In a recent survey of 236 hiring managers, 87% of hiring managers confirmed that they read cover letters.
In 2017 only 8% of recruiters confirmed reading cover letters. In 2022, this figure rose to 27%, that's a 300% increase in 5 years. While recruiters also shared that they are more inclined on reading a CV rather than a cover letter, due to time constraints.
Recruiters are usually not the only person seeing an application before a final hiring decision is made. They’re just the first step. So a recruiter not reading your cover letter doesn’t mean that someone else–like the hiring manager won’t.
The most common answers I got were that direct hiring professionals read cover letters:
For all qualified applicants in the hiring process.
For any candidates whose resumes raised questions.
So if you are submitting an application for a managerial-level position, as an entry-level candidate, or uploading a coordinator CV for an accounting job, don’t be surprised if your cover letter and your CV gets skipped, especially if your resume doesn’t even come close to the requirement.
Traditionally, the cover letter was the 'cover page' for your resume, so its purpose was to convince the reader to look at your resume. Now, your resume usually gets looked at first, and your cover letter is there to further persuade the reader to move you to the next round in the hiring process. So while cover letters are serving a different purpose now, they’re still being read and considered.
However, in jobs where writing and editing is a key skill, 98% of hiring managers said they read and considered cover letters first then the CV.
One hiring manager I spoke to shared that, for every application he receives, he still reads cover letters first. If he is unconvinced by the cover letter, he does not proceed to read the CV. He mentioned it shows that the candidate has not taken the time and effort to prepare and present him/herself. He stressed that a cover letter is an important opportunity for a candidate to talk about themselves and why they are suitable (skills, experience, and education) for the job.
Employers also read cover letters across experience levels. Cover letters can be an important arsenal in a job seeker’s toolbox, even those seeking senior management roles. For entry-level candidate’s, cover letters are useful for hiring professionals to see how your education, part-time jobs, and other less traditional sources of experience connect to the job you’re applying for. I still encourage candidates to write a concise, enthusiastic cover letter, since it is a valuable piece of a job application that can help you land a later-round interview.