Why the best job applicants may not need a cover letter

Do I need a cover letter for my job application? My short answer is: no, unless specifically asked to provide one. The reason is that a cover letter is generally used for an unsolicited online application. Online applications are anonymous cold introductions without any personal touch. Best avoided.

If you have read my blogs you will understand my dislike of unsolicited online applications. Resumes from such applications accumulate in corporate inboxes. They are typically viewed in the batches, often by administrative staff – not the best way to make a solid first impression.

Applying online is not the optimal route. Following this route can strongly suggest that you are unable or unwilling to network your way a personal introduction with a future employer. Why not find a contact to introduce you to the right people? Sitting at home churning through online job applications is a lonely existence and ought to be avoided. With online applications you typically don’t receive confirmation that your resume has been reviewed, nor do you receive feedback on the status of your application or any suggestions on how to improve. You either get called for an interview or you don’t. It’s just black or white. Many large organizations insist on online applications with cover letters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t coordinate this front door approach with another more direct way to ensure your resume finds the right person.

Applying online should be your last resort. But what are the alternatives?

Warm introduction

The role of a recruitment agency is often to bridge the connection between you and a company you would like to work for. A good recruiter negates the need for online applications and cover letters. The recruiter’s expertise is to establish a fit between your skills and experience and a potential role. The most favorable approach would be to have a recruiter provide your profile and resume to the hiring manager. Now you can optimize your job application, ensure your resume finds the decision maker, and gain feedback from the process.


If the company is not working with agencies, then you can do some research, find out who the hiring manager is, and network your way to him or her. Be creative. Find someone who can help you make a connection with the company. Instead of attaching a cover letter to your job application, you could provide a brief email note to this contact person with the following five components:

  • How you got the person’s contact information.
  • A brief summary (3-4 sentences maximum) of your skills, experience, and immigration status (if applicable).
  • What interests you about the company. Show the employer why you are interested by referring to projects, services, personnel, news stories, company values, etc, that have caught your attention.
  • Why you would be a good fit for the role (if a relevant job posting is available). Highlight your understanding of the job requirements and outline your suitability for the role.
  • Close by explaining what action you want the reader to take. For example, you could ask him or her to meet with you for a coffee, take a telephone call, or pass on your resume to HR or the Hiring Manager, as the case may be.

For more advice, read my quick guide to networking in Canada.

If you must write a cover letter. . .

The typical cover letter is focused on the candidate’s work experience and skill set. This information is already mentioned in his or her resume. Don’t repeat yourself. Cover letters can be effective when written well. This means your cover letter focuses on why you are a fit for a specific role or company and how you can add value to the company. A cover letter is the linking document between your skills and experience and the company.

Outpost Recruitment connects talented construction professionals with leading construction employers for civil, infrastructure and ICI buildings projects in Canada. To set up a confidential discussion, call us at 778-861-1244.