30 Seconds on the Clock: Is This Cover Letter Good Enough?

Bayt.com, Contributor, Apr 15 2018

When you’re hiring, cover letters are a great way to get additional insight into your candidates. From learning about their writing style and voice, to understanding more about their story and career growth, cover letters can be very useful. They can also be used as a way to screen candidates more effectively rather than looking at their CVs alone.

However, reading every single cover letter line by line may not be an option in this day and age of recruitment. Luckily, Bayt.com’s hiring experts have compiled a list of shortcuts to help you determine which cover letters are worth of your extra time.

1. Formatting

Impeccable formatting doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the candidate of your dreams, but bad formatting can definitely mean the wrong candidate. If you’re looking for someone who is detail-oriented, neat, organized, or someone who takes pride in their work, then bad formatting can be a red flag for all of these attributes. Someone who doesn’t take the time to align headers or research appropriate cover letter formats before sending the best representation of themselves to companies will probably carry these subpar characteristics into their position.

Instead, look for cover letters that have proper alignment and neat formatting for the candidate’s personal information, appropriate margins, and overall professional look. This includes looking for cover letters that use plain font (no comic sans please!) and those that don't overly stylize with bold fonts and italics. Only choose cover letters that are in a style and format that you would be comfortable sending to a client.

2. Generalized Statements

Scan the document for “your esteemed company” or any other lines that are extremely non-specific. These lines like “I have the skills to match your vacancy” mean the candidate wrote one cover letter and sent it to a dozen companies. These cover letters most likely won’t provide anything insightful or relevant as they are written to encompass all job types, sectors, and companies. If you’re looking for someone who took the time and effort to research your company and position and tailor their cover letter to your specific vacancy, these generalized statements are a major red flag for the rest of the cover letter.

Instead, skim a cover letter looking for your company name, the specific position, and keywords that illustrate specific and relevant skill sets.

3. Novels

Watch out for novels. If your goal is to be efficient, then reading three pages of a cover letter is not in the cards for you. This also shows that a candidate probably lacks efficiency and the ability to prioritize. In a cover letter, candidates should be able to assess which of their job roles and skills will be most important for the employer to read and then prioritize these. It is important for job seekers to understand that the employer needs to be as efficient as possible in their recruitment process.

Look for cover letters that are about a page in length. This is the ideal length. This means there is enough information to get a better idea of the candidate and their strengths without overwhelming you of every detail of their prior experiences.

4. Spelling Errors

We’re not implying that your candidate has to be a spelling bee champion to get the job. However, sending a cover letter with many typos and spelling mistakes is a major red flag. If the candidate is sending essential job application documents with mistakes, you can guess they might send clients, other professionals, or managers content with the same type of errors. This can be embarrassing for the company or look unprofessional to senior managers who might wonder why you hired this person.

Skim the cover letter for the basic things that should be spelled correctly first, like your company name, the name of the addressed person of the cover letter and the name of the job vacancy. If any of these are misspelled, the candidate is probably a no.

These aren’t the hard and fast rules of recruitment; there is still room for grey area. If it’s an amazing candidate and they just have one or two typos, it’s probably worth it to give them the benefit of the doubt. However, these rules combined can serve as a handy checklist to help you filter through the dozens of cover letters that you may be receiving. If you really only have 30 seconds per cover letter, these are the quick takeaways to help you through your candidate search.

But also keep in mind, that if you are completely out of time and/or are tired of searching through candidates on your own, then you can always have sourcing specialists help you out.  

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