Career Advice
June 24, 2020

Cover Letters — Yay or Nay?

With a bunch of candidates sending in their applications daily — are cover letters dead? There’s one way to find out — let’s ask the experts.

You’ve put your heart and soul into crafting the ideal resume. No grammatical errors, updated information, successful projects, and even awards that you’ve won. As you are about to send it away, you come across this line: “Cover Letter (Optional)”.

Before you toil away into writing that cover letter, the question is: Will recruiters even read the cover letter? We spoke to a few recruiters to find out if these written “elevator pitches” are still relevant in today’s job landscape — here are their thoughts.

Gogovan’s Verdict: Depends on seniority
According to Alia Bei, Regional HR Manager of Gogovan, she finds that it’s not always black and white. She said: “If I’m recruiting fresh graduates or interns, I would definitely read their cover letters. However, I tend to read only the resumes for more experienced professionals.”

Talk about resumes, she highlighted that the most important part of the job application is to have a resume that captures your career quickly, such as:

  • Listing your professional experience in chronological order
  • Writing a concise description of what each position entails
  • Noting individual accomplishments, or how you contributed if it was a team accomplishment

“Your resume is meant to get you an interview, not the job. So it is really important to have a resume that immediately and clearly showcases your skills and experience from the get-go,” she recommended.

WorldFirst: No, Unless…
As for WorldFirst, the status quo is to give it a miss “unless there is a gap or missing information”. More importantly, it’s the relevance of your past job experiences and achievements that matters to Christy Ho, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, of WorldFirst.

Aqumon: Heck Yes, It Tells Me About The Candidate Fit
For Kenneth Shih, Head of Sales & Marketing at Aqumon, he takes the time to read every single cover letter. However, he found that most candidates don’t send one. He said: “Hiring for me comes down to a balance between ‘need’ vs ‘fit’.”

“What you can learn about a candidate from a resume is often limited to what they did or achieved, but that only addresses the ‘need; element from a hiring manager’s standpoint. Whereas, I am able to get a better sense of their personality and the way they think through a cover letter. Cover letters are able to better address how well the candidate ‘fits’ in our company and team before the actual interview,” he shared.

He also found that a good cover letter will have three elements — it’s personalized, helpful, and has a clear call to action.

“Commonly I find cover letters to be generic and simply just a reiteration of the candidate’s desire to work for said company, position or hiring manager. Don’t do this,” he warned.

Instead, to easily stand out candidates should showcase their immediate value by highlighting the homework they did on the company and how they can help. Additionally, it should also have a clear call-to-action. While typically an interview is a choice you want, candidates might suggest to meet casually for coffee or engage in a video call first.

It acts as a great opportunity to gather further intelligence (on the company and role/open position) and connect more on a personal level with the hiring manager before the official interview.

“These are soft skills that most candidates rarely think about to earn free ‘brownie points’. Some hiring managers may not like this but don’t be discouraged — just understand not everyone is the right match,” he reminded.

Easyship: It’s a Yes!

Another ‘yes’ on cover letters would be from Komal, Human Resources Manager, from Easyship. She said: “Cover letters are really important in any job application as it reflects how much the applicant has understood about the role they’re applying for. Recruiters and hiring managers screen CVs quite quickly (considering the amount they have to see) — which means they could reject it without even getting to the details.”

In terms of writing a good cover letter, it should:

  • Be crisp and clutter-free
  • Highlight key skills that match the role
  • Bring focus as to why you’re the best candidate for the role

“A good cover letter can really help to increase the chances of getting to the first round of interview, which also means a step closer to your dream job,” she reminded.

Privé Technologies: Hard Yes, It’s Part of The Package

Another huge yes would be from leading Fintech company, Privé Technologies. As the HR Manager, Hanna Son said: “It’s difficult to put weight on the importance of a cover letter. I see it as a part of the application process package.”

As a tool to entice recruiters to know further about a candidate, she mentioned that the cover should efficiently summarise a candidate’s skills, qualifications, experience, and relevance to the opportunity.

“The value of the cover letter varies from recruiter to recruiter. Some folks I know don’t read the cover letter whereas other recruiters do consider it. I think that it’s worthwhile for candidates to make the effort to include a cover letter in case it’s the hiring manager’s preference”, she concluded.

Written by
Wani Azahar

Recommendations for You

Career Advice
#ResilientAsiaChallenge Session 5 — What simple, low-cost practical changes can I make in the way I eat, sleep, and move so I can live a more resilient life?
Read on
Career Advice
The Global Shift to Remote Work: How to do it?
Read on
Career Advice
Cover Letters — Yay or Nay?
Read on