Does Anyone Read Cover Letters?

Written by on March 26, 2018 in Blog, Careers, cover letters with 0 Comments

Does Anyone Read Cover Letters?

It might seem ridiculous to ask Does anyone read cover letters? Because it’s like asking if anyone drinks coffee. The answers to both are simple:

    • Yes, people drink coffee if it’s good.
    • Yes, people will read a cover letter if it’s good.

The key words to those answers were “If it’s good.”

Many people cite statistics based on surveys of “X” number of HR people or “X” number of recruiters, but like all surveys they were likely flawed. They didn’t ask the crucial question—was the cover letter good? When a person considers the question does anyone read cover letters? the answer depends entirely on another question “was the cover letter good?” From what I found out, if the cover letter was good, it got read. If it wasn’t good, it didn’t.

Reading cover letters is no different than drinking coffee or reading a book. If the coffee isn’t good, it will likely be left in the cup to grow cold, and then it will be tossed in the trash. If a cover letter isn’t good, it will suffer a similar fate, left on the desk or desktop, then tossed in the trash.

For coffee to be good it has to appeal to the person drinking it. Some people like it bold and served black. Others like it mild with cream and sugar. And there are some who like it dabbed with a shot of grappa to be enjoyed after dinner. A cover letter is not much different; for it to be a match to the job description, the right things have to be there.

does anyone read cover letters

Cover Letters—the Forgotten Path to an Interview

A lot of people say the time for cover letters is over. “Does anyone read cover letters?” they ask. The answer is “yes” and “no”. I answered that way earlier, and I’ll do it again because it’s true. Reading a cover letter is not much different from reading résumés as far as statistics go.

When I was writing my books No Mistakes Resumes and No Mistakes Interviews, I spoke to almost one hundred HR people and about fifty headhunters. I wondered the same thing myself—does anyone read cover letters? The responses I received were almost the same from both groups.

“It depends.”

“It depends on what?” I asked.

“On how good the cover letter is.”

The almost universal reply was that if the cover letter started out good, then they would continue reading it, and the better it started out, the longer they would read. If, however, the cover letter began poorly, it would be trashed and more often than not, so would the résumé.

The surprise factor was that of the cover letters that were read, an overwhelming number of them were invited in for an interview. Some of them turned out to be the deciding factor for bringing someone in—not the résumé.

My take on the matter is simple. I think you should always include a cover letter, just make sure it’s a good one.

Does anyone read cover letters?

Cover Letters Let You Sell Yourself

A cover letter is no different than a song or a book or a movie. If it starts out great, it will be read. Just like if you hear a song on the radio, and it has a catchy tune. You’ll end up listening to it. Or if you see the first few minutes of a movie that seems really good, you’ll likely finish watching it. Same with a good book. Cover letters are no different. So when people ask the question “Does anyone read cover letters?”, the response of “it depends” seems appropriate.

Cover letters are simply following the trends of other things. I don’t watch many movies because there aren’t many of them that catch my interest right away. I don’t read as much or listen to as much music as I used to for the same reasons.

But when I do find a good one, I follow through with it. The same applies to cover letters. In the thirty-five years that I was in business, the people who wrote good cover letters to accompany their résumés ended up getting better results.

Does Anyone Read Cover Letters? Yes, Because Cover Letters Let You Do What a Résumé Can’t

What’s that?

Sell yourself. A good, persuasive cover letter can convince the person screening your résumé that you should be invited for an interview. A résumé is designed to provide facts. That’s all well and good, but that leaves it up to the screener to interpret those facts. On the other hand, a good cover letter is designed to be persuasive. It lets you do the selling. So the next time you hear someone say “does anyone read cover letters?” you can answer with a resounding “yes”.

The Bottom Line

The next time you consider applying for a position, make sure to include a cover letter. But make it a good one.

Career Advice also did a study on this and found similar results. I have read a few articles that say people don’t read cover letters, but I have not found credible evidence to support that.

And if you want more of how to get the interview, check out this post.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes nonfiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammarpublishing., and children’s fiction and nonfiction.

When Giacomo isn’t writing, he’s helping his wife take care of the animals on their sanctuary. At last count, they had forty animals—seven dogs, one horse, six cats, and twenty-five pigs.

Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar, who used to take walks with Giacomo every day.

He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with forty-five loving “friends.”

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About the Author

About the Author: When I’m not headhunting, or writing, I help my wife take care of our animal sanctuary. At last count we had 45 animals—11 dogs, 1 horse, 6 cats, and 26 pigs. Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar named Dennis who takes walks with me every day and happens to also be my best buddy. For information on my mystery/suspense books, go to giacomog.com .

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