One Recruiter’s Cover Letter Experiment – Nailed it or Failed it?

We all know of the infamous cover letter. Many of you believe the cover letter is about as current as a Beta Tape player, a pointless ego driven waste of time and key strokes. And to be quite honest, it’s not something I’ve given much time to myself. Until recently.
I’m currently recruiting a Senior Recruitment Advisor to join my team. After exhausting my own network, and stalking a few LinkedIn profiles I succumbed to a job board advertisement. Within the advertisement I specifically requested a cover letter. Not just any old cover letter, but one which would critique our recruitment process using the available tools.
The idea behind this was to have applicants do a little research and tell me about our lack of social presence, an average corporate LinkedIn page, or a corporate career page which needed more engaging content. Then go on to provide me with some suggestions around how they would improve various aspects of this. Why would I ask this? Well this is a critical part of the role requirement, and I wanted to get an understanding of how engaged they were in the recruitment process, bothering to research the company I work for, and whether they were innovative solutionists.
[bctt tweet=”Cover letters – a waste of time or do they still have an important role to play?”]
What has been very surprising is that over 50% of applicants have not even bothered with a cover letter. The majority that did, did not even answer the request for constructive feedback. Thankfully, less than a handful of over 50 applicants actually responded to my request. One or two even called me to gain clarification.
Surprised by the lack of cover letters, I took to Facebook to ask for my networks feedback as to whether they would disqualify someone for failing to provide the cover letter and address the request. Wow, what a reaction. Only one Like, but 34 odd comments! For the most part, for failing to follow a simple instruction over half the comments would disqualify the candidate. A handful would put in a call to those with relevant experience outlined in a resume and then question them as to why they did not provide a cover letter when it was specifically requested. Here are some of the comments, names withheld for privacy reasons;
Cover letter 1Cover letter 2Cover letter 3Cover letter 4 Cover letter 5 Cover letter 6 Cover letter 7 Cover letter 8Cover letter 9
I understand the argument around the generic cover letter where no cover letter is requested that they are pointless, that they don’t demonstrate a lot and can be manufactured by someone else for a fee. But I wonder, are we to blame? Did we place too much emphasis back in the day on the cover letter, which has led to its perception of a waste of time? I mean, resumes can also be paid for and professionally written so the argument around it being paid for and manufactured by someone else also applies to resumes. So where does that argument leave it?
For me, I’ll be contacting all those people personally who submitted the cover letter and addressed the request, thanking them for their attention to detail. Those that did not submit a cover letter, or submitted one without answering the request will still be reviewed and where deemed suitable to proceed further will be questioned around why they did not submit the cover letter.
[bctt tweet=”Are you still requesting for cover letters? Have they been any useful?”]
I’ve not been one to place too much emphasis on cover letters because I’ve never specifically requested one until now. Based on the feedback I have received, I believe they can and do serve a purpose if done correctly. Aren’t we all talking about people being engaged in the recruitment process? So how engaged are they from the outset if a simple request or instruction goes unanswered?
What about you? How have you used cover letters as part of your recruitment process? And would you disqualify someone who did not submit one when it was specifically asked for?
Long live the cover letter.
Image: Shutterstock

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