Are you having difficulty finding a job, earning interviews, or getting hired? If you are like most applicants, then take a look at your cover letter. Yes, cover letters are important and necessary. I only hire candidates who submit cover letters. Why? Well, let me tell you. As a business professional, hiring manager, and person of many hats my time is limited. Cover letters give me another bit of valuable data about you before we meet. Most of the mistakes I see are easily avoided and can be lumped into three categories: Unprofessional, Inattention to detail, and Unmotivated. Do any of these categories sound flattering? I certainly do not think so. I review hundreds of applicants for each of my job postings. Cover letters are great barometers indicating the type of employee you will interview.
I am in the service industry and our customers expect and deserve excellence. Therefore, professionalism is a hallmark and cornerstone to our success. Your cover letter needs to reflect this characteristic or it will be filed accordingly. Here are some things to be mindful of while creating your cover letter.
1. Inappropriate email address
- Do not use firstname.lastname@example.org if you want me to contact you.
- An inappropriate email address gives me the impression of immaturity and lack of wherewithal, both of which do not help to convey professionalism.
- You need to create an email account specifically used for job hunting. Primarily, it is used to keep emails from getting lost in the sea of Facebook notifications and the latest offerings from your local retailer.
2. Resume as a cover letter
- Professionals need to have an understanding of the importance of providing what is required. Many applicants submit information online and many sites have different types of submissions available. If you select Cover Page, then make sure it is a cover page.
- I will review your resume in due time, unless you put it in your cover letter. Do not attempt to force me to read your resume by submitting it as a cover letter because it will quickly be filed.
- Cover letters are supposed to be quick references into the offerings of each candidate. This is your chance to impress me by letting me know you have read the job description and can address our needs.
3. Personal information
- I do not need (or want) to know what college your daughter attends to determine if you are a top candidate. I appreciate the pride you have in your family, but sell yourself not your family.
- There are certain things I cannot ask during our interview. What makes you think I want to see the info in written form? What if I do not like your daughter’s alma mater or something else that may be insinuated by the information provided?
- Giving out personal information in a cover letter is never a way to get an interview. If you are unable to show good judgment in a cover letter, then what should I expect from you on a daily basis?
Inattention to Detail
1. Spelling and grammar mistakes are absolutely not tolerated. Applicants should have several people review the letter, thereby limiting errors.
2. Formatting is important and goes a long way in selling yourself. Most mistakes come from copy and pasting data from previous documents.
3. Not reviewing or editing your cover letter is obvious, especially with the examples above. Many positions require attention to detail whether you are a Cook, Technician, Manager, or CEO.
1. Generic greetings (i.e. Attention HR) are unacceptable because it takes a little more than a phone call to most places, and you can get the Hiring Manager’s name. Many people looking over candidates consider this “minor” gaffe as a sign of someone not wanting the job.
2. Do not submit the same cover letter for all positions. There are several reasons for this. For example, each job is different, each place is different, and position titles are different. There is nothing more frustrating than reading a cover letter where the job title does not match my opening.
3. Give us more than your name and a sentence. I can get this information from your other submittals. Tell me how you are uniquely qualified for this position and give some examples.
4. We do not want to read a novel. Be concise and keep your cover letter down to half a page or less. Remember we have hundreds of these, and if they are too long, you may be dismissed before the rest of your work of art is reviewed.
Many of these tips seem very basic and they are, but I see hundreds of people who cannot do the basics. Your cover page is normally the very first impression, so make it a good one. Spend some time on your cover page and have others review it. Win the Hiring Manager over with a cover letter and make them chomp at the bit to read your resume.