Do You Read Cover Letters? - And Other Questions For Recruiters

Originally posted on the SmashFly Intern Blog.

In this article I’m taking a different approach by looking at recruiting from a candidates point of view. In past posts I’ve written articles from a recruitment marketing perspective on topics such as candidate
engagement, cultivating talent networks and recruitment marketing. I have 4 questions, plus a few mini-questions that I’d like to ask recruiters.

(I’ll admit that this post is a little selfish in that I’m working as an intern to increase my experience and make me more attractive in a competitive job market.)

4 questions for recruiters (plus a few more mini-questions):

  1. What is the best way for less experienced candidates to engage with recruiters?
I understand that the job of a recruiter is to find the best talent for a position, but how do candidates that recently graduated engage with recruiters. They don’t have as much experience as a veteran in a given industry, but they do have transferable skills, an understanding of key concepts and a work ethic that will make their learning curve less steep. Or is the learning curve the problem? Do you want new hires to be able to fit in seamlessly without coaching?

I’ve also taken an unscientific poll of candidates that are currently applying for jobs and the consensus is that the application process is like throwing something into a black hole. You don’t know where your application goes when you hit the ‘apply now’ button and you never hear from the company you applied to. Of course this isn’t always the case but candidates tell me that they want to know how to make themselves more attractive to recruiters.

  1. Do you read cover letters?

I’ve heard so many things from different recruiters. Some say that they don’t read cover letters, some say that they’ll read a cover letter if it’s included with a resume but won’t hold an applicant back if they don’t have a cover letter, others say that a cover letter is crucial, particularly one that is customized to the company and the position. How do applicants make themselves stand out from all the clutter and what do you look for in a cover letter?

  1. What is the best way for non-veteran candidates to market themselves to recruiters?

From another one of my non-scientific polls, candidates tell me that they don’t know how to get themselves in front of recruiters. It’s much easier to express the intangibles you would bring to an organization with an in person meeting versus a cover letter or resume. I know you’ll tell me that the interview is for assessing the intangibles, but I’m talking about creating an opportunity for the candidate to even have an interview.

  1. How important is social networking?

Should candidates use social networking sites like Linkedin to reach out to recruiters? How do you feel when a candidate interested in your company contacts you through a social networking site? Are you happy to help, annoyed or you just ignore the request? What if a candidate that contacts you through Linkedin was referred by someone you trust, does that increase the chance that you’ll respond?

I find this area of recruiting extremely interesting because a lot of it seems like a mystery and there are so many differing opinions. From a candidate’s point of view, you never really know what the “right” way to engage with recruiters is. A lot of it ends up being trial and error or someone else telling you what worked for them in their job search.

I’d be happy to read any responses to the questions I’ve asked.

About the Author: Sean is a Marketing Intern at SmashFly Technologies. SmashFly is the provider of the first recruitment marketing platform called WildFire that enables companies and staffing firms to easily distribute and more importantly measure the performance of their
recruiting efforts online.

The WildFire
recruitment marketing platform offers every tool you need for your recruitment marketing needs all in one centralized solution including Real-Time Recruitment Metrics, Job Ad Distribution (job boards, social networks, SEM, email & SMS campaigns), Recruitment Opt-In Database, Recruitment CRM, Web Commercials / Micro-sites and Resume Sourcing services.

Views: 117

Comment by Thomas Patrick Chuna on August 18, 2010 at 5:07pm
Questions one and three seem similar, so I'll just say that if you want to get in front of a recruiter, find one who specializes in your field and send the resume..if it's a fit, we'll call.

Recruiters are like any other specific tool..useful in specific times and situations, but we aren't a swiss army knife.

It also helps to have a year or two of experience before you even approach a recruiter..why would a company pay one of us to deliver them an entry level person..they can get 'em for free anywhere.

Question two: Hell yeah I read cover letters, so make it a good one. tell me what you want and how much money you make.,.,don't waste time telling me how good you are, that should be on the resume, expressed in terms of deals you've closed, problems you've solved, and revenue generated.

You mention intangibles..those aren't important in the initial stages...If the tangibles meet the specifications of our clients, you'll have plenty of opportunity to bring out the intangibles during the interview process.

Question Four: If anyone is bothered about being approached thru linkedin, they shouldn't be on there in the first place. that's what it's there for.
Comment by Chris Brablc on August 19, 2010 at 9:17am
Nice Post. To answer your questions:

2) Cover Letters are the first thing I look at when seeing a new candidate come through the system. A well thought out cover letter should include why you'd be a good fit for the specific company and position by citing past projects and achievements you've led. Don't say you are creative without giving an example of where you were creative at a past job / internship / activity.

4) If you aren't on LinkedIn, you should be. First, it's the first thing I look up when I find a candidate I'm interested in. Second, it's a great networking tool to reach out to potential employers. The one caveat is you need to focus on the messaging in your message to a LinkedIn contact you don't know personally. The message can't just be "I need a job, hire me" but should be more "I saw your open position, this is why I fit.".
Comment by Chuck Summerland on August 19, 2010 at 2:28pm
Hi Sean,

Great discussion topic - here are my responses to your questions

1. A great way to engage recruiters is through phone calls. I know I have had resumes sent to me however ones that have placed a phone call usually stand out when reviewing all the resumes that have come in. Typically people who have just graduated do have problems with recruiters. The reason is that companies can go to a school if they are looking for new graduates and not have to pay recruiters for new grads. If the recruiter is internal I would speak to them about new graduate programs. Companies can take advantage of government grants when they hire new graduates so many have started up programs to attract new talent.

2. At first I was not much of a cover letter reader as I was mostly recruiting for contingent programmers and developers for positions. However when I started recruiting for other positions I realized that cover letters are the best way to analyze a person’s communication and written skills. There is always the possibility that it was written for them but it still can be an effective tool to get the interview.

3. There are so many people in this industry and yet it is a very small world at the same time. Most likely someone will know a recruiter and not know it or have friends that know at least one. Asking people what they do for a living is a great way to start or asking friends if they know any recruiters. This is a great way to be introduced into a network of people always looking to talk to someone about building a career. You can always spot a recruiter at a gathering or a party as they are the ones interviewing people subconsciously in discussions.

4. Social networking is a different beast all together. I don’t think someone has perfected it as a recruitment tool or job searching function. Everyone has different views on how it should be used. I personally like my Linked In group to be people who I have at least a conversation with that. There are both positives and negatives to that approach but I typically do not accept people who just add me with a generic invite. What I recommend to be effective is to go on and search the company that you would like to apply for and see if there are any people who work at that company who are recruiters. You should be able to see if you know someone who is connected to that person – if you do then reach out to your friend for a warm introduction.
Comment by Sean McManus on August 20, 2010 at 4:02pm
Thanks for your comments @Chuck Summerland @Chris Brablc @Thomas Patrick Chuna

It's interesting to get insight directly from the source. I notice that the responses I've gotten have important similarities like a candidate being able to show they can provide results. But there are also differences in your comments which is why this topic is so interesting.
Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on August 23, 2010 at 8:40am
Letters are a tool but if the resume looks good I call them right away. Just like the resume is a tool.

I have never hired anyone off just the cover letter...
Comment by Ogunbowale Ismail Toyin on August 23, 2010 at 10:20am
hey, good question i will answer question 1& 3 first because of the similarity ( how to get in front of recruiters)
all you have to do is to have a good resume and cover letter that can get you to the next level. recruiters are human being like every one but foreseen who you are from what your resume take about your experience. help about resume check

advise to does on entry level get into internship for experience.

2) yes i read cover letter, from the outsourcing part of recruiters your cover letter qualifies you first before checking your resume.


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