Why are companies still asking for a handwritten cover letter?

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Certaines entreprises demandent aux candidats d'écrire des lettres manuscrites, parfois en vue de faire appel à un graphologue.

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Posted on Jan 22, 2021 6:10 PMUpdated Jan 23, 2021, 4:19 PM

A position of customer manager in a communication agency, another of accountant, one of nursing home director, baker… What do these announcements published on LinkedIn have in common? Recruiters who posted them ask candidates to write a cover letter … handwritten! Among them, Boris Lepretre, director of a real estate agency in Montargis (Loiret). He is looking for a commercial real estate agent. He has always asked candidates to take out their pen rather than their keyboard. They must write their letter, scan it, then send it by email. “We believe that only the most motivated candidates will take the trouble to write, he explains. It also allows us to see if there are any faults. If so, the CV is not retained. “

Some companies ask for handwritten letters later in the hiring process, once they have established a shortlist. “Some ask for it right after an interview. This is an opportunity to see if the candidates have a good command of spelling and grammar, if they are applied, rigorous… This helps recruiters to decide between the last two or three candidates ”, observes Vivien Martin, senior consultant at Expectra. He has worked for this recruitment firm for ten years and notices that today, companies which ask candidates for letters written by hand, at the beginning or during the selection, are extremely rare. “It may happen that some ask for it to be analyzed by a graphologist”, he specifies.

Laurence Crespel-Taudière is one of them. She has been working as a graphologist since 2000. She followed a diploma course in graphologist provided by the English Society of Graphology (SFDG). In her early days, she regularly did what is called ‘mail sorting’. Companies, which sometimes received more than a hundred applications, relied on graphologists to carry out an initial skimming. They were asked to observe and interpret the handwriting of the candidates – not the contents of their mail. An analysis whose objective was to perceive the personality traits of the person who applied, and to say if these were in adequacy with the position.

Since then, things have changed. “From now on, the hiring managers ask us to carry out a graphological report at the end of the race, when there are only two or three candidates in the running, indicates Laurence Crespel-Taudière. They send us the CV, the job description and the handwritten letter of the candidate they have generally met in interview before. “

See if the candidate’s personality would fit for the job

“We see a lot of things through a handwritten letter: interpersonal skills, self-confidence, loyalty, commitment, dynamism, listening, managerial capacity, creativity…” ensures the fifty-year-old based in Nantes. Example: “If the writing is small, with a lot of spaces between words and lines, it can be deduced that the person is quite cautious, even suspicious and reserved. If the writing is very vertical, with large extensions, tilted very regularly to the right and with a strong black line, it is a question of fighting spirit, of strong will, but also of difficulties in taking into account the point of view of others. “

When recruiters have recourse to her, Laurence Crespel-Taudière must, from the letter written by the candidate, see the strengths and points of vigilance of her personality for the position, and say whether her profile is in line with what l company research. This graphological analysis is often used in addition to other recruitment tools. “I never position myself as a decision maker, she specifies. JI always write a conclusion that guides my client’s decision, but I never write about taking or not taking a candidate. “ Today, she works among others for regional daily press media, a construction SME or a pharmaceutical laboratory.

Alain Mauriès, retired part-time for less than a year, was HR Director for 37 years. He notably worked for a world famous soda company and for a company specializing in the manufacture of perfume bottles. He used to ask candidates for handwritten letters and to collaborate with a graphologist at the end of recruitment. “Graphology is a pretty impressive tool. Interesting elements can emerge, and for my part, this corroborated the tests, assessments and exchanges that I had been able to have with the candidates. This sheds new light on the professional skills and competences of the candidate which appear in the CV and which are discussed during the interview ”, explains the man who now heads the HRD club within the Agora managers professional community.

The candidate is informed

Performing a graphological analysis is legal. The ethics of the profession require that candidates be informed and that the results be sent to them on request. If the candidate does not agree with the interpretation of his writing, he is invited to discuss it with the graphologist. “It must have happened to me four times in twenty years”, remembers Laurence Crespel-Taudière.

Christine Barthe, general delegate of the Federation of Enterprises and Entrepreneurs of London (Feef) for nine years, has a handwriting analysis done on each of her recruitments. When she finally finds the candidate she wants to hire, she asks for a handwritten letter – whatever the content – and calls on Laurence Crespel-Taudière. And this, whether for a CDI or CDD position, whether the person applies for a position of accountant, executive assistant, communication manager … Once the analysis has been received, Christine Barthe sends it by email to candidate, and discusses it with him by phone. “It allows you to get to know each other better. And, for me, to facilitate its integration, to have a more personalized and attentive management. “

No need to try to cheat

Do candidates have an interest in knowing the codes of graphology in order to be able to adapt their writing according to the image they want to send back? No, assures Isabelle Ponsar, graphologist since 2004. “We’re going to see signs of cover-up. It is useless because the idea is to have the candidate who is best suited for the position. “ Ideally, it asks the candidate to provide, in addition to the cover letter, previous notes and handwritten documents. “There, we can not go wrong. “

Also based in Nantes, this 60-year-old works in a practice with two other graphologists. Most recently, they have worked with a law firm, a publishing company or an electronics company looking for engineers. “Usually, we are called upon for positions of responsibility. “ What about the price? At home, it takes 100 to 120 Pounds for a handwriting analysis as part of a recruitment. The company can request a more detailed report, for 200 to 250 Pounds.

Isabelle Ponsar and Laurence Crespel-Taudière do not live only from their activity of graphologist in the context of recruitment. “In the past, I knew professionals who did just that and who made a very good living from it, said Laurence Crespel-Taudière. Companies use us less and less because they use other tools, including personality tests. Today, I don’t know anyone who earns their living exclusively by doing recruitment consultancy as a graphologist. “ She and Isabelle Ponsar therefore have several strings to their bow. They offer skills assessments to individuals and meet young people to carry out orientation assessments. During these meetings, they use graphology, among other things, to take stock with the candidate on what emerges from his personality through his writing. “A means of identifying dispositions, assets, talents, needs, which have not yet emerged and could constitute the basis of a new start”, according to Laurence Crespel-Taudière.

A process that is not unanimous

Graphology is not without raising debates and some HRDs do not believe in it. “From the 1980s until more recently, a number of studies show that graphology fails to prove its effectiveness. In other words, the results obtained following a graphological analysis are identical to those which would have been obtained by chance. Graphology is then not a science, but a belief ”, estimates Romy Sauvayre, lecturer in sociology at Clermont Auvergne University (CNRS LAPSCO).

More generally, do companies, whether they use graphology or not, have an interest in requesting a handwritten cover letter from the start of their recruitment? Eric Gras, a specialist in the job market who works for the job search engine Indeed London, is skeptical. According to him, this deprives companies of interesting profiles. “It requires applying on a PC, you have to write the letter, scan it… The quality candidate is often rare and he has the choice, so he will apply where the process is easiest and fastest. “

For him, the cover letter itself raises questions today, whether handwritten or typed. “Most of the letters are not personalized, so it is of little interest”, he points out. And to add: “We did the test with certain companies, which deleted the cover letter when applying. As a result, they received many more applications. Certainly, some candidates did not correspond at all to the profile sought, but others are of quality and would not have applied in normal times. “

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