4 Things We Should Change in the Hiring Process: Cover Letters, Interview Follow-up, and Salary Transparency

Recently, a Reddit user asked fellow users on the platform, “What social custom needs to be retired?”

Many of the top answers pertained to work and jobs.

Let’s take a look at four of those discussions.

The Cover Letter

The cover letter has long been a make-or-break component to the application process, yet many candidates see it as an unnecessary burden.


“I had to write a cover letter for a retail position yesterday. Like floor salesperson folding clothes retail. Absolutely idiotic”

There’s a better way to do cover letters. Move away from the standard “resume-and-cover-letter” procedure, and ask candidates what you really want to know. This makes the expectations clear, and doesn’t leave the candidate guessing at what they need to include, or worrying about length. Isn’t it more fun to ask “What’s your superpower?” or “How would you describe yourself in an acrostic poem?” than “Please submit your cover letter here”?

Ghosting Candidates Post-Interview

The interview process is time-consuming, nerve-wracking, and possibly life-changing for candidates. It’s no wonder one of the biggest social customs that draw ire is the radio silence many candidates find after devoting a part of their life to the interview process.

“Who…  just decided that it was socially acceptable to just ignore  … people if they went in for a job interview and didn’t get the job? I’m not gonna be offended if I didn’t get accepted. At least send me some automated email or message telling me I didn’t get it so I can stop waiting and move on with my life.”

If you went out on a few dates with someone, and everything seemed okay, then they suddenly stopped responding to your texts and calls, you’d probably tell your friends “Oh, so-and-so is a real jerk.”

But if they told you, frankly, “I think you’re great, but I don’t really see a future for us as a romantic couple,” you’d be far more likely to tell your friends, “Oh, so-and-so is a great person, but it just didn’t work out.”

You don’t want candidates discouraging their friends from applying. And you don’t want to get a bad rep.

Prioritize transparency. If you’re unable to personally respond with feedback from each candidate, set a deadline: “we’re expecting to make our final decision by August 31.” This way, if August 31 comes and goes, at least they don’t feel like they’ve been left hanging.

Salary Ambiguity

Transparency is becoming mandatory. If companies aren’t transparent early on  about what they’re offering, someone else will do it for you on Glassdoor or Facebook or Reddit. Own your process, or it’s going to get away from you.

Article Continues Below

‘It’s rude to ask about salary before you get a job offer’

I just want to know if it’s worth wasting a month of my life interviewing for a job that pays less than my current salary.”

As the user points out, managing expectations on both sides is a huge time-saver for everyone involved. Imagine that you find the perfect candidate for a role. They nail the interview process, and everyone’s excited about onboarding … only to find out in their offer letter that you’re offering 15k under their current salary. Best-case scenario, you’re stuck with a resentful employee. Worst-case, you’re back to the start — only to risk the same issue with your second choice.

An open dialogue should be welcomed, not discouraged. It sets the foundation for the rest of the employee-employer relationship.

Stealth Social Media Stalking

You Google the best Dim Sum in the area, the best route to work, even yourself. Why wouldn’t you Google your potential new employee? Well, because they don’t like it.

Companies have been taking full advantage of scoping out a candidate’s digital presence: According to a recent Careerbuilder study,  70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates, up from 11 percent in 2006.

And it doesn’t stop there. 57 percent [of employers] are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online, while 54 percent have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profile.

It might be commonplace, but is it right for employers to expect that of a candidate? And conversely, should a lack of digital presence arouse suspicion?

Jody Ordioni is the author of “The Talent Brand.” In her role as Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Brandemix, she leads the firm in creating brand-aligned talent communications that connect employees to cultures, companies, and business goals. She engages with HR professionals and corporate teams on how to build and promote talent brands, and implement best-practice talent acquisition and engagement strategies across all media and platforms. She has been named a "recruitment thought leader to follow" and her mission is to integrate marketing, human resources, internal communications, and social media to foster a seamless brand experience through the employee lifecycle.


10 Comments on “4 Things We Should Change in the Hiring Process: Cover Letters, Interview Follow-up, and Salary Transparency

  1. I agree with all of this except social media “stalking.” If we, as a society, are harnessing technology for – say – transparency, then social media “stalking” is part of that equation. I think it’s fair game and should remain fair game. ……..And by the way, it’s not “stealth” or “stalking.” I understand that the author used these words to conjure up negative associations but there’s nothing stealth or stalking about popping into Google, Facebook or whatever to see someone’s digital footprint. One more thing: candidates should do the same thing, too! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Jonathan. I completely understand that it might be irresistible to check on someone’s digital footprint. At the same time, I am working with many companies who themselves are working on avoiding unconscious bias in hiring and are discouraged from this practice. Change is not easy- I personally LOVE a cover letter.

  2. Big fan of cover letters here. They should not be a requirement as if we have seen one “template” letter we’ve seen them all. However, with a bit of effort, a cover letter can take a “dry” resume and make it come to life. What is the person most excited? How will they impact the business? They provide an opportunity for candidates to share insight into behaviors and motivators and can help differentiate from other candidates.

    1. And what about if you’re looking for a content creator? Great to get the writing sample. But as a big fan of the candidate experience, I am going to stop asking for it.

  3. Thank you for the comment about “radio silence”. This has always been an irritation to me about my own HR departments. It is common courtesy to let someone know what is happening. Not an interruption of your work – – If it does not happen that is a big red flag about corporate culture. Sadly it is common-place. I always contact candidates that do not make it past the phone interview and it makes me sad that they are surprised I contacted them.

    1. I agree Faith – if you’ve actually spoken to someone, isn’t it courtesy to contact them and let them know they’re not moving forward. Some colleagues even offer feedback on why. That’s best-in-class.

  4. Great article! “Radio silence” is the WORST.

    On the cover letter issue, I’m torn. I do marketing at a small firm, and when we need to hire some, I’m the one making the job postings and sifting through resumes. For a job posting on Indeed, only about 10% of people bothered to send a cover letter. Once I added “Applications without a cover letter will not be considered,” that number shot up… to a whopping 50%.

    The problem is that it’s so easy to click a button and send your resume, easily half of the applications weren’t remotely qualified for the job. I don’t need someone to spend hours agonizing over a cover letter… just a paragraph or two to prove that you actually read the job posting, why you’re interested, and why you think you’d be a good fit!

    1. Thank you JJ. I like your approach regarding adding the caveat about which applications will not be considered. I’ve also advised our clients to add “candidates of interest will be contacted within 7 days” which also addresses the radio silence to a small extent.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *