Do Employers Read the Cover Letters?

I wonder if the cover letter gets any consideration, and especially if not, how can one demonstrate how their skills in one field can be just as valuable in another (unrelated) field?

  • Jinx

Cover letters in relation to what? CVs? Sales pitches?

Assuming you mean a cover letter for a resume, yes, when I’ve been in a position to do so, I always read it. If I found a spelling, punctuation or grammatical error, the whole thing went in the circular file, on the basis that if the applicant were sloppy while trying to present him/herself in the best possible light, it was sure to be substandard on the job. I also looked at the content, to get an impression of the candidate.

Always read them. They typically identify those who were paying attention in class and those who were smokin’ in the boy’s room.

Following on from MLS’s comment but doing so from the job applicant’s point of view, I’ve been told more than once that I was being interviewed because my cover letter stood out as seeming to have been written by a real person rather than a commercial service of some kind. As a result, I’d say cover letters are indeed read and judged by potential employers.

Another who always reads them. If nothing else, it can give you an idea as to whether or not the applicant can put two sentences together (unless it was ghost-written, but then he’s taking a big chance). Resumes are often put together by someone who does it for a living.

I know every time I got a job interview, it was because of my cover letter, not my resume (though my resume backed up the letter).

A good, solid, well-written, professional, and interesting cover letter is the best way to get yourself noticed. “Professional” is the most important adjective here.

I always read them as do other managers–if we get them. That only happens if the resume is sent directly to one of us. If the resume originally goes to HR, they remove the cover letters before forwarding the resumes to us. I don’t know why.

I know that my cover letter landed me my last job. I had researched the company and found out exactly what they were looking for in an employee. Then I wrote a few paragraphs highlighting my accomplishments and skills and how they matched what the company stood for.

It worked much better than the cut-and-paste, to-whom-it-may-concern type letters I’d been sending out with my cv’s!

One boss basically told me the cover cinched my hiring, and the inbterview was only to see if I’d blow it.

When I was in a supervisory position, I always gave great weight to cover letters, because most recent grads have very similar qualifications on their resumes. The cover letter was definitely a factor in making the first cut.

This was my experience as well, on those occaisions when I was hiring someone…the cover letters almost never made it to the hiring manager.

I agree they get read. In general, a poorly written one will do more harm than a well written one will do good. (I would never include a sentence like that one in my cover letter. :stuck_out_tongue: ) I’ve been on committees that had to wade through dozens of applicants, and we always looked for reasons to remove applications from further consideration. Poor language skills demonstrated in the letter made tossing it an easy choice.

I guess I’m the first to say that I never read them. The thing is, to hire one person, I read alot of resumes, say 100 (of which maybe 5 will get interviewed). So the first pass over the resume is really looking for key words, such as relevant technologies, relevant past employers, etc. Most don’t have what I’m after there and even the resume doesn’t actually get read.

To me, the cover letter is a polite formality, and you certainly should write it. But in my case, it’s never seen. I just don’t have time.

At my last job, we always read the cover letter, which if you were paying attention when reading the ad, would be hand-written. If you weren’t paying attention or weren’t following instructions, your resume got circular filed, no matter what. The manager figured if you couldn’t write a letter the way she told you to, you weren’t likely to do much else the way she told you either.

My dad who was a personell manager for a large electronics company always said that the cover letter was vital. A bad cover letter means your CV won’t get read. Each cover letter should be written specifically for the job being sought. If replying to a particular job advert it should have relivence to the advert and follow any style requests in the advert. A good spelling and style checker should be used and the letter should be checked over carefully. If you have a somewhat generic CV that you don’t re-edit for each job application, then the cover letter should also point to parts of the CV of most importance towards this job application.

I have to hire a copywriting intern every year, and in that instance the cover letter is very important. Anyone applying for a professional writing job who can’t or won’t compose a unique, interesting cover letter is not going to get much consideration.

We recently hired two new people for my department. This was my first time hiring. We had something like 117 applications. My first cut through the pile was to read the cover letters.

Generally, I could toss the whole thing on the basis of the letter. Either the letter showed that the person’s background wasn’t what we were looking for, or it was so poorly written that I wasn’t interested in looking further.

After the first scan through the pile, I had 38 applications left for further review. THAT’s when I started to read the resumes.

I always proof-read them, but then again, I was always hiring for editor positions. One typo and the candidate didn’t get an interview. C’mon… you want a job as an editor and you couldn’t run your cover letter through spell check?


I almost always read them. If I have a huge pile of resumes, I’ll scan resumes first to eliminate the totally unqualified, and then go to cover letters for the top 25% of the resumes.

To me it’s far easier to spin a resume made of incoherant bullets and usually unverifiable BS than it is to fake your way through writing a coherant 2-3 paragraphs of why you want the job and why you think you’ll be good at it.

In my experience, people who write well think well - and have attention to detail and are willing to work hard at something until it’s perfect. And those are the things I want to see.