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Do cover letters still have a place in recruitment?

Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library

Cover letters are often seen as just another part of the recruitment process. But ongoing debates about their relevance has revealed that there are mixed opinions from both recruiters and candidates about whether they’re necessary.

The landscape of recruitment is always changing, causing many to rethink the application process. Below will discuss whether the cover letter still has a place in recruitment strategies, and why this is important.

What do candidates think?

According to a recent survey from CV-Library, nearly half of candidates (43.5%) agree that tailoring their cover letter is time consuming, and 42.9% believe that they are unnecessary. A further one in five (19.9%) believe that their CV should be enough, without having to include a letter as well. It’s clear that for many job hunters this has become a chore which they do not enjoy, potentially leading to poor or generic cover letters being sent out alongside applications.

That said, the majority (57.1%) do believe that cover letters are an important part of the process, with two thirds (64.1%) admitting that they do benefit a job application. With one in three (29.7%) agreeing that tailoring a cover letter makes your application more personal, it’s good to see that some are putting in the effort.

Perhaps more education around cover letter processes could help candidates to feel more confident and passionate about writing one. It’s clear that many find this part of the application process to be a chore. But practise and tips for writing cover letters could aid job hunters in writing more effective letters, that don’t end up feeling like a huge task.

Are things changing?

Another study from CV-Library found that despite 16.7% of recruiters stating that they become frustrated by those who don’t put time and effort into their application, only 7.1% would be actively put off a candidate that hadn’t included a cover letter – even if they asked for one! This suggests that even recruiters aren’t placing much emphasis on cover letters anymore.

This could be because recruitment is always changing and evolving. Right now technology is playing a huge part in this evolution, with mobile recruitment moving into the spotlight. Applying on the go can be tricky if you’re asked to attach a CV or cover letter – especially if you don’t have this on your mobile device! This could be causing recruiters to move further away from the traditional application process.

What’s more, there appears to be a generational shift as well. The younger generations are put off by lengthy processes, with just under one in 10 (8.3%) under 18s admitting that they would not apply for a job that required a cover letter. This is due in no small part to the fact that nearly half (45.8%) revealed that they do not know how to write one.

Should I ask for a cover letter?

The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer. Whether you ask for a cover letter or not is totally up to your process, and should be taken on a case by case basis. Consider where you are advertising your vacancies – if the application process is going to be mainly on mobile, consider whether it’s worth asking for a cover letter. On a similar note, think about the age of those you expect to be applying (more senior roles will likely be aimed at older generations, for example). And make a decision on whether you’re going to ask them to complete any pre-interview tasks or tests. This may rule out the need for a cover latter.

Candidates don’t like a lengthy application process. So when deciding whether or not to ditch the cover letter, consider if it fits into your process and how you can work to streamline this.

This is not to say that cover letters are time consuming and aren’t important. They add tremendous value to an application and allow candidates to introduce themselves and expand on their CV. It’s vital to remember that a good cover letter really can help separate candidates from one another, and narrow down the search.

There continues to be debates around whether or not the cover letter still has a place in recruitment. Right now, there is no right or wrong answer. Take the time to think over your recruitment strategy, is it too long? Does it effectively highlight great candidates? Does a cover letter play a part in this? Once you have taken time to revisit your strategy it should become clear to you whether or not cover letters are a good tool to use. But whatever you decide, be sure to keep an eye on progress and new trends that emerge in the industry. 

Picture courtesy of Pixabay

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