A recent study confirms what many job seekers have long suspected: You are wasting your time writing that cover letter. Recruiters now use other methods to get a feel for applicants without leaving their desks. This renders the four-paragraph promo about passions and key skills redundant at best, and a liability at worst.
Only 18% of managers think cover letters are an important part of a job application, according to a survey of 505 hiring managers released last week by Chicago-based consulting firm Addison Group. Seventy-four percent said the most important factor in hiring is the interview, and 50% said soft skills—the ability to hold a conversation and appear normal—were important to consider throughout the process.
Some companies have found alternative tools for learning about candidates. Businessolver, a Des Moines-based benefits technology company, asks candidates with strong cover letters and resumés to submit a video of themselves answering questions like "What would your co-workers say about you? That helps companies target the information they want, and guides digitally savvy millennials through a process they're comfortable with,” said Marcy Klipfel, senior vice president of human resources at Businessolver. "We find that the person's authenticity comes through in a video interview, often better than it can on the page," she said.
Video interviews, which offer deeper information than cover letters but demand less of managers than in-person interviews, are rapidly becoming integral to the job application process, said Jason Reagan, regional vice president for the Addison Group.
Other methods, like scouring social media accounts, have proved useful in figuring out who a job candidate really is, particularly for younger managers. According to the study, 45% of millennials—people born between 1980 and 2000—trust Facebook as a source in vetting a job candidate (28% trust Twitter), which is double the rate at which Gen-Xers rely on the site, and triple that of baby boomers.
Among millennial managers, 23% considered a cover letter to be an important part of a job application while 69% said the interview was important. "Millennials put a little more weight on education upfront, in conjunction with proven work experience," said Addison's Reagan.
As millennials take over management roles and rely on a broader set of methods for getting to know prospective employees, "To Whom It May Concern" seems to be fading out.
On the other hand, if you're a confident, seasoned writer, and your cover letter is really stellar, you may be able to stand out just by being one of the last people writing one. Building a bridge to that human being who sifts through resumés is in your highest interests.
In my professional opinion, you need to inject passion, special skills, and most importantly, your accomplishments (i.e., how you created value for your previous employers) within the resumé. The way to do that is by strategic use of impactful verbs that makes recruiters stop and take notice. You will stand out, and stand out you must if you want to get an interview.
What are your experiences in submitting job applications? Cover letters required? Video submissions? Please reply and share!