Why the Job Application Cover Letter is not Dead

As an HR Advisor to SME’s and corporates I frequently partner with business owners and leaders to recruit and select all levels of staff.

While recently recruiting for a six figure Business Development Manager I was able to establish a long list of potentially suitable applicants from dozens of applications.

There were a number of possible applicants I discounted for various reasons.

They were either clearly unsuitable, wanted too much money, were from overseas and were incapable of being sponsored, or they had made erroneous errors in their cover letters.

Erroneous errors in cover letters amounted to two types.

The first type of erroneous error was that they didn’t even get the job title right. This type of cover letter would read something like this; “Dear Hiring Manager, I am interested in applying for the State Manager role you have advertised.” (The position advertised was a Business Development Manager).

The second type of erroneous error was that they didn’t even get the company or company contact right. This type of cover letter would read something like this; “Hi Corey, I am interested in applying for the job you have advertised.” (My name isn’t Corey).

While it may not be classified as an erroneous error, in my opinion there is a third type of job application cover letter mistake. That mistake is: Not even having a cover letter.

Getting back to the Business Development recruitment, there was a candidate that appeared potentially appropriate, but she did not include a cover letter. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and conducted a preliminary phone interview with her.

She was a potential match to the job selection criteria and I was thinking about possibly comparing her further.  I asked if she had considered doing a job application cover letter.

“Oh no”, she quickly said, “I have a friend who is an experienced, professional recruitment agent, and she told me you don’t have to do a cover letter anymore!”

I politely highlighted to her that if I was going to shortlist her, how was I to explain that the other applicants all had well-constructed cover letters that the hiring manager wanted to see and compare and she didn’t? I commented, “How can the Hiring Manager see the strong written skills and attention to detail required for the job if he can’t see that in your cover letter?”

She retorted that she didn’t believe she had to do one.

Along with others. She missed the shortlist.


Note to Candidates: If you are serious about a job. Do a cover letter. Do it right.

Note to Hiring Leaders: In my opinion, cover letters are still an important aspect of the hiring process.

2018-12-14T04:15:33+00:00May 1st, 2018|Tags: , |