I Still Like Cover Letters

mailboxI belong to numerous Facebook groups filled with members who are sourcers, recruiters, HR folks, techies, and assorted “talent” pundits. At least once per month, I swear to you, a lengthy thread emerges when someone posts something along the line of “do you still want to receive cover letters from candidates?”

People get riled up! It’s almost as hot a debate as the other old conversational standby in these groups about “Agency vs. Corporate Recruiters.” (That one, by the way, is also a crowd-pleaser; routinely getting 72+ comments within 24 hours.)


The “no cover letter” crowd is adamant:

  • not needed because I can find everything I want about a candidate online
  • I don’t read them anyway
  • I haven’t looked at a cover letter in 10 years!

Those who like cover letters point out that:

  • a cover letter can tell a story
  • if no one else submits a cover letter, the candidate can stand out
  • for positions that require writing skills, a cover letter is a must

I sit firmly in the “yes” camp.

I recently sat down with the folks at the Louisiana Job Connection and discussed “How to Spot a Leader Just from Reading a Cover Letter.” Really. In the article I talk about how I look for “The Four I’s” when perusing a cover letter:

  • Impact
  • Innovation
  • Improvements
  • Inspiration

As I opined, whether you’re a hiring manger, recruiter or HR gal sifting through the inbox, when you receive not only the resume/CV but also a cover letter “you can weed through all the job-search buzzwords and spot candidates with genuine leadership skills or leadership potential.”

Does that make me a dinosaur?


Segmentation and the Practice of HR

baby guinessI spent a few days last week at the HR Tech Fest Conference (#HRTF16) and enjoyed every moment; listening, learning and talking about the future of talent, HR, technology, recruiting, and work.

I was energized when I heard the stories told by HR leaders including Neil Morrison (Penguin Random House), Jim O’ Gorman (Hulu) and Ambrosia Vertesi (formerly of Hootsuite). I was inspired after numerous individual discussions about new ways to leverage existing (and emerging) technology to connect with candidates, applicants, employees and organizational leaders. I got to talk through the logistics of my beta test at work using Slack as an internal community/platform for our hiring managers. I tried out some messaging ideas I’ve been kicking around for employer branding and TA initiatives back at the shop. I had a conversation about how, potentially, I could make Facebook at Work … well, work. Maybe. Not quite sure if that last one actually fits.

One size…one trend, idea, concept, or forecast … will never fit all because of any infinite number of variables including organizational readiness, the demographics of the workforce, the risk aversion of an industry, and willingness of leaders and employees to experiment or test. I’m more than likely, in my current organization, never going to use Virtual Reality technology and it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever get to the stage of using AI and scientific assessments in our selection process.

And that’s OK.

It’s not just about SMEs vs. Enterprise. I’m not talking number of employees or number of staff in one’s HR Department. It’s really not even about the size of the HR budget or company revenue. Yet those are, quite often, the primary factors in the market segmentation strategy employed by HR tech vendors and solution providers (“oh…sorry….we only work with companies that have 5,000+ employees”). Trust me…I get it. Can’t say as I like it much, but I get it.

So what I need to do is make sure that my team approaches our HR work with a DIY attitude; the reality, by the way, for a huge number of human resources teams. We scrimp and scramble and create using the materials on hand; mixing them up to get the job done. Many HR professionals on the ground don’t have the budget to make a purchase ($$), don’t have the resources to train users on something overly complex (time, staff, and more $$) and don’t have the time to pause and even learn about “what could be.” OK…admittedly some possess neither the curiosity to wonder about “what could be” nor the mental capacity to understand, but that’s another blog post.

As for me, at the end of any of these events, I leave with nuggets of wisdom and ideas for how to scale up/scale down to find the fit, if appropriate, for my organization. Am I going to build an Open Cloud Academy like Rackspace (another nifty thing I heard about at #HRTF16)? Nope. But I got a few ideas from them for something – a ‘tiny” something – that I may be able to create. DIY.

As for that segmentation of HR buyers and users? I always take the opportunity to chat with my friends who are HR Tech company founders or developers or product evangelists or marketing experts and educate them on “real” HR. Quite often they have no idea, whatsoever, what day-to-day real-world blood-and-guts HR is like. And how could they? (Sometimes I show them pictures). Their only experience, quite often, with an HR lady has been with the benefit-enrolling policy-quoting bureaucrat who sits behind a closed door drinking her diet Cokes and warming up Lean Cuisines in the break room microwave for lunch; they certainly never hung out with her consuming rounds of baby Guinness shots. More than likely.

That’s me doing my best to end the needlessly unnecessary segmentation.

You’re welcome.

Take Me to the Leaderboard – #HRTF16

Uckers_gameboard_graphicI was en route to #HRTF16 last night, playing a round of Cookie Jam on my iPad, and got to thinking how just a few years ago heading off to an HR technology event meant there would be lots of chatter (and sessions) devoted to gamification.

Remember that? We were told that every aspect of the HR sphere would be disrupted. People want awards and stickers and scores and badges!! (we were told). You can increase engagement and fun!! (we were told). Employees like the thrill of the competition!! (we were told). Sort of like the Olympics only without, you know, the performance enhancing drugs and bowls of condoms in the Olympic Village.

Back in those halcyon days everyone from my benefit provider to my safety consultant got into this. My medical carrier, I am not even kidding, hauled a kiosk into our building one day (via a dolly) and set it up so that employees could log in, create profiles, and then compete for (virtual) wellness badges against sports celebrities and inanimate objects like Frank the Fire Hydrant (I am not making this up) and Skippy the Dog.

A year later that program, which had been released with much fanfare to customers …. there were billboards on the interstate!…. was kaput.

Huh. For a while there everyone in HR was tripping over themselves, trying to sound smart, by using the “G” word. But what has it wrought?

Your job applicants don’t want to play games; they want a smooth, seamless fast process that allows them to escape your crappy ATS as soon as possible.

Just because Justine and Kara in the Call Center are earning badges on your “TEAM Culture!!” website/game faster than a newly sworn in Brownie (whose mother is the troop leader) doesn’t mean they’re more “engaged.”  Perhaps they’re merely looking for a break from the humdrum monotony and since you have an HR policy that prohibits playing “Angry Birds 2” on their phones, they have to do something.

Karl in IT? The guy who is on top of the leaderboard for your wellness program? He’s chalking up points while simultaneously eating Cheetos from the comfort of his couch while binge re-watching the entire GOT series from beginning to end.

Gaming theory? Game mechanics? Game thinking? Absolutely fascinating to discuss but I wonder if we went off the rails in terms of any huge impact or disruption (if you will) within the HR space?

Did any of this make sense in the first place? Weren’t the organizations with cultures built on this kind of stuff……doing it anyway? I don’t know about you but every L&D lady I ever worked with had game theory embedded in every granule of her adult learning mantra.

Or not? Huh.

In any event I’m off to enjoy the conference where I anticipate having a whole bunch of smarty pants HR conversations with super amazing people.

Yup; I’ll be heading out in just a minute or two; there are a few friends I’m gaining on in Candy Crush Soda Saga……