I have recently been given the task to evaluate applications. Note that I am not responsible for hiring, nor do I take any active role in the decision making. Instead I am only asked to provide feedback on my judgment of the candidate based on my technical experience related to the corresponding job position(s).
After having received these applications I am unsure of what the best way to proceed would be. Interestingly enough, I have seen other questions and answers around here, which simply state that a cover letter should not be included. I don't know about other countries, but at least in Germany I haven't ever seen or heard of an application without a cover letter. In these cases though, cover letters were present, but bad ones.
I am torn apart in this case, because on one side it is not strictly my job to judge the cover letter as such, but the candidate as a whole, in particular technical skills. On the other hand, I have been growing up with a certain importance being placed on cover letters, and hence, would not want to omit it from my evaluation.
The latter got the better of me and I did point out various deficiencies and what I inferred from them about the candidate to my superior - none of which was very positive of course. What surprised me though was that I got back opinions that I was being too elitist, so I would like to get a second opinion as a sort of reality check:
If a cover letter is included in an application, and it strikes you as being a badly written one, how would you evaluate the overall application based on that? Do you flat out ignore it and stick to the facts, or how much of an impact does/should it have ?
Minor details on what I considered bad in case it plays any role:
- Grammatical mistakes. Fortunately, spelling mistakes are a thing of the past, but Word just doesn't fix grammar mistakes yet.
- Logical fallacies - I may be prejudiced here due to having a strong background in predicate (and other) logics. Mostly, these are based on trigger words, which form logical implicitions (like therefore, hence, because of, etc.), but the two connected sentence have nothing to do with each other in terms of that relation. Other fallacies are maybe a risky try to impress with something the candidate doesn't have. For example, he first states that he worked on some jobs solo, emphasizing the corresponding soft-skills w.r.t. trust, responsibility, etc. and then following this up with what working in a team is like - although I have no evidence that he ever did work in one (which I don't expect from a fresh graduate for example, but it still leaves a red flag on that sentence).
- Unfounded assumptions - A candidate claims to know what's best for the company
- Inconsistencies - The candidate explains how he spends all his time to focus on improving in topic X, just before telling me the same thing two sentences later for topic Y, followed by topics A, B, and C.
- Generally weak wording - Again I may be prejudiced, as for me and everyone in my peer group, a cover letter is usually written at least 3-5 times over in order to make everything sound just right. It is easy to see that these cover letters were just simply written once without giving it much thought.