Cover letter for application: only wanted in 18 percent of corporations

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How do you apply today in a more personal and structured way? Find large companies: Better with a letter of motivation than with a classic cover letter. According to a survey, only 18 percent of the 50 top-selling German companies explicitly rely on a cover letter. In contrast, last year it was 29 percent.

This was determined by the recruitment platform Taledo in January 2021. The platform connects companies with specialists from the IT, digital economy, operations, medicine and sales and marketing sectors.

The application experts compared which documents applicants for IT positions at 50 large companies and 50 start-ups with the highest funding in Germany should submit. It became clear that the cover letter is past its prime. Only 18 percent of large companies still require one, and at 20 percent it is not much more for startups. “HR managers are increasingly under time pressure,” says Marcel Poelker, founder and CTO of Taledo. The number of applications is high. It takes a lot of effort to go through each cover letter individually.

“Traditional application procedures are hopelessly out of date”

Sifting through documents is a central task of HR managers – but this task is changing. In large companies such as Hochtief AG, Kaufland Stiftung or Aldi Süd, the letter of motivation is increasingly coming to the fore instead of the cover letter. It is also considered the third page in applications and is shorter and more concise. In addition to personal motivation for the position, it expresses the applicant’s soft skills and abilities.

Behind this is a rethink. “German corporations are gradually realizing that traditional application procedures are hopelessly out of date,” says Marcel Poelker. “Applicants and the HR department prefer lean and, above all, efficient application processes.” In the IT sector in particular, large corporations are now often data-driven. Like them, startups also pay attention to good grades and qualifications, so the résumé and certificates remain relevant. But for all of them it is now particularly about the mentality and motivation of the applicants.

HR professionals often find cover letters devoid of content

As early as 2018, a labor market study by the personnel service provider Robert Half showed that almost half (48 percent) of 500 interviewed personnel managers in Germany did not find cover letters very meaningful in terms of content. 32 percent complained about the lack of additional information in the cover letter compared to an applicant’s résumé.

This is of course noticed by HR professionals, for example at the Babbel education company. It is behind the language learning app of the same name. “Personally, I don’t read any further when I see immediately that it is an impersonal standard letter,” says Renita Käsper, Team Leader Talent Acquisition at Babbel. The cover letter itself is “a great opportunity to explain individual stations and points from your own résumé in more detail and to stand out in the multitude of applications.”

Writing an application brings clarity about your own goals

The company employs people from many nations in Berlin and New York. Käsper says that your application can look very different depending on the position. “Basically, the requirements for an application with us differ depending on the department,” she says.

“In engineering, for example, a résumé is often enough. A test task and team fit are much more important. In areas such as internal communication, PR, customer service or brand marketing, on the other hand, we attach great importance to a classic cover letter. ”Language and communication are the focus here. “Competencies can already be shown in the cover letter.”

Whether a letter of motivation is required or a classic cover letter: goals and wishes become clearer when preparing the documents for career starters. “If you get stuck while formulating your cover letter, it may not be the right place,” says Taledo communications manager Klaas Geller. One consolation there may be that this does not only apply to career entry: even experienced applicants usually know this feeling well.


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