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Need Cover Letter

The dreaded cover letter. Some recruiters love them, and others have little use for them. But there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on — job seekers hate writing them. Cover letters often veer toward boring and formulaic, or over-the-top. For those candidates who manage to strike just the right balance of brevity, data-backed performance statements and personality, they’re left to wonder: Was the effort worth it?

Research suggests employers are relying less on cover letters than they have in the past. One recent study found 63% of recruiters consider cover letters to be of low importance, and another study found just 18% of hiring managers think cover letters are an important part of an application.

As technology plays an increasingly crucial role in the application and screening processes, should recruiters and hiring managers continue to require candidates to submit a cover letter?

Some talent professionals still see value in cover letters

Cover letters have long provided a window into a candidate’s personality, creativity and attention to detail, and some hiring managers continue to rely on them as an important vetting tool. For roles that require exceptional writing skills, for example, the cover letter can provide useful information to help qualify applicants.

If reviewed, these introductory letters can help recruiters get a sense of who a candidate is, and give job seekers a chance to showcase their personality and highlight accomplishments in ways that are not easily gleaned from their resume. With today’s emphasis on hiring for culture fit, these tidbits can be invaluable — and might have the added benefit of speeding up the process of finding the best candidates for an available position.

“I believe cover letters provide us with a view into the person and insight into how they view their credentials and fitting into the organization,” says senior recruiter Mary Helen Foglia. “Sometimes it provides us insight into what we believe their legacy will be here.”

Cover letters themselves are a test in following instructions and some managers rely on them to whittle down huge numbers of applicants, only advancing those who meet this minimal requirement.

Technology has changed the role cover letters play in hiring

As matching the right candidates to the right jobs has become increasingly automated by technology and a wealth of candidate information is easily retrievable online, many companies believe they simply don’t need cover letters anymore. Today there are other ways to learn about a candidate — often with greater nuance and detail. Hiring managers can check out candidates’ online footprint via their personal websites or blogs, online portfolios and social media profiles.

“Hiring managers now use other methods to get a feel for applicants without leaving their desks,” writes Sarah Grant for Bloomberg. “That makes the four-paragraph missive about passions and key skills superfluous at best, and a liability at worst.”

With online and mobile applications as the new the norm, more companies are prioritizing speed and convenience to attract top talent. Requiring a cover letter increases the time to apply, which makes it more likely top candidates will abandon your online hiring process before completion. Our own research found that companies with 45 or more screener questions lose a whopping 88.7% of their potential applicants to abandonment, and another study found 30% of candidates won’t spend longer than 15 minutes on an application.

This is why some top companies, including Netflix and Salesforce, no longer ask for cover letters in their online application process. Other companies, like Apple and Twitter, have made cover letters optional.

Deciding whether to keep or cut the cover letter requirement

If cover letters aren’t viewed as crucial screening tools by the bulk of your hiring organization, consider phasing them out as an application requirement. Job seekers will thank you for it, and you could shorten your time to apply by doing so. Here are some tips for determining whether you still need to require cover letters from applicants.

  • Measure how valuable cover letters are to your organization. Poll your hiring managers to find out what percentage believe cover letters assist them in making hiring decisions. Weigh the value that hiring managers assign to cover letters against the shorter application times you could achieve by omitting cover letters. Work with managers to identify the most important hiring criteria for their roles, and then have frank conversations about whether there are approaches, other than the use of cover letters, to  screen for those criteria.

  • Try out other tactics to learn about candidates. Use writing assignments or coding challenges to test for job specific skills. Virtually all commercially available assessment tools on the market today are fully validated and, therefore, more likely to actually be capable of assessing for the skills you need. Companies can also consider requesting short video submissions from applicants to get a feel for their personalities, and whether they are likely to be a culture fit.

  • Audit your job content to determine whether it’s aiding your screening process. Do you use your job titles and descriptions to quickly narrow down to those candidates who possess the soft skills you might otherwise look for in cover letters? Consider how you can tailor your job content to attract more of the right applicants — those whose experience, achievements, goals and personality align with your role and team.

Cover letter or no cover letter, if you’re ready to get your job openings in front of a wealth of talent, post a job on Indeed today.

While we all know that a resume is important to the jobsearch process, it is not necessarily the most important document you will need to secure an interview.

Many people believe that a strategically targeted cover letter is the most important weapon you need to fight this battle and to win it. There are two key reasons why.

  1. The cover letter allows you to target the job and the employer in a very specific way, leaving the resume to market your skills, qualities and experience as a part of the bigger picture. Your resume then needs less tweaking with each application because the letter, which must be different each time, does that for you.

  2. A great cover letter should not just repeat your resume in a shorter form, but should tell the employer what it is about the job that is attractive to you and why you want to work for that employer. You will also need to include the unique skills and the qualities you bring to that job and the company.

Writing a killer cover letter is not a simple task. It requires thought, knowledge and understanding

Many employers and recruiters read the letter first. Some will not even consider your resume until they are satisfied by the content of your letter. So it is a very important document.

  • You will need to do research on the employer and the job before writing the letter

  • It will need to be written in an engaging style using keywords applicable to the job

  • In the letter you will need to show that you have made the effort to learn about their company by acquiring relevant knowledge before going to the interview, if you are chosen.

So what do you do if the employer is not disclosed in the job advert? Well the letter still has to be written specifically to the job addressing the key requirements stated and your enthusiasm needs to shine through. No letter can just say "here is my resume", not if you want an interview. You will need to convey:

  • I have reviewed your website and understand your business

  • You are my employer of choice

  • I believe my personality fits with your organisational culture (providing it does)

  • I really want to work for an organisation with your values

These all help to sell "your fit" with their organisation. At Successful Resumes we believe the cover letter needs as much attention and skill in the preparation as your resume.

If you need help with your cover letter please visit our website here likewise if you require a free assessment of your resume or advice on government selection criteria go to our website. One of our national team of highly qualified and experienced writers will be available to work with you to ensure you have the best chance of winning the interview to kick start or reignite your career.

By John Little Managing Director of Successful Resumes Australia - visit us at www.successfulresumes.com.au

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