If you think cover letters are pass̩ when applying for a job, think again, a survey by OfficeTeam suggests.

More than nine in 10 (91%) of executives polled said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates. In addition, nearly eight in 10 (79%) indicated it's common to receive cover letters even when applicants submit resumes electronically.

The survey was based on interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees. The results mirror those from a similar survey in 2008. Managers were asked, "When evaluating prospective job candidates, how valuable is the cover letter that accompanies the resume?" Their responses:

  • Very valuable21%
  • Somewhat valuable70%
  • Not valuable at all9%

Managers also were asked, "When you receive a resume electronically from a job candidate, how common is it for that resume to be accompanied by a letter of introduction or cover letter?" Their responses:

  • Very common - 21%
  • Somewhat common58%
  • Not common at all16%
  • Never receive a resume electronically5%

Although the job application process has increasingly moved online, the importance of a cover letter shouldn't be underestimated, says OfficeTeam. It's a chance to provide context for the resume, expand on key accomplishments, and explain gaps in employment or career changes. Applicants can also use the letter to demonstrate their knowledge of the company and explain why they are the best fit for the role.