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Oh, the joy of writing cover letters. They can be wordy and elaborate, fancy and impressive, and at times questionable. I’ve had my fair share of writing two-page cover letters going on and on about why I’m the perfect candidate with all my skills and how I speak Spanish and have seen the world, blah, blah, blah. I’ve eventually learnt how to correctly write a cover letter (thanks to the Internet and the advice from my genius of a brother). But for every job that I’ve applied for, the question comes to mind. Have recruiters even read my cover letter? Perhaps their Applicant Tracking System has been programmed to ignore all applicants with cover letters?

I’ve had bosses tell me they have never read my cover letter, that they see it as a waste of time as it doesn’t demonstrate to them how I am as a person and worker. HR Advisor from PYBAR Mining Services, Cara Jordan, says that,

“when we get to face to face or phone interviews, the person with the best attitude and the willingness to learn, will get the opportunity. A cover letter can’t tell you any of those things; they are just words on a bit of paper with no spoken emotion or intention”.

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Applicants can write all they want about their skills and why they’re ‘the one’, but it could just be a page of carefully looked up words with the help of a dictionary and theasauraus.com. Not that I’m saying candidates are dishonest, this is strictly my own opinion and what I’ve heard from ex-employees.

 

What is a cover letter?

As recruiters, you all know that. But what’s the difference between a cover letter and a CV? According to an article by Kimmel & Associates, ‘ a cover letter is your initial contact with potential employers and complements your resume by introducing yourself, answering a job advertisement, and requesting an interview. Cover letters should build a connection with the reader and emphasise what you will bring to the job’.

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Not all applicants get this right at the time. Some cover letters on occasion give an insight into a candidates life, which tries to build a connection some recruiters may not want to attain. In Cara Jordan’s opinion, she believes many people have forgotten about the purpose of a cover letter;

“I don’t want to read about someone’s personal life that they have decided to detail in a cover letter, it causes unnecessary and unavoidable judgement on someone’s application that may not work in their favour”.

Jordan believes that a cover letter should highlight how your experience will be an asset to the said company and compliment its values.

 

Is it necessary?

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There is also the question of: Do we always need cover letters and is it possible to hand in your CV and that be enough? Perhaps it depends on the role, and the required skills and experiences one candidate must have.Ability Options People and Culture Coordinator, Robert Bakous, can see how cover letters get questioned quite a bit. Bakous has said that cover letters,

“absolutely [have] its relevance in roles that require a certain level of technical skill, and a cover letter allows an applicant to address key criteria without having a lengthy CV. However, there are roles that we recruit in bulk that can sum up all of the required information in the CV itself”.

Perhaps in the future, candidates can include a small paragraph at the top of their CV highlighting their set skills, and why they are suited for the role. It could be the perfect summary, without the need for a cover letter.

 

For VS Against

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HR and recruitment managers can be flat out busy when applications come flying in. Statistically, recruiters can spend on average 6 seconds looking at a resume to determine whether the candidate is the right fit. If recruiters spend such a short time on resumes, how do we know if they will use the same time, (hopefully more) on cover letters? Candidates will never know that answer.

Not all positions require cover letters, but recruitment managers do appreciate the effort.

“I’m a big fan of cover letters particularly when the candidate takes some time to customise it. Our managers always favour candidates who include cover letters,” said Talent Manager Aoife Brady from The Benevolent Society.

Brady would put cover letters in applications herself, but “understand[s] that certain roles may not require it”.

“I am neither for or against, it really depends on the context”, says SBS Recruitment Manager Ben Bolt.

There is the notion of what happens if a candidate doesn’t send through a cover letter, no matter the context of the role. Bolt believes that,

“if a hiring manager automatically discards an application because one hasn’t been provided, I find that old school thinking”.

video-cv
With recruitment receiving cover letters and resumes so often, there could be a different form of how candidates can present themselves that makes it more interesting. Bolt finds video cover letters to be:

“fantastic and easy to share, [as] it allows the hiring manager to see beyond the CV”.

With a recent study claiming that 63% of hiring managers believe that cover letters are of low importance, it goes to show that perhaps cover letters will eventually ‘die out’ or transcend into other means such as video and social media.

Here’s a side note for candidates; you can still send cover letters, but if it’s a complete fail or lack of attention to detail, so to say, you will have to start all over again. Think about the role and what you’re trying to communicate across.

“I’ve seen some shocking cover letters that paint the candidate in a poor light,” said Aoife Brady.

So do try your best to stand out — in a good way that is.

If recruiters feel the cover letter is very ‘wordy’ and may not match their actual description,

“cross-referencing the candidates resume or online profile should address any doubts you might have about skills or experience”, says Recruitment Manager Ben Bolt.

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To cover letter or not to cover letter, that is the question (a bit of Shakespeare never hurt anybody — physically at least). What are your thoughts on cover letters? Do you oppose against them or require them to find the right candidate?I’m undecided on that. I believe it’s a great tool in reaching out to hiring managers and attaching more of a human element to it. It’s also a means to explain examples of achievements and skills, but at the same time, there could be other ways of displaying this.

All this talk of cover letters might be tempting you to go back and double check your own. Have a read over your cover letter and see what you can change or add to improve it. It sounds fun; in a sarcastic way of course — good luck.

Learn more about Recruitment Software and Applicant Tracking Systems at MyRecruitment+

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