Why I Don’t Care About Cover Letters

On the first day of a new search I am often handed a giant stack of resumes. “There are the 300 people who applied to our ad” some exhausted, disgusted hiring manager says. “And how many resumes did you like?” I ask sweetly.  “These three” says the hiring manager.

Often the hiring manager has ruled out anyone who did not follow instructions and provide a cover letter.  “If they did not care enough to follow instructions, I’m not interested in them.”  But of course 297 of 300 people never even got an acknowledgement to their resume, so asking each of them to spend an hour crafting a good cover letter seems a tad unfair.  And candidates have long since learned that applying to an ad is a long shot at best. So how does it make any sense that each of them should spend an hour crafting a cover letter that will probably never be read? Basic fairness dictates that you ask for a writing sample only after you are interested in them.

I’m astonished how many companies insist that candidates demonstrate the highest standards of interview decorum, while the employer casually disregards their obligation to do the same.

If you want better candidates, it’s best to remove the barriers to applying.

When we reach out to recruit candidates who are not currently looking, all we ask is for them to schedule a phone call with us – easy peasy.

And when we run ads we don’t ask for a cover letter. Heck, we don’t even require people to apply online (which takes two minutes on our site) – they can simply click a button and email us their resume. Does that create a bit more work for us to upload resumes for people? Yes. Do we have to sent out a few more acknowledgement and rejection letters? Sure. Do we have to plow through a few more bad resumes? You bet. But our ads draw far more highly qualified people than the employers who make candidates jump through hoops.

Which is kind of the whole point of advertising.

7 Responses to Why I Don’t Care About Cover Letters

  1. vikramrchari says:

    Just the sort of sentiment I often express to many a person looking for a job and to recruiters and hiring managers…. but few listen. Their idea is to create barriers to enable elimination so that they have to “process” less applications, not realizing that they lose quality candidates in the process.

  2. Bob Corlett says:

    Precisely, too often the goal seems to be “doing the least work possible, in order to hire someone” when the real goal should be “doing the work that is necessary, in order to hire someone great.”

  3. Andy MacLean says:

    Agree all around.

  4. Liz says:

    It really is a mystery to me why more recruiters & hiring managers don’t take this approach. It’s like they can’t see the forest for the trees. Or maybe as you said they just don’t want the extra work that modernizing & simplifying the recruiting process would bring.

  5. Bob Corlett says:

    I just read this: “Research shows that 34 percent of candidates who try to apply for jobs don’t complete the application process – simply because the application process is too much of a hassle.”

    http://thehiringsite.careerbuilder.com/2012/01/31/the-surprising-reason-youre-not-getting-the-candidates-you-need/

  6. trevorblee says:

    I do so agree with all this Bob. Experience tells me that to treat the potential candidate with proper respect and make it ‘easy peasy’ to open a dialogue is the only way. Request an open mind and a conversation to discuss their career (rather than focussing on the opportunity) always pays huge dividends. The result is great hires and candidate experiences they remember next time you want to talk to them either as a candidate or a client (now there’s a nice bonus). Best regards – Trevor

  7. [...] required a cover letter and salary history from everyone. (This will result in a low application [...]

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