The recruitment process can prove to be long and tedious for all parties involved. From countless of applications to hectic interview processes, it is no wonder that both employers and candidates tend to dislike the bureaucracy involved in the whole procedure.
One element that has been seen as integral over the years is the inclusion of a cover letter.
This is a letter written by the candidate when they are applying for a particular role, with the aim of conveying to the employer why they would be a great for the position. Accompanied by a CV, it tends to highlight the different skills and experience one has in order to match it to what the employer is looking for.
While cover letters were deemed essential in the past, in recent years, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread changes that have taken place in recruitment, an increasing number of companies have left it completely up to candidates about whether or not they should include a cover letter.
And it seems like human resources (HR) leaders are possibly leaning towards making do without them altogether.
Matthew Psaila, an experienced HR professional, on Wednesday stated that it may be time to move beyond cover letters, especially with the increased prominence of artificial intelligence (AI). Given that AI-generated content is on the rise, the real value of cover letters seems to be diminishing.
Following this, MaltaCEOs.mt reached out to Mr Psaila, who is an Area Director of HR at a hospitality firm, so that he could expand on his thoughts about cover letters, particularly since through his experience, he has started to see them have a lesser impact on the hiring process than they used to.
“Data-driven employment practices have emerged through the digital age, making traditional cover letters obsolete. My own experiences confirmed this idea, as cover letters frequently provided minimal new information about a candidate’s qualifications or suitability for the position,” he explained.
He remarked that nowadays, he prefers walking into an interview with a candidate without taking the CV with him. Mr Psaila believes that through this, he is more interested in the “attitude of the individual, their skills and knowledge related to the position, and ultimately if they fit within the organisation.”
This approach enables him to determine whether the individual is truly capable of fulfilling the responsibilities required, and if they are suited to the company culture.
However, given the increased use of AI, Mr Psaila feels that there may be discrepancies between what a candidate says in a cover letter and what they are truly like. As a result, there are a number of notable elements that make it clear that a cover letter has been generated by AI and that business leaders and HR executives should be on the lookout for.
“Once you start reading such AI-generated letters, you may notice that they lack a personal touch or may be too generic or overly polite,” Mr Psaila said. He added that business and HR leaders should be “vigilant of this” and instead should simply “ignore the letter completely and move straight to the CV.”
“The CV is like the ingredients list on a food product, if you like what’s on the list then you try it. Same for a CV, as what is listed should spark an interest, and afterwards a meeting or two with the candidate should give you enough to make a decision,” he remarked.
Mr Psaila said that he thinks that AI tools have their advantages in the HR sector, particularly since they have helped increase efficiency at the workplace. Additionally, if a candidate decides to use AI to write a cover letter, it could be a sign of them working efficiently and being tech-savvy.
Despite this, he feels that doing so could also imply a “lack of personal effort and a lost opportunity to be authentic.”
“There is also the argument that the candidate may not be fully invested in the role or the company, and the application they submitted is simply one of many,” he continued.
To Mr Psaila, a LinkedIn profile could serve as a more suitable way for employers to learn more about the candidate, acting as an easily updateable résumé.
“Now, I may sound like a LinkedIn ambassador, but I think it’s such a powerful social media platform. Many people would spend hours scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, yet my first go-to app on my phone is LinkedIn. The power of the right connections is priceless,” he said.
He remarked that LinkedIn does not only enable an employer to have a “more dynamic view” of a candidate’s career, but it also provides real-time updates, endorsements, and a broader view of a candidate’s professional network.
“I believe it also shows one’s character,” Mr Psaila explained.
However, he did not say that cover letters should be frowned upon or removed from the question altogether.
If a job post mentions that a cover letter is required, then the candidate should produce their “best-ever letter” if the role is what they really want for their career.
“However, we notice that some people clearly recycle reference letters and just change the job title and company name,” Mr Psaila said.
If a cover letter is not required, but a candidate still decides to send one, it should not be deemed as them being annoying and going through unnecessary work, but as a “sign of genuine interest” in the company and position. “I think it also depends on the industry, company size, and culture. In some traditional companies, a cover letter may still be valued,” he pointed out.
Mr Psaila clarified that this is ultimately his personal opinion, and are not necessarily those of his employer. He added that a debate on the matter “can go on for a couple of hours.” “Every step counts in securing the right candidate or in the case of a candidate, securing the right job. However, authenticity during the whole process is crucial,” he stated.
He said that a personal story’s power is better evoked through a face-to-face conversation than on paper.
Concluding with a message for jobseekers, Mr Psaila said that they should focus on building their networks, following the decisionmakers of the organisation they want to work with, following influential people in the industry, and if possible, even finding the opportunity to chat and introduce themselves to their potential future employers, “even if there are no open positions.”
Matthew Psaila / LinkedIn
He replaces Jose Ramon Alegre, who resigned from the position at the start of 2024.
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