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?



The First Step in Disruption May Be the Conversation: #rcnvsTexas

rcnvs-austin-texas-30I just returned from Houston where I attended #rcnvsTexas – an event focused on the general topic of Disruptive Talent Technology and, more specifically, on providing in-house recruiting and HR professionals with a forum for discussing talent technology in 2016 – from the ATS to referral engines to mobile apps to video.

#rcnvsTexas has been planned and coordinated by the folks at Reconverse (making their first foray into the US after hosting 140+ events in the UK over the last several years) and the crew at Recruiting Daily. This was not a sit-and-listen event; HR & TA professionals who attended were not lined up, row after row, with notebooks in hand. Nope. Instead we had a balance of (1) brief speaker presentations (2) a case study/example from a global TA professional (50,000 candidates to hire 350 top achievers.. wow!) and round Table Discussions (with wine might I add) and (3) Solution Partner Speed Meetings.

I particularly enjoyed the speed meetings; picture a speed dating event (I felt like Miranda in Sex and the City…remember that episode? She pretended she was a flight attendant?) only on one side of the table sits a solution provider and on the other side sits the HR/TA professional. Key needs? Top pain points? Knock out questions? Pertinent details? You have 10 minutes to find out if this is someone with whom you may want to go and grab a cup of coffee or attempt a first date. More meaningful than a fly-by at a conference booth; far less painful than a scheduled phone call or demo.

Did I head home ready to disrupt my HR department? No. Well, sorta; but then again I have those thoughts anyway. I WILL tell you that #rcnvsTexas gave me additional ideas in order to poke, prod and explore ways in which change – improvement – and perhaps a bit of disruption – can happen.

The conversation, after all, needs to occur before the action.

Thanks to the solution providers who participated including, among others, Rolepoint, Clinch, HiringSolved, Powermeeter, and Social Talent.

Follow along as the group (they’re on a bus!) holds events in Austin (today) and Dallas/Forth Worth on Friday. Dueling hashtags (because apparently we couldn’t decide) are #rcnvsTexas and #rcnvsTX.


When Those Pesky Women Want a Job

Wendy_Welder_Richmond_Shipyards (1)Last week a friend sent me the link to an article entitled “How to Interview a Female Applicant.”

Had it not been on wikihow (founded in 2005) and had the site not contained pictures showing people in fairly-modern dress, I would swear to you this content was deemed to be necessary and pertinent somewhere around 1972.

Here, for your reading pleasure, are a few of the tips:

  • Create a list of unisex questions (maybe this means NOT asking the men to “tell me about a time when you completed a time-sensitive project on deadline” when you ask the wimmen-folk to “tell me about a time when you baked a cake from scratch”)
  • Evaluate a female applicant based on her overall level of professional appearance (you know, unlike the dudes who you can pick apart on a checklist: shoes…pants…belt…facial hair…) 
  • Avoid asking questions about future plans or career goals when interviewing a female applicant. This could be seen as an attempt to discern whether the applicant has plans pertaining to marriage or children that could impede her future work performance (damn women always wanting to get married and have babies!)
  • Keep introductory questions related to business and the industry when interviewing a female job applicant. Questions about family or weekend plans are inappropriate and could set an informal tone that will prevent you from accurately evaluating the applicant (of course…with the MEN feel free to chat about football, beer drinking and how they keep the Mrs. in line). 

Do we still treat female applicants differently? I’m not talking females for tech roles (which may give us one answer) or females for executive leadership roles (which may give us another answer).

What about general-basic-entry-normal jobs? Do the kid gloves get put on? Do interviewers (male or female) get more anxious or nervous with female applicants? Afraid they will cross some invisible line because the person sitting across from them has ovaries?

I found an April 2015 article from Glamour Magazine (which, as a side note, made me think of George Costanza…am I right?) on the subject of “Are Male Interviewers Secretly Biased Against Women?”; wikihow or not we do continue to talk about this stuff.

