Resumes are still king; but cover letters have their place
Has the ATS (automated tracking system) killed the cover letter?
In almost all cases, those systems were designed to read (scan) resumes and weed out those who don’t meet the minimum requirements for the job. Typically, they don’t like cover letters and even if you submit one along with your resume, chances are it will go down a black hole never to be read by a human being. Even if your resume does make it past the ATS, there is no guarantee that human eyes will ever see it.
Why take the trouble to write a cover letter
While some eschew the cover letter, many job coaches advise their clients to submit them anyway along with their resumes. While there is little doubt that resumes still rule the roost, for those HR-types who do take the time to review a cover letter, that makes it worth the trouble.
Some counselors swear that cover letters are especially helpful for career changers – an option that many 50+ job seekers are actively pursuing. They also advise that cover letters work best when they are addressed to someone specific – “someones” who can be determined by doing a little conscientious homework.
To keep from getting your cover letter tossed aside, assure the recipient that you’ve already played by rules. “I’ve already applied online (or to HR), but here’s why I’m contacting you…”
Just like addressing the letter to someone specific, referencing someone in the company will almost ensure that your letter gets read. “John Jones suggested I contact you…”
In the end, there is no harm in applying in multiple ways – going through the ATS, contacting someone in the company directly, or even through LinkedIn. There is more than one way to skin a cat.