Is the cover letter still useful?

Alors que certains recruteurs exigent une lettre de motivation aux candidats, d'autres les laissent choisir s'ils souhaitent en rédiger une ou pas.

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“Completely has-been. » It is in these terms that Pierre Allain speaks of the cover letter. Talent hunter at Wink, a start-up that recruits with “innovative” software on behalf of companies, he is looking for sales profiles for start-ups and scale-ups. Those he works with do not require a cover letter. And Pierre Allain is convinced: all companies had better do the same. Especially if they are looking for profiles in scarce sectors, such as tech, where candidates are in short supply. “The letter is a chore to write. To require one is to take the risk of depriving yourself of candidates who will prefer to go their way. »

Eric Gras, specialist in the labor market within the job search engine Indeed London, makes the same analysis. According to him, many recruiters think that by asking for a letter, they will only get the most motivated candidates. “However, it is not necessarily the best who will write, but those who have time to waste”, he blurts out. He observes that in Anglo-Saxon and Nordic countries, recruiters almost never ask for one before a first interview.

Lack of time

Another reason why some find the cover letter uninteresting: its content. “Candidates generally repeat there what is indicated in their CV, coating everything with ready-made formulas found on the Internet”, observes Pierre Allain. Clearly, it would waste time for the candidate… and the recruiter.

Moreover, some recruiters admit it: they do not read them. This is the case for most of the consultants supervised by Lydie Brunisholz, senior director at the recruitment firm Page Personnel. “When we have to study unsolicited applications accompanied by a cover letter, we hardly ever read it,” she confides. For lack of time, but also because what is written is rarely personalized. » Consequence: they will directly dive into the CV.

But others defend the interest of the cover letter, including Benoît Serre, HRD of L'Oréal London and deputy vice-president of the National Association of HRDs. He expressly asks for it in job offers intended for executives, not always for others. For him, it has the virtue of showing that the person was involved in the candidacy. “The risk in not asking for it is that candidates send their applications everywhere without really being motivated. A bit like angling, saying ‘I'll see where it bites'. »

For the letter to be of real interest, it must be worked on, the candidate must show that he has learned about the company, he must show things that are not in the CV. “The letter is not decisive, it is not what will motivate us to meet someone, specifies Benoît Serre. It still allows those who have made a relevant one to score points. »

When applying for a position in the public sector, Guillaume* chose to attach a very personal cover letter to his application. And it seems that she weighed in the balance. His recruiter liked it so much he printed it out to share with the rest of the team. In an interview, he told him that he had the impression of already knowing him a little before meeting him. Guillaume has since joined the team.

A cover letter… after an interview

What about companies that don't require it? Do they implicitly expect candidates to write one? Or a CV accompanied by a simple email “Hello, best regards” is it enough? Pierre Allain advises those who apply to write a few striking lines in the body of the email, which explain in concrete terms how their profile is interesting for the position. “The idea is to go straight to the point, to make a pitch, even if it means adopting a less formal tone”, he explains. Start-ups that do not require a cover letter often have an insert provided for this purpose on their recruitment platform, which candidates are free to fill out, or not.

Lydie Brunisholz recommends taking care of the LinkedIn profile, which the consultants in her team scrutinize after reading a CV that appeals to them. “As recruiters, we will for example look at whether the candidate is recommended by former employers on the social network, and what qualities have been recognized in him. »

Cover letters, ancient history, then? Not so fast… For Eric Gras, they are still useful… but rather after a first interview. Once the recruiter has explained the mission of the position, his expectations, the values ​​of the company… and the candidate has been able to ask questions. “At that time, the candidate has more information, so more advanced things to say. He can project himself, make proposals of what he could put in place…”analyzes the expert.

And when companies do not ask for a motivational email after a first meeting, Lydie Brunisholz of Page Personnel, who does not however require one on first contact, invites candidates to write one despite everything. She assures us: it can (really) make it possible to stand out.


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