The war for talent

I am still amazed as to how many organisations require motivational letters. Here in The Netherlands, I’d say it is still pretty much the rule – even for temporary, part time jobs.  Amazing, right? But honestly – who would not be able to draw essential conclusions from an application where the candidate has researched the role/potential employer, dug deep in themselves to discover even the slightest trait that would make them not just qualified, but PERFECT for the job. Moreover, who would proclaim that they would be HONORED to work there – it’s like a dream come true!

The idea

I understand that at some point in history the motivational letter was useful. There is no way of denying it. Candidates were more likely to genuinely put effort into writing a new one every single time they applied. And that made sense, because

  • people did not change jobs that frequently
  • when they did, they did not have to apply for >50/70 jobs just to talk to someone from the company
  • THERE WAS NO WAR FOR TALENT (bear with me on this one)


  • there was less need for companies to project a certain picture – and with this one, we arrived at what I really want to talk about.

A look in the mirror

In the era of striving for diversity yet hiring for culture applying a process step that essentially is aimed at telling you how “great” you are is a shot in the foot. Even Google, with their annual 2 million unique applicants (who will tell them how great they are) is in the need for proactive recruitment to get to the people they really are after.

Not to mention, many companies are in complete denial about who they think they are  vs. who they are, in reality. Throw in the perspective of what they would need and you arrive at a way too common hiring practice.

(If you feel like a little torture, check this out)

Of course, nobody likes to be told differently to who/what they believe they are. However, by not doing so – you will miss out on people you should have on board to drive the changes necessary. The weird part is, companies fairly regularly have an understanding as to what they should be moving towards, they just spectacularly fail on execution.

For me it is mind boggling how there are still recruitment strategies based on the questions:

“Why would you like to work here?”


“But seriously, why should we hire you?”

Granted, not for every role do you have to source your heart out and spend 3 weeks carefully executing a masterfully put together sourcing strategy – however, obliging candidates to submit a motivational letter to be considered is counter productive, to say the least. Why? Rule of thumb is:

  1. They lie
  2. It’s a generic letter with the core fished from the internet
  3. They don’t mean it
  4. It causes people to quit their application process on the spot – I have done it too
  6. Even if you do read it, it provides little useful information and does not give a good picture of the person behind the sentences


So here we are: the true reason behind war for talent – and it does tie in with using motivational letters. You are looking at the wrong people, because you don’t have a true  picture about yourself , thus you are not applying the right hiring process. Sure, everyone would love to get TOP TALENT (barf) – but top talent means different things to different companies. Who, most of the time, are not aware of what top talent for them actually is.

I know, looking into a mirror can be difficult, but honestly, it will help.





3 thoughts on “The war for talent

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