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  • Writer's pictureAnn Walsh

Cover Letters & Reference Checks: Are They Really Necessary?

When applying for jobs, every minute counts, so it's no surprise that some job seekers question the value of traditional, slower application elements. Two of the most debated hiring practices are cover letters and reference checks. Are they still relevant, or are they simply a relic of companies that are out of touch?

Let's start with cover letters.

No matter what, cover letters need to be brief. Nobody has the time or patience to read a lengthy essay, so make sure your cover letter is concise with a clear message. In just two short paragraphs, you should state why you're applying for the position, whether: “I’m transitioning because of…” Or “I’m looking at this role because of…”

A well-crafted cover letter can…

1. Showcase Your Personality → While your resume concisely summarizes your qualifications, a cover letter allows you to add personality to your application, showing your enthusiasm for the role and understanding of the company culture.

2. Explain Career Transitions → Cover letters are beneficial in explaining career transitions or gaps in your work history.

3. Highlight Transferable Skills →If you lack direct experience in a particular role, a cover letter can emphasize your transferable skills. By explaining your ability to adapt and learn quickly, you’re sure to stand out (assuming you meet core requirements).

4. Address Specific Requirements → When a job posting lists specific qualifications or asks particular questions, a cover letter provides the space to address them directly. This shows you've done your homework and are genuinely interested in the position.

However, the question remains: Are cover letters really necessary?

Many argue that they’re a waste of time, but in some cases, it’s a part of the hiring process and serves a purpose in assessing a candidate's ability to follow instructions.

Reference checks are another debated topic in hiring.

While they have been a standard part of the hiring process for years, they have become less relevant because of today's digital age. With professional networks like LinkedIn, a candidate's references are often just a click away.

However, when you provide references, they…

1. Validate Your Claims → For candidates with limited work experience, references help validate the skills and qualities you've listed on your resume. They add credibility to your application and are especially useful for students seeking internships.

2. Demonstrate Professionalism → Providing references shows you're confident in your abilities and have built positive relationships in previous roles.

While cover letters and reference checks seem outdated, they are still a part of the hiring process at some companies. So, if you find yourself in a position where you need to submit them, remember to keep your cover letter concise and focused and your references relevant. Whether you believe in their value or not, complying with these requests can be the first step in landing your dream job.


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