the specific role, showcasing your relevant skills and experience. It should also reflect a genuine understanding of the company's values and how you can contribute to their goals. Including quantifiable achievements and expressing enthusiasm for the opportunity can further distinguish your application.

Can a cover letter make a difference if my resume doesn't fully match the job requirements?

Yes, a well-crafted cover letter can bridge the gap between your resume and the job requirements. It allows you to explain how your unique experiences and transferable skills can be an asset to the team, even if you don't meet every criterion. It's an opportunity to demonstrate your potential and willingness to learn and grow with the company.

How should I address a career gap or change in my cover letter?

Addressing a career gap or change in your cover letter should be done positively and proactively. Focus on the skills and knowledge you've gained during the gap, such as additional training or volunteer work, and explain how these experiences have prepared you for the role you're applying for. Be honest but confident in your explanation, showing how your diverse background can bring a unique perspective to the team.

Bonnie Dilber

Bonnie Dilber is a former educator and currently manages the business recruiting team for Zapier. She also loves to share advice that helps make navigating the job search a bit easier for job seekers.

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