If you’ve ever tried to craft a cover letter, you know how daunting it can be. The internet is full of tips on how to create a perfect cover letter, but this doesn’t make the process any less difficult or time-consuming.
The question is: Is it really worth the effort? Do companies still want candidates to send them cover letters?
Some studies say, that only 18% of recruiters consider cover letters important. Others state, that 56% of employers want applicants to include them. Jointly with the CV Compiler team, we performed our own data-driven research to see if cover letters really matter in 2019.
How many tech companies require a cover letter?
To perform the analysis, we’ve looked through 300 tech vacancies from these 3 kinds of companies:
- tech giants — 5000+ employees (such as Google, Facebook, Amazon);
- medium-sized companies — 501-1000 employees (such as Puppet);
- fast-growing startups — 1-200 employees (such as Perfecta, Pietech).
For objectivity, we took only 1 vacancy per company. The following chart shows the results of our analysis — the number of tech companies that had a field for a cover letter in their application forms:
As you see, the smaller the company, the more likely they are to demand a cover letter. I guess that’s due to the large number of applications that recruiters at big companies receive for each vacancy. They barely have time to look through all of the resumes, much less cover letters. So, the tech giants rarely include the corresponding field on their application forms, saving everyone’s time.
In general, just over half of tech companies (56%), still include cover letter fields on their application forms. Truth be told, though, on the majority of those forms these fields were optional. However, it would be premature to say that writing cover letters is obsolete.
So, is a cover letter really important?
Let’s just say: if there is a possibility to add a cover letter, you should include one. However, avoid the boring cliches about how communicable and stress-resistant you are. We usually give our users these cover letter tips:
- Specify the position you’re applying for, and tell where you learned about it.
- Show your interest in the particular position and company. Research the company’s recent projects and achievements, and briefly describe what impressed you the most, and why you want to work there.
- Don’t describe your personal qualities — describe the benefits your new employer will get. Ideally, briefly list your major accomplishments, backing them up with numbers.
- Out favorite tip — keep things short, (300 words or less would be perfect).
What format should a cover letter have?
Here are the preferences for different cover letter formats among those companies that had a corresponding field on their application forms:
As we were analyzing the vacancies, we noticed that startups usually had much simpler application forms than tech giants. So, it’s no wonder that many small companies prefer written text — they just add another text field along with the ones for your name, e-mail, and location. Some of such fields allow you to format your writing, but some don’t. As of the size of your cover letter, most companies want you to write up to 4000 characters.
In general, most companies want candidates to attach a file. Usually, the supported formats are .docx, .pdf, .html, .xlsx, or .jpg. So, if you’re going to start looking for new jobs, I’d recommend prepareing a cover letter template in one of those formats. However, for those especially creative, attaching videos is also allowed in some of the forms 🙂
My other advice is to peruse the vacancies really carefully. You might come across something like this…
…or even this…
…and it would be a pity to miss an excellent job opportunity because of careless reading.
Obviously, if an employer clearly states that they do not accept cover letters, or doesn’t mention them in the list of the necessary documents, don’t bother sending one.
If you’re still in doubt about whether or not you need a cover letter, here’s another fact from our research. Among those companies who had a field for a cover letter, 56% of tech giants, 60% of medium-sized companies, and 43% of start-ups put the Cover Letter field near the top of their application forms, implying its importance.
Is LinkedIn a new option?
While browsing through the tech vacancies, we noticed another interesting tendency: many companies include LinkedIn’s ‘Quick Apply’ buttons on their application forms. To be more precise, I’m talking about 38% of big companies, 36% of medium-size companies, and 21% of startups. In addition to that, 12% of big companies, 3% of medium-size companies, and 10% of startups allow applying through Indeed, Seek, Xing, SmartProfile, or even Facebook.
So, if you’re not a big fan of spending 5-20 minutes filling out each application form, optimizing your social media profiles might be a good investment of your time. Along with the opportunity to apply more quickly, this will increase your web presence, which may result in attractive offers coming to you even without searching and applying.
As you can see, cover letters in the tech industry have not gone yet extinct. (For non-tech jobs, such as those in design or marketing, they’re even more important.) So, I recommend having a well-structured cover letter template which you can adjust for every (tech) vacancy you apply to. Keep your cover letters focused, short, and personalized, and some of them may help you land your ideal job!
This article was brought to you by the team of CV Compiler, the Machine Learning-powered resume enhancement tool for software engineers, designers, and managers in tech. If you want to be fully prepared for your application process, tap here.