Maybe we just sound smarter (or less guilty?) when we call it unconscious bias.


image: US Library of Congress Prints and Photography Division


Hey Kids…it’s @Animal! #TimSackettDay

animal3Today, January 22nd, is our own little holiday in the HR/Recruiting community. On #TimSackettDay we celebrate the unsung heroes and inspirational folks in our community. Past honorees have been Tim Sackett, Paul Hebert, Kelly Dingee, and Victorio Millian. It’s always a surprise to the honoree…even more fun!

This year we’re honoring that master radio host and the guy who you either know as (1) a creepy clown avatar or (2) the dude donning a huge furry hat (hey..its COLD in Canada!).

Hail Animal. (Yeah…I also never think of him as Michael.)

He’s been blogging since 2004, started the Recruiting Animal blog in 2006 and then, in 2007, he launched the Recruiting Animal Show – the first online call-in show about recruiting.

It’s still going strong.

And it’s loud and raucous and lively (well, depending on the guest one could argue). It’s a place for recruiters and those in their orbit to speak their minds.

Sometimes….I’m not the only one who says this BTW….it scares me just a little.

But Michael (he’s not Animal in this case) is thoughtful, generous and caring. I guest hosted a twitter chat of his a few years ago  and had a blast; I’m waaaaaaaaay to intimidated to ever be a guest on his show. Goofball. He runs a Facebook group where I sweat to you I hear his voice just reading his works. He applauds people when they’re doing great things, sends wishes, shares pics, highlights new and cool ideas. He welcomes everyone into the orbit of recruiters and HR practitioners and vendors.

But, perhaps more valuable to all of us, he’s not afraid to poke people/ideas/BS with a stick when it’s called for. He doesn’t stand for nonsense, false bravado or bluster. He was the very definition of social practically before anyone even called it “social media.”

Love this guy.



Happy #TimSackettDay Animal!




Branded a Loser: Vintage Candidate Experience?

offending_stewardesses-211x300Ah yes the ’70s.  Post the introduction of the Pill.  Post Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The era of Title IX and the (failed) attempt to get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratified by the states in order to become part of the US Constitution.  Those pesky second-wave feminists were busy.

And in a decade when air travel was still viewed as a glamorous experience complete with ashtrays, cocktails in stemware and people who dressed up for a trip to the airport (I’m looking at you guy-in-sweat-stained-unbuttoned-shirt with a bag from McDonalds’s that sat next to me on a recent flight) the fine folks at Eastern Airlines apparently settled on a way to make sure their consumer brand (especially for the male business traveler) matched their employer brand.  Their solution? Shame not just their job candidates but all women.

“Presenting the Losers” (picture above)

The copy reads:

“Pretty good, aren’t they?  We admit it.  And they’re probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want.

But not as Eastern Airline stewardesses.

We pass up around 19 girls, before we get one that qualifies.  If looks were everything, it wouldn’t be tough.  Sure, we want them to be pretty…don’t you?  That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.

But we don’t stop there.  We talk.  And we listen.  We listen to her voice, her speech.  We judge her personality, her maturity, her intelligence, her intentions, her enthusiasm, her resiliency and her stamina.

We don’t want a stewardess to be impatient with a question you may have, or careless in serving your dinner, or unconcerned about your needs.

So we try to eliminate these problems by taking a lot more time and passing up a lot more girls.

It may make our job a little harder.  But it makes your flying a lot easier.”


How nice.  They actually ‘talked and listened’ during the selection process rather than just judging hair, nails and bust-waist-hip ratio. And check it out 1970’s job candidates – if you were fortunate enough to pass phase 1 (the ugly screen) Eastern Airlines kindly laid out the job competencies right there in the advertisement: patiencepersonality, maturity, intelligence, intentions, enthusiasm, resiliency and stamina. 

After your trip to the beauty parlor and the make-up counter you might have had enough time to think about answers for the moment you were actually deigned worthy enough to enter into conversation about actual skills and abilities.



This post originally ran over at the HR Schoolhouse in 2014. Thanks to my friend Trish McFarlane for reminding me about it yesterday which led to my re-running it from the archives. 


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