Are Cover Letters A Thing of The Past?

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 5 October 2022
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered: Cover Letters; Recruitment and Selection

I’ve read a lot recently about the demise of the cover letter with criticism being directed at employers that still hang onto them. But is the reality any different and should we be dropping them from our selection process entirely?

We all know how hard it is to get candidates, especially in the current climate. Asking candidates to jump through hoops by completing a lengthy application form can risk turning people away. Most job hunters want the quickest, most straightforward application process which is hardly surprising given that this is what most of our competitors are offering and that a significant proportion of the candidate market is passive. At the risk of appearing old school however, I always regarded the cover letter as a halfway house between a CV only and a traditional application form. It also demonstrates some level of commitment on the candidate’s side, so what’s the problem?

According to an online article on Monster, most recruiters don’t read cover letters and hiring managers don’t have time with only 18% of them regarding a cover letter as an important element in the recruitment process. The article also refers to a US study which found that 84% of employers use social media to recruit job applicants, seeing it as a quicker and more productive use of time. Certainly, in the UK, social media also plays a key role in the recruitment process for most employers though candidates still need to be subject to a robust shortlisting process regardless of their source.

In response to this apparent decline in cover letters perhaps we should only be asking for them for roles where they add more value, rather than axing them altogether from your recruitment process. For example, roles which require a high degree of creativity such as jobs in PR, Communications or Marketing would surely benefit from candidates having submitted a cover letter, enabling hiring managers to judge writing skills. But do roles in say, Engineering or Finance really require a cover letter? Surely a candidate’s experience demonstrated through their job history is a more useful insight into suitability. And what you don’t glean from the CV can be explored at interview.

If you’re still unsure as to the future of cover letters in your hiring process, perhaps it’s time to trial a selection of vacancies that don’t require a cover letter and see what impact, if any, this has on your ability to attract candidates in terms of volume and calibre. Let’s face it, we could all benefit from being more creative in terms of how we attract talent, given the challenges in the recruitment market. Perhaps this is one solution worth considering.

This article is correct at 05/10/2022

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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