5 Reasons The Cover Letter Should Just Die Already

03/10/2015 02:44 pm ET | Updated Mar 10, 2015 via Getty Images

When people submit a resume to a potential employer, they usually include a cover letter, which is supposed to be a few paragraphs long and should make the case why one deserves the job. But, really, most cover letters are kind of a waste of time. They tend not to give a good sense of the candidate, and they can be super boring to read.

Employers began officially requesting cover letters from job candidates in the late 1950s as the nation transitioned to a service-based economy, according to The Atlantic. Workers had to demonstrate interpersonal skills, and a cover letter was a better way to showcase that than a simple resume. By the 1990s, there was full-out cover letter hysteria with self-help guides for writing cover letters flooding bookstores. The problem now is that the cover letter hasn't kept up with changing times.

"The cover letter hasn't evolved, it's basically been the same thing for over 50 years," Allan Jones, chief marketing officer for recruiting site ZipRecruiter, told The Huffington Post in an email. "Let's face it, a lot of them are uninspired copy-paste form letters. A resume in a lot of cases can tell you everything you need to know about a candidate."

Jones is careful to note that cover letters can still be effective in some cases, especially when they are personalized and reveal specific reasons why a candidate might be a good fit for a position. In general, however, he said that cover letters too often rely on vague statements ("I'm a motivated self-starter!") instead of super-specific ones.

Here are five reasons the cover letter as we know it needs to go:

1. Most hiring managers don't even read them.

A 2009 survey of 2,000 hiring managers conducted by job site reCareered found that cover letters very rarely come into play in hiring decisions. The survey found that 90 percent of hiring managers ignored them altogether and 97 percent made decisions to offer an interview based only on the resume.

2. You come across more intelligently when speaking out loud.

Speaking face to face is a much better way to sell someone on your intelligence, according to a recent study. The reason? Your voice. When speaking, a candidate is able to alter pitch, cadence and emphasis, which can make her seem smarter in real life than in her cover letter.

3. They're totally outdated.

When was the last time you mailed an actual letter? Today, job searches can be conducted efficiently via email, tweet and even text.

Cover letters seldom succeed at making a personal connection with hiring managers. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook now offer the chance for job seekers to interact more directly with hiring managers and sell them on their candidacy. LinkedIn, for example, often includes the contact details of hiring managers so job seekers can tailor their approach more specifically to the person who'll be making the hiring decision.

4. They're a pain for hiring managers.

While many resumes include relevant information in bullet points, cover letters tend to group everything into a mass of text, making more work for HR people who have to wade through these wordy nightmares. Worse, most of them are generic and not personalized for the particular position. Thirty percent of employers can identify a cover letter that hasn't been crafted specifically for the job, according to a U.K. study.

5. They can blow your chances of someone looking at your resume.

A lame cover letter -- or one full of mistakes -- might kill your chances of being considered for a position. "If I hate a cover letter, I won't even look at the resume," Vanity Fair editor Katherine Goldstein wrote for Slate.

Her sentiments were echoed by Shane Snow, CEO of publishing platform Contently, who told HuffPost that he generally ignores any cover letters more than three sentences long and may ignore a resume if a cover letter comes off as generic. "I look for brevity and creativity regardless of the role, so a cover letter may shoot you in the foot with me versus just a note saying 'here's my resume,'" he wrote in an email.

Suggest a correction