The End of the Cover Letter? Five Questions to Ask Your Applicants Instead

Whether you’ve written them many times or have spent hours reading through a pile on your desk from countless applicants, cover letters have been an expectation when applying for jobs for years.

But is a cover letter enough for employers to gain an overview of whether a candidate is suited to a role and workplace?

With certain roles attracting over 100 applications, it can be easy to ignore cover letters and not have time to review each one to a high standard. In recent years, there has been a shift towards swapping cover letters for screening questions that can save you time and allow for better candidate insight.

“Increasingly, we’re seeing that our clients are moving away from traditional cover letters and opting for screening questions through the Scout Talent: Recruit application forms”, shares Andrea Davey, Scout Talent General Manager.

“Having candidates answer the same set of questions allows you to accurately and easily make comparisons using the :Recruit rating feature. It also removes the risk of missing out on top talent because you skimmed over a cover letter.”   

Beyond asking candidates to outline the basics such as their experience, working rights and income expectations, there are other questions you can ask at the screening stage to help determine early on if a candidate is exactly who you’re looking for.

Here are our top five screening questions that will help you learn more about candidates in the early stages of recruitment: 


What are you looking for in your next role and what has encouraged you to apply for this role?

This question may seem straightforward, but it will help differentiate between those who are simply applying for any role and those that have seriously considered what they’re looking for. It will also help discover if what you can offer and a candidate wants are aligned.

If you were to be hired, what could we count on you for without fail?

It’s really important to include a question that asks about strengths. If an organisation has non-negotiable needs in their next hire such as unbeatable time management, organisation and leadership abilities then it’s most efficient to try to uncover this early on when shortlisting candidates for the next recruitment stage.

Describe three things about the communication within an organisation that must be present for you to work most effectively?

Communication is key, so knowing what a candidate needs in this space is a powerful understanding to have early on. This is a different way of finding out the importance of communication to a candidate and can provide greater insight than asking directly about individual communication skills.

When has your morale been highest at work? Why?

It’s so important to understand what makes a candidate feel great in their role – people do their best work when morale is high. A question like this will help you start to recognise where someone’s professional enjoyment comes from – whether it’s from personal accomplishment, team achievements or maybe organisational outcomes.

Tell us something interesting about yourself and why you’d be a great fit for our team?

Workplace culture is increasingly being ranked by people as something that’s most important to them when considering a job. With this in mind, including a question like this is a must-have. You will be able to recognise people who are suited to your culture and what they could potentially bring to the role beyond their knowledge and skills. It’s also an opportunity for a candidate to show their personality!

To ensure you’re selecting quality candidates to interview, it is vital to make the most of the screening phase of recruitment. Not only will replacing traditional cover letters for powerful questions help get more out of your applicants, it will take away the difficulty in comparing candidates and ultimately decrease your workload and time to hire.   

Editor’s note:  Scout Talent: Recruit allows you to personalise the candidate experience by including screening questions that provide you with powerful insights and allow you to easily compare and rate candidates accurately.  Talk to us today about how recruitment software can help you hire the best talent.