A couple of weeks ago I was having a wee discussion / debate on Twitter with @garyfranklin and @petergold about the relevance of the good ol’ covering letter when it came to recruitment practices of today. Subsequent to this toing & froing I thought I’d create a poll on LinkedIn to see what others thought. Too much time on my hands? Mmmmoi?
I was firmly in the, “they’re a complete waste of time and should be banished to the crypts of recruitment past” camp. Was I being too harsh? Ignorant even? Or was I one of many like-minded individuals. I was confident of the latter but what did others think?
Well, the lines are closed. The votes have been counted and verified and the winner of this year’s X Facto… Ahem, the results of the poll are laid bare below for all to see.
As you can see, 154 votes later, it was extremely tight. Opinion was divided almost 50/50:
But was it enough to make me change my rather staunch opinion? You know what? (*as he hangs his head in slight shame and shuffles the dirt beneath his feet*). As much as it pains me to admit it I think I’ve been slightly shifted in my view… But only slightly… Let’s not get carried away aye.
Approximately 40 -45 comments were made across the few sites I posted the poll. I’ve consolidated the recurring themes and pertinent points below in a, “I’m not 100% convinced cover letters are entirely necessary but if you’re going to write one follow these essential tips” kinda way:
For me I think Pam Stoker summed it up nicely – “If the poll results are any indication of a larger test group, a job seeker has a roughly 50/50 chance of having their cover letter / email read. Why take the chance? Now, I agree that it is wasted effort to send a generic or template message that might as well be read by a robot. So, all the more reason to use a thoughtful, creative, targeted cover message to show your unique writing style and personality, as well as your grammar and spelling skills!”
Taking Pam’s 50 / 50 comment, it could also be argued that if you do write a covering message there’s a 50% chance it isn’t going to be read so why bother? I guess this is one for the glass half full / half empty brigade??? – Sorry Pam, I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist. Honest
I’ll close by concluding this. Are cover letters a complete waste of time? Yes. Is a brief covering email / message useful. Perhaps. But only if done correctly and used in the right scenario. Taking everything into account, if someone sought my advice as to whether they should include a covering message in their application I wouldn’t vehemently respond in the negative (which is a shift from my original stance) but I’d probably echo Katie’s (@RecruitGal’s) advice - “If it’s worth highlighting, it should be in the CV. And the CV should be customised for each application to highlight the most relevant skills and experience.”
But hang on. If we’re to believe the intensifying radio chatter out there at the moment, CVs are going to be dead soon aren’t they… Then what are we all going to do?!… Oh I give up.
Thanks so much to all who contributed with your votes and comments. I for one will sleep easy tonight considering this matter drawn to a satisfactory conclusion. *he says with a relieved wipe of his brow and an audible “thank [BEEEEP] for that!”*
Hungry for more? Check me out at www.trecknowledgy.com - a blog about training and coaching through recruitment complexities, and please feel free to subscribe. Follow on Twitter @TRecKnowledgy also.
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