What’s the Deal with Cover Letters?

I applied to a job on LinkedIn last week along with 914 other applicants.


There was an option to include a cover letter. I was tempted to attach a decompressed picture of spoiled mayonnaise on a Word document instead. Just as good, right? I’ll stand out for sure!

But the real question is: do recruiters actually read cover letters?

Let alone 914 of them?

Back in the dark days of job hunting (as opposed to the darker days we’re currently immersed in), I was taught to make myself as boring of an applicant as possible…while also somehow making myself stand out like a complete oxymoron.

I was taught that my resume had to be one page, black and white, no pictures, no links, and perhaps most importantly, no fun. I was also told that I needed to waste space by including a stock statement in the form of an objective at the top of the page, i.e. “Objective: find a job that will pay me enough to buy a prostitute to pose as my girlfriend for a weekend, like Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman.”

But that wasn’t even the worst part of the job application. No, there was something that served as a far more colossal waste of time that we had to put up with: cover letters.

Those damn cover letters.

I found a couple said cover letters while going through some old files the other day and cringed at every word.

“I know that *insert random company* emphasizes leadership and development and is a quality place to work, which is why I am applying to blah, blah, blah.”

Please excuse me while I regurgitate my boisterously forged flattery.

In my entire career, I can’t actually reference a single piece of evidence to suggest that anyone ever read any of my cover letters. And honestly, I’m okay with that, because I was also taught to write cover letters in a way where I’m bending over backwards for a prospective company when, in fact, a job hiring should be of mutual benefit to the employee and employer. One of the good things to come out of the pandemic job market is that employees finally took back some of that power.

I sometimes wonder if there’s some random new hire in the recruiting department who is actually tasked with reading all 914 submitted cover letters. Do you think they excitedly interrupt the rest of the team when something on a cover letter stands out? Y’know, like:

“Hey! This guy wants to join Initech because he knows it’s such a privilege to work here! Let’s hire him!”

Yeah, that happens.

But you know what the reality of the situation probably is? Of those 914 submissions, 75% of them are being rejected based on keywords alone by a semi-aware robot named Jenkins. Of the remaining 25%, maybe an actual person is looking at the first few lines of the resume and performing a 52 second phone screen. So, in essence, that cover letter, which we were brainwashed into thinking would make us stand out, is just wasting everyone’s time and energy.

Why is this even still an option on job applications? I suppose if I knew my cover letter was being read, then I would allocate some time to it. However, most job applications feel like busy work, such as writing out your entire work history immediately after uploading your resume. Seriously, why is this even a thing?

And at this point, is it even worth it to apply to a job that’s posted on LinkedIn?

914 applications.

I think I’m gonna try the mayonnaise. If nothing else, I’ll definitely stand out.