There has been a bit of a misconception with my article. All I am doing here is giving my own view on the subject. I recognize the importance of every step, I just think there are alternative ways that may require a bit more effort, but make the whole process more human.
Not in a single moment in here I am advising anyone to throw it all away and impose their own rules, I'm only giving the advice from someone that requires a more personal (to my view, you might not agree with it being impersonal) process to land a job, and to hire someone.
A cover letter might not work for me, as I am disclosing information about myself that I am not comfortable with sharing with someone I don't even know their name. It's the way I am. I prefer to write an introductory email and establish a more natural conversation.
At the end of the day, I might be a weirdo that needs a bit of flexibility and is also able to provide it in a negotiation process like interviewing is. We all have different needs, and we can't expect people to follow one single convention all the time, especially when it comes to something that will take 60% of their lives.
If I'm flexible with you and accept different conditions than I was expecting, or doing an art test for you, I need that flexibility back, otherwise, this is an imposition, and that will never work for me.
My view is simple to understand. I find my job a very important part of my life, and I need to connect with the human side of a company. Every step that gets me far from that and removes an opportunity to do so in the early stages of the relationship is something that I don't appreciate and generates doubts within me during the process of interviewing.
END OF THE EDIT.
Writing this is my way to express what I feel about a recruiting process, and I seriously think there’s a lack of personality in its first steps, which poses a problem for artists and hard workers out there. All I ask from you is to take this with a grain of salt.
This is my opinion based on my own experiences, and I’m putting it out there to show my truth, a truth I wish I knew when I started working in the industry.
I might have been unlucky with my experiences, or there can also be a problem with how things are done. That’s up to each and every one of you to decide.
I’m just pointing out that every experience will be different, and that I’m writing this to tell you mine and see if others have had this as well.
This article will cover some topics that might put some between a rock and a hard place. They might not see another way to do things but they want to do it differently. If that’s the case, here’s my advice:
If you see yourself in this situation and wonder what is the alternative, start small, build your way up, take small steps to reach your goal, and do it your way.
If you don’t mind “passing through the ring of fire,” as we would say around here, then this article might sound like bull crap to you, or you will completely disagree with it. That’s perfectly fine, that’s why we all have opinions, so that we can learn from each other.
At the end of this article, I've added an edits section, as I think I will receive different views from other people on this subject. Please give them a read, as I learned from them and are great complements to this article.
Before judging someone, ask them the questions that will arise from their point of view vs. yours.
After a lot of disclaimers, let’s start from the beginning. Most of the companies out there will ask you to write something called a Cover Letter. Here’s the definition of it according to Wikipedia:
“A cover letter, covering letter, motivation letter, motivational letter, or a letter of motivation is a letter of introduction attached to or accompanying another document such as a résumé or a curriculum vitae.
Job seekers frequently send a cover letter along with their curriculum vitae or applications for employment as a way of introducing themselves to potential employers and explaining their suitability for the desired positions.
Employers may look for individualized and thoughtfully written cover letters as one method of screening out applicants who are not sufficiently interested in their positions and/or lack the necessary basic skills.”
I understand the importance of the last bit. Companies won’t hire you if you cannot show them you are somehow fit for the job. I just can’t think of a more impersonal way of doing it.
You see, for me, writing about myself can be one of the most denigrating things I can do. It doesn’t go well with my principles. Describing yourself to others can go one of two ways. You either overestimate yourself or are too humble to recognize your abilities.
Let me explain why I’m so harsh with this, as “denigrating” can be a bit of a heavy term.
I still haven’t met one single person that has been able to describe themselves properly. When you arrive at your workplace with that overpromising cover letter, you might be underdelivering to the eyes of your employer.
If I write something about myself, I have to be realistic, which I lack the tools to do. If I want to describe myself to someone, that person has to be one that I trust, and this can’t be done in any other way without me feeling extremely uncomfortable.
Of course, there are people who can put themselves out there in a true way. Still, as an introductory first step, I can’t understand the importance of a cover letter, as these people are a minority, and it’s not a fair first encounter with your employer.
As you might have noticed, all that I mentioned above is a problem, and for each problem, there is always a solution. Here’s what I propose:
If you have to write a cover letter, chances are the company you are applying for doesn’t know who you are. A solution to this is to create a solid online presence.
Write blog articles, put your work out there, ask for feedback, provide feedback… It’s an incredibly more natural way to build trust with a company, which is composed of its people at the end of the day.
The same people who provide feedback in forums, who want to get feedback from you, will read your articles and know that you are a great candidate for a specific position.
If you want to let the company know how much experience you have with this or that, a resumé is there to serve that purpose.
