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July 26, 2019 The Death of the Cover Letter? Tracy Godding

The Death of the Cover Letter?

Face to face research with internal UK recruiters has shown that most employers just aren’t reading candidate cover letters. Seven out of ten recruiters admitted to not reading them at all. According to the 2017 Job Seeker Nation Study, only 26 percent of recruiters read cover letters and consider them important in their decision to hire. 

Cover letters used to be the way employers could get a more detailed idea of who the jobseeker really is. They now often use other channels, such as Twitter or Facebook, to find out about candidates outside of their CV/Resume.   

Cover letters have traditionally been a way for jobseekers to personalise an application for both role and company. However, jobseekers are still submitting cover letters and tailoring them, as they are often requested. Jobseekers still feel that it can give them an advantage in the application process. 

Our 2018 Madgex Global Jobseeker Survey revealed that young jobseekers are less likely to submit a cover letter. Over 50% of 18 - 25 year olds said they would only submit a cover letter on request.     

Jobseekers are also generally applying for more jobs. It’s easier to apply for a job now than ever before, and they have access to more and more vacancies. The impact of this is that hiring managers are often receiving more applications, many of these may not be ‘quality’ or ‘good fit’ applications.

The fewer the applications, the easier it is to focus on each candidate, which includes reading cover letters. 

Hiring managers still see the CV as the primary asset when making hiring decisions, and there is often just not time or resource to read associated application documents. If read, cover letters are more likely to be read to help make final decisions when short-listing.     

So, until employers stop asking for and expecting cover letters then jobseekers will carry on submitting them. They may be less important than they were, particularly with the rise of social media recruiting, but they are still of value. However, it’s easy to foresee a future where they gradually become obsolete.

As a result of our research findings, we’ve been looking at making both cover letter and CV/Resume a non-mandatory application step on a per job basis. 

This has included recent A/B testing removing the cover message from the application form to see how it impacts the application rate.

Initial results have been positive, with the average conversion rate across all devices growing by over 3%. We’ll be running additional experiments to confirm our findings before actioning any changes on our job boards.

We believe in making the application process simple, and this new approach would make things smoother for both recruiters and jobseekers. There would be less unnecessary clutter in a recruiter’s inbox and would certainly make application simpler and quicker for candidates – and importantly, easier on mobile devices.

It needs to be on a per job basis, as some organisation place more weight on the cover letter and in certain roles and contexts they will always have more importance. So, in conclusion, application cover letters are not dead but fading. It will take decisive steps from employers and job boards to change that. Time will tell!