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Cover Letters are NOT Dead

Paula Goodman
By Paula Goodman, Director of Recruitment / HR Client Services-CUHR at Columbia University
February 24, 2016
cover letter

I just read an online article claiming cover letters are dead and that employers normally do not bother to read them. Perhaps that is true in some sectors but certainly not in higher education. You will see certain jobs posted on websites for colleges and universities that actually will say “applicants who do not submit a cover letter will not be considered.”  Even in the cases where that mandate is not so overt, schools and departments do see the absence of a cover letter as an indication that the applicant was too lazy to bother to write one.  I have on occasion stepped in to say that perhaps the person was so excited to see the posting that they wanted to apply right away (a lame excuse, I know).  Even if that happened to be the case, many Applicant Tracking Systems do not allow you to go back in and attach or edit.  The rationale for hiring units to want a cover letter is more than an indication of level of interest but actually a way to judge how well someone can write.  Of course they want to absorb the content and match up what the candidate says as related to the job specifications.  But they also want to see how well someone writes.  Almost every position in higher education necessitates good writing skills.  So no matter how rushed you are it could put you at a disadvantage to not include a cover letter.


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