Don’t get me wrong here. I understand there is a filtering process when receiving hundreds of applicants, so I definitely understand the company’s side. I just can’t understand how much creative work can be tied to an impersonal requirement.
A 5-minute call with your applicants shouldn’t take that much effort and is a much better way to introduce yourself to them and them to you.
The recruiting team will have your info on your CV, so they'll be able to ask the questions they need aswers for from you, making this a more tailored process without much effort involved.
I want to be clear and transparent too. I have never written a cover letter. I run away from a job posting the moment I see it is a requirement even to be considered as a candidate.
At first, I ran because I didn’t know how to write them. I’m an analytic person, so I, later on, understood why I didn’t know how to write them. It goes against my principles.
I have been working for 8 years now and never was rejected for a position because of this.
Cover letters aren’t the worst problem either. They are just a bit of a bump you might have to go through. Once you start interviewing for a job, you will most likely be asked to perform an art test.
Every time I get asked to do one, two questions arise. Did they not find my portfolio a good fit for the work they do? Are they also asking me to work for free?
In essence, those two questions trigger me quite a bit, especially the second one. I have seen companies asking for 3 week-long art tests, which I find insulting.
It seems as if companies take your time for granted. My advice is, if a company asks for a test, it has to be under certain conditions always, as it is indicative that they (not you) are not able to see if your work fits their requirements.
This is crucial to understand. A company offers an art test because they are unsure. I have to be honest about this. If this is not an isolated case, you need to review what your portfolio contains, how you present it, and who you are showing it to.
When I’m asked to do an art test, there are two requirements that I need to be agreed upon. Full disclosure of the job’s benefits, including a pay range and contract length, and a prior interview to know the team and see if they like me and I like them.
If a test is required before those terms are completed, I consider this a financial risk, as I am investing time into something that may not return any value to me.
As an example of a situation like this, I once was interviewing for a company that was notorious for offering low wages and was asking for a test before any interviews were conducted.
I stood in my position and asked for an interview before the test. The company denied to do this, so I denied a test too. They were interested in me, as I was in them, so they came back with an interview to solve my questions. It turned out that the wages were really low, so I had to decline the job before doing the interview.
This is an example of why you should have all the information you need before conducting an art test.
This is a free world, and everyone is free to complete tests under their own conditions, even if they are non-existent. Just stop for a moment and think about what you are doing. You won’t be the first case of a three-week-long test with a miserable reply such as thank you, but you don’t meet the criteria, and no feedback at all is given to you.
Let’s move our perspective. A company can’t take the risk of hiring someone, paying relocation expenses, and sometimes even a full month of costs to find out a candidate is not fit for the job. They are sometimes taking a risk too, hence the art test in some cases.
I understand the need for a test from a company perspective, I just wish there was a balance, and we were only asked to do for free what is strictly necessary, never as a rule.
It’s never an easy choice. Balance your opportunities, know what is best for you, but never be afraid to say no if something hurts you, and what is by far the most important part, be sure of what you are doing and who you are speaking with.
I think art tests are important when a company really wants to understand if the artist is right for them. Never as a mandatory step or part of the process, but to solve a specific question your portfolio can't answer them. As mentioned previously, just the necessary time needs to be invested for free, so tailored portfolios to serve 5 different purposes would be great.
Now, let’s stop all the seriousness. Looking for a job is a magnificent, super fun experience. Just be careful not to let a dream tear to pieces.
This article is an opinion one. I highly encourage you to criticize my work, make me grow, and show me your views. I enabled the comment section for this very purpose! I hope to see you around.
EDITS SECTION: I have received great feedback on this article. Many artists struggle with cover letters and find some company's art tests a bit overwhelming.
There have been multiple suggestions that I think are important.
"If you struggle to describe yourself, find testimonials from other people that can explain how you react to certain scenarios."- OliverMG -
Brilliant feedback and addition, thank you, Oliver!
Klonk's addition is a great shift of perspectives for this article. Loved it!
"I feel like it depends on the scope of the process.
If you're in a "AAA" setting, there will be many people looking at your profile and at different stages of the process.
This is why a cover letter is beneficial, as it allows management to get a quick glimpse into your profile without having to spend time digging for info. Without a cover letter, what would happen?
Every single person would have to read someone's notes (which could also bring some biases), and that would eat even more of their time. Imagine doing that for hundreds of applications on a single offer?" - Klonk
"I think if employers would actually give feedback based on your cover letter and reply not just an automatic response but more in-depth, I would see the actual meaning of writing good cover letters" - Réka Kádár
Réka's comment is the main reason why I developed a problem with cover letters. Thank you so much, you always have a fresh view on my issues!