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The motivation letter: lethal for the candidate experience

Written by Carolien Temmerman

The motivation letter: lethal for the candidate experience

Carolien Temmerman, freelance HR & recruitment passionate, thinks that the motivation letter should keep its place, although only in specific cases. But when and when not?

There you are. Your attention has fallen on an interesting vacancy and you decide to take a guess. First you need to update your CV: is everything looking good? Is it clearly described? Do I leave certain things out? Or not?


You click on the apply button, fill in the required fields, add your CV and there you will see the most hated obligatory item for applications: uploading the motivation letter.


What is the use?

As recruiters in an era where we are begging for good candidates, we are often glad that candidates apply spontaneously, let alone that they send us a nicely written CV (yes, the LinkedIn profile has become a handy alternative). So why  would we let candidates go through all the trouble of writing a motivation letter?


Unfortunately, there are still a lot of companies that specify this as a mandatory field. Let me try to convince you to drop this.


  • Candidates often don't know what has to be in it
  • The motivation letter is often not read by recruiters (yes, let's be honest about that...).
  • What is eventually included in the motivation letter usually doesn't have any added value for the application (what additional useful information do we actually get out of it?).
  • It's absolutely lethal for a pleasant candidate experience. Nobody experiences writing a motivation letter as 'pleasant' (neither do I...).


When could it be useful?

However, I do think that the motivation letter should keep its place (although as optional). It can be of added value in the following cases:

  • The candidate applies spontaneously. As a recruiter it is sometimes difficult to estimate for which position the candidate qualifies or what the candidate aspires. In this case, a motivation letter is recommended to clarify the situation.
  • The candidate wants to give a new twist to his career. If you, as a candidate, do not yet have the necessary experience to do the new job, but are incredibly driven to do what is necessary, you can explain this in a motivation letter.
  • The candidate has some irregularities in the CV. In this case, it may be helpful for the candidate to provide additional information in the motivation letter.


So, here's a warm call to all recruiters: make the motivation letter optional.