Cover Letters Are Dead: Do This Instead

Businessman tossing crumpled paper at waste bin

By Stephanie Vozza

If you're looking for a new job, don't worry about writing a stellar cover letter. Nearly two-thirds of recruiters say it's not an important factor when they review applications, according to a survey of 1,400 recruiters by Jobvite, a recruiting software provider.

In fact, the cover letter is quickly becoming a dinosaur when it comes to hiring, says Jobvite chief people officer Rachel Bitte, and its demise is due to three things: speed, technology, and volume.

"Most companies today recruit online and receive applications through software systems that often don't include a section for a cover letter," she says. "Some industries, particularly those in Silicon Valley, receive a large amount of applications. The pace at which companies need talent has also grown exponentially, so finding the right person quickly is very important.

"Recruiters who get cover letters say they ignore them. Instead, they want to get to the meat of someone's background by diving into the resume."

Unfortunately, the cover letter used to be the perfect place to personalize your pitch and highlight information that doesn't shine on a bulleted job history. To stand out now, applicants need to get creative and change the traditional resume format to serve their needs.

Bitte says there are four things you can do on your resume to make up for the loss of the letter:

1. Add a summary

One way to provide more details is to include a summary. Located at the top of the resume, it's made up of two or three sentences that highlight what makes you different from other applicants. Similar to an elevator pitch, it's where you share a high-level competency, niche, or career focus. The summary replaces the "objective" that was once a popular component of a resume.

2. Include personal information

Applicants are also including personal interests in their resumes, says Bitte. Added to the bottom of the resume, it gives hiring managers a sense of the candidate's personality before they call them in for an initial interview. You can include hobbies, volunteer activities, or relevant club memberships. If you are applying to a company with offices in more than one area, you might also point out if you are willing to relocate.

3. Highlight accomplishments

In addition to your employment history and job descriptions, include bulleted points under each entry with critical elements that hiring managers are looking for. "What were your two or three major accomplishments?" asks Bitte. "What results did you get? Offer concrete data, such as, 'I helped increase employee engagement by x percent.' This richness makes a resume stand out in comparison to your peers."

4. Provide social media handles

Hiring managers are looking at your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles, whether or not you include the links on your resume, says Bitte. It can be proactive to not only offer a link, but to be vigilant about what you've posted on these platforms because they give hiring managers a great deal of insight.

"What's interesting is that companies aren't judging your personality from your posts; they're looking for a culture fit," says Bitte. "Cover letters used to be the medium to figure that out, but that's no longer the case. Today, social media can tell a hiring manager a lot more, and they're using it to find the right fit."