Head of Product @ NOWJOBS
Few years ago, when I was leading one of the top Belgian Applicant Tracking System, I had the opportunity to work closely with many HR professionals. Throughout my career I also hired a lot of people myself both for my companies and for others. As I keep seeing this topic arising on LinkedIn I went back to my blogging archives to republish an article on cover letters. I can’t wait to get your feedback.
If you have one day published a job offer, you probably have received hundreds of cover letters like the below one:
“Dear Mr. X, I am Martin, young graduate looking for his first experience, I am full of resources and really efficient. I love what you do and want to be part of your awesome company…”
It will take you at least 3 minutes to read it and 5 more minutes, if you wanted to take some notes. In addition to the cover letter, you will still have to read and analyse their CVs (3 minutes too). So, if you receive 10 applications or more, it will take you no less than an hour just to do a first screening.
With thousands of applications being received through Talentsquare, I have learned a few things. I care about applicants and strongly believe that they deserve our full attention.
Just that I simply think that a cover letter is no longer a main differentiation of selection. Here are four main reasons why I think so:
If a CV is well presented you can easily find a 2-3 lines personal summary, professional experiences with key achievements, language skills, studies, hobbies, etc. Most times I find that cover letters are more a summary of the CV, hence why investing additional time on the same content?
I know that job seekers are always trying to showcase their best skills and most won’t hesitate in bending the truth in their application process. What is harder to read in the whole process is the exact cover letter I talk about, since most applicants generally follow the same structure and many times use the same content for all functions they apply for, changing merely the company name and info. To be very straight forward:
“Between lies and bullshit it becomes hard and harder to find interesting content”.
Today’s world is online, which makes easy to read applicants blogs, articles, as well seeing their social networks and statuses. I crosscheck consistency (e.g. between their CV and their LinkedIn profile), see where they are and what they say. It also helps me to well prepare the next step of the process.
Nothing like the spontaneity of an unscheduled call to identify a candidate’s reactiveness. Indeed, it’s the best way to quickly check the veracity of a CV and to see how a candidate reacts to an unexpected situation, how he will answer to all your questions regarding his profile and what is mentioned on his CV.
We prefer to spend as well more time analysing personality and work assessments that applicants are required to fill along with the remaining documents. It tells a lot about the applicants profile and how it could fit the company culture.
In a nutshell, there is life beyond cover letters. We are not saying that cover letters cannot be at all an aspect of differentiation, but that will only happen if you actually invest time in making it unique.