Cover letters are writing samples

Right, right, we know that cover letters are dead and that nobody reads them, etc.

Don't listen to these clowns. Whether you're hiring or applying, please don't skip the cover letter. That's because (repeat after me):

Cover letters are writing samples

In many cases it's the only shot you're going to get to prove (if you're applying) or learn (if you're hiring) that the candidate knows how to convey complex ideas (a whole person!) briefly and persuasively (you're selling yourself, after all).