Right up there with your resume, you cover letter can spell the difference between landing a job interview or getting passed over right off the bat. But writing cover letters can be a time-consuming prospect. After all, you're expected to tailor each individual letter you write to the specific job you're applying for. That's far more complicated than tweaking your resume by altering a line or two here and there.

If you're a job seeker who's grown frustrated with having to constantly craft cover letters, here's some potentially good news: You might not need that letter going forward. Only 26% of recruiters consider cover letters important, according to a new report from Jobvite. Not only that, but 47% of job candidates did not submit a cover letter with their most recent application. It therefore raises the question: Are cover letters on the way out?

Woman typing on laptop

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Easing the job search process

Eliminating the need for a cover letter each time you apply for a job will no doubt save you time and effort. And these days, many hiring managers are willing to forgo cover letters because, frankly, they don't have the time to read those letters themselves.

So how do you know when it's safe to apply to a job without a cover letter? For one thing, read the job description and see what it says. You'll often get instructions that indicate whether a cover letter is optional or mandatory, in which case you're free to opt out of the former. And if the job description doesn't mention cover letters at all, you can generally assume that it's not necessary to submit one.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many companies these days have online applications that require you to answer some questions in detail in addition to submitting your resume. Often, these questions can take the place of the content that otherwise would've gone in your cover letter.

Finally, if you're applying to a job by email, the message you send along with your resume can serve as a mini cover letter of sorts. After all, you're not going to send a blank note with your resume attached and call it a day. Instead, you can compose a short message stating who you are and that you're eager to work for the company in question. Doing so might take five minutes or less, whereas writing a brand-new cover letter could, conceivably, take 10 times as long.

Remember, it used to be the case that you'd apply to a job by mailing in an application along with a cover letter and resume. With the shift to all things online, the process has gotten a lot less formalized, which means you might soon find that cover letters aren't a requirement within the application process.

That said, if you are asked to submit one, be strategic to save time. Dig up an old cover letter and try editing its content rather than starting from scratch. Just make sure to pay attention to detail if you go this route, because the last thing you want is to list the wrong company or job title on that document in an attempt to save yourself a little time.