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Do you need a cover letter for a tech job? Here’s what data shows

Published by Kate Miller, 5 years ago • 5 minutes to read

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 for a tech job, but this doesn’t make the process any less difficult or time-consuming.

The question is: Do I need a cover letter with a tech resume? Do companies still want software developers and other tech specialists 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 companies require a cover letter for a tech job?

To perform the analysis, we’ve looked through 300 tech vacancies from these 3 kinds of companies:

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:

the percentage of tech companies that require a cover letter

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 However, it would be premature to say that writing cover letters is obsolete.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, do I need a cover letter with a tech resume?

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:

For more information about the cover letter’s structure go here.

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:

The preferences for cover letter formats among tech companies.

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 cover letter size, 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 🙂

Avoiding pitfalls

My other advice is to peruse the vacancies really carefully. You might come across something like this…

A quote from a vacancy that requires sending a cover letter.

…or this…

A quote from a vacancy that requires to start a cover letter with a particular sentence.

…or even this…

A quote from a vacancy that requires to include a particular word into the cover letter.

…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 for a tech job, 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 for tech jobs 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 that 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.

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