Someone told me today that job seekers don't need cover letters anymore. Instead, I was told, you can find a job by tweeting or commenting on blogs.
In some cases, that's that's the case. However, it's not when it comes to the majority of hiring. CareerXRoads Source of Hire found that referrals, corporate web sites, and job boards led the list of where companies hire from.
In all those scenarios, a cover letter is in order - even if it's via email or a LinkedIn message or however else you indicate your interest in a job. A customized cover letter shows the hiring manager or your contact why you are a strong candidate for the job. If it's a referral, they'll need that information to promote your candidacy.
About.com's Guide to Human Resources, Susan Heathfield, says "Despite the proliferation of social and professional networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn, some traditional components of the application process still work best for the job searcher. It's fine to find out about a job or even ask questions about an opening on Twitter, as an example, but when you apply, employers are still expecting the resume and cover letter. Failing to use a cover letter is a misplaced opportunity."
Don't sell yourself, and your job application short, and misplace the opportunity to use a cover letter to your advantage.