The handwritten cover letter had long been the French recruiter’s favorite tool. Its graphological analysis was meant to facilitate the hiring process by uncovering the character traits hidden behind the candidates’ pencil strokes. While less ubiquitous today, the handwritten cover letter has been able to survive the advent of computers and word-processing software. But exactly how prevalent is this practice nowadays?
by Tristan Rousset
0.27% of all job applications
Chances you’ll have to take out a pencil to apply for a job in France are slim. Over the last year out of more than 4.7 million job offers collected on the French web by Jobfeed, 12 902 required applicants to provide a handwritten motivation letter. This represented only 0.27% of all jobs published online.
A French specificity
This tiny fraction of cases is nonetheless remarkable when compared to countries like Germany and the Netherlands where handwritten cover letters have virtually disappeared. In the Netherlands, only 25 job adverts asked for a handwritten cover letter over the past 12 months while about 400 out of 3.9 million unique position advertised on the German web included the same request.
High demand in the public sector, low in IT
The public sector, more than any other sector, seem to be relying on hand-written letters in its recruitment process. 2.1% of all job posted in the past 12 month by this sector were asking applicants to make use of their most beautiful handwriting. Not surprisingly the lowest rate can be found in the IT sector where only 0.08% of openings required inked cover letters.
The northern region of Picardie stands out from other parts of France with a rate two times higher than the national average. The Ile de France region, which includes Paris and its surroundings, takes the last place with only 0.14% of job description requiring a hand written letter.
A deep-rooted tradition
While its preeminence gradually faded over the past 20 years, numbers show that its share remained stable over the past three years fluctuating between 0.27% and 0.33% of all job offers. The handwritten cover letter is a deep-rooted tradition which won’t disappear easily. It is difficult to predict how much longer the practice will endure, but for the time being this oddity of the French hiring process is here to stay.
Tristan is Textkernel’s Communications and Marketing Manager France and Southern Europe. With a background in economics, political sciences and technical writing, he loves uncovering the stories hidden behind the data.
Method and source
Numbers come from Jobfeed, the labour market analysis tool of Textkernel, that collects and categorises all online jobs and makes them searchable. For this article 4.7 million unique job ads, posted between15 July 2013 and 15July 2014 have been analysed.
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