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”.
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’.
“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.
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.
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”.
“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.
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 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. 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.