Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cover Letters

I have always taught my students about the importance of the cover letter. I also emphasize that it should not be about you, rather it should focus on the recipient and prove that you know the nature and scope of the job. Then, at the end, you add how perfect you are as evidenced in the attached resumé and other support material.

Is it time to revise my thinking?  In The Atlantic, Stephen Lurie cites a recent poll showing that “90% of hiring contacts surveyed simply ignored every cover letter sent to them”:

[T]he cover letter is mostly a performance, and some companies are picking up on the act, particularly tech firms that can test specific employee skills. Google, it’s said, often prefers to see the coding already being done by individuals before reaching out to them—skipping the cover letter entirely. Some social media companies now require tweets as proof of competency, not long-form writing. [Companies] that do still require cover letters (in whatever sector), many have simply stopped looking at them. Jobs that don’t deal in formal letter writing—let’s say 95% of them—can find better surrogates elsewhere in samples of a candidate’s work. 
Whether it is a writing sample relevant to the industry, a Github repository or other specific tasks, employers and candidates would be better suited to another test. That’s a good sign for us all. Our government, corporations and non-profits will invariably be stronger when they get the best-matched talent available—not just those who’ve mastered an irrelevant art.

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