You’ve reviewed the job posting for a role and meet most of the requirements for the position. You’ve even conducted some research on the organization to see if there’s some alignment with its mission statement and core values. All that’s left is to hit “submit” or “apply now” and your work is done…or is it? As a job seeker, you’ve probably taken the time to update your resume, but there’s one more piece that you’ll need to include…the cover letter!
Wait…what’s that? You don’t want to include a cover letter? But that’s what we’ve always done! You must – I repeat MUST – include a cover letter, right? RIGHT??
The debate around cover letters has been heating up for some time now. For many, they believe that the cover letter has become a relic of the past. Meanwhile, others still cling to the thought that cover letters provide valuable information to hiring managers or recruiters that may not be readily available on a standard resume.
Recently, there was a poll on LinkedIn that asked, “Is the Cover Letter Dead?” and the results were fascinating. 44% of respondents said “yes” while 43% said “no” and another 13% answered “unsure.” Talk about an even split!
There have also been other polls and studies conducted on hiring managers and recruiters that suggest that many of them aren’t even reading cover letters that are being submitted by job seekers. So, candidates may be wasting their time and effort crafting these statements only to have them be ignored by decision-makers. Far too many organizations (and yours may be one of them) have held firm to the cover letter requirement out of tradition or habit.
So, what is the case for cover letters? People will argue that cover letters allow candidates to demonstrate a personal connection with the organization or the role they are applying for. A cover letter also lets a job seeker highlight certain skills or experiences that may not be reflected on their resume.
The argument against cover letters is strong as well. Cover letters are time-consuming and they place an overemphasis on writing skills. This isn’t to suggest that writing skills are unimportant, but this could be a practice that is not inclusive of candidates who speak English as a second language, for example. The rise of social media platforms like LinkedIn allows job seekers to showcase those skills and experiences through a digital channel, reducing the reliance on cover letters.
As organizations seeking out talent, we have a duty and obligation to clearly articulate what we expect from our candidates. If you still require a cover letter, that should be clearly stated in the job posting. This shows a level of regard for job seekers and helps reduce wasted time (for job seekers or hiring managers).
Job seekers should take advantage of platforms like LinkedIn and use those as an opportunity to showcase their backgrounds and qualifications. Don’t just treat LinkedIn like a “digital resume” but instead use it to draw attention to certain skills and experiences that you’ve gained over your career. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 84% of hiring managers use social media to recruit job applicants. Why? It’s quicker, saves productivity and revenue, and it allows organizations to seek out top-tier talent that may not be actively looking for a job.
At Humanidei, we have decided to eliminate the cover letter requirement for all roles (except when expressly required by a client). In place of cover letters, we use a series of screening questions to learn more about a candidate, their leadership and communication style, and their fit into an organization. We’ve found this to be a very effective approach to candidate vetting.
I’ll be honest with you. When I set out to write this article, I was fully prepared to make the declarative statement that “the cover letter IS dead.” I’m not so sure that’s true. What I do know to be true is that adding additional layers to your hiring process can hinder your organization’s ability to secure the best candidates in this fast-moving world of talent acquisition.
If your credit union is looking to improve your hiring process by introducing more effective and inclusive hiring practices, the team at Humanidei would love to talk with you about how to do that. Together, we can win the war for talent!