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Whet an Employer’s Interest with Your Cover Letter

RESUME WRITER: Kelly L.
CATEGORY: Cover Letters, Create Outstanding Cover Letters
POSTED: November 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

by Kelly L, ResumeEdge Certified Writer

When I started thinking about helpful tips for crafting effective cover letters, I remembered some of the whoppingly-bad letters I’ve read over the years—as an editor and as a hiring manager.

So, I Googled ‘horrible cover letters’ and had a few chuckles.

Examples of Bad Cover Letters

by Kelly L, ResumeEdge Certified Writer

When I started thinking about helpful tips for crafting effective cover letters, I remembered some of the whoppingly-bad letters I’ve read over the years—as an editor and as a hiring manager.

So, I Googled ‘horrible cover letters’ and had a few chuckles.

Examples of Bad Cover Letters

Some have become urban legends… One college student’s unintentionally hilarious cover letter to JPMorgan was circulated throughout Wall Street, sent to his college’s alumni, and then went viral on the Internet. Now that’s a really, really good reason to write great cover letters: to avoid international embarrassment.

Below, is a sentence from that infamously bad cover letter, cited in The Huffington Post article:

Awful Cover Letter to JPMorgan Becomes Laughing Stock of Wall Street.”

 

“That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups.”

Hopefully, you already know never to include your bench-press prowess in your next cover letter.

And, while I’m using humor here, never use humor in a cover letter:

“I am eager to put my McGuyver-like design ability to use in the workplace. I’m sure you receive hundreds of these letters a week, but how many of those people have built an entire campaign with nothing more than old barbed wire and used Popsicle sticks? None? I’ve never done that, either, but it would be a neat trick. I would like to come by and show you my work in hopes of making something of my life so I can move out of my parent’s basement.”

The Forbes example (above) could go either way (humor-wise): if the writer was being glib, it’s not appropriate. If s/he is serious, it’s funny for the wrong reasons… And, not to nitpick, but he spelled MacGyver wrong (and I’m not sure why he capitalized “Popsicle”)!

Reader’s Digest’s article “10 Cover Letter Disasters that Won’t Get You an Interview” has some good cover letter “don’t” examples, too. The one below isn’t just terse, it shows no effort on the applicant’s part:

“Here’s my resume. Call me. (Phone number).” 

Another pointer: sentences must make sense. Here’s another Forbes article example:

“It is my desire to develop and generate the revolving scheme to filter to the consuming public in.”

If you are writing-challenged (I’m higher-math challenged, so there you go); or, if English is your second language, enlist a professional writer/editor to make sure sentence structure is clear and word choices are appropriate.

Lastly, don’t brag about your talents in an overinflated way. It makes you look foolish and—as the example from HireGround’s “Example of a Bad Cover Letter” (below) shows—coming across as over-confident can be offensive:

“I think you would be a fool not to hire me.”

Seriously? Can’t you hear Mr. T say: “I pity the fool who doesn’t hire me!”

Below is a brief Do/Don’t list for enticing hiring managers to not only read your cover letter, but move on to peruse your resume as well.

DO

  • Take the time to research the hiring manager’s name. And, spell it correctly!
  • Present your best, most compelling experience/education related to the position.
  • Provide specific examples of achievements, with a little (not a lot) of backstory to explain the circumstances and how you improved the situations.

Use a professional, positive tone. Negativity will send your cover letter and resume to the recycling bin. Be upbeat, but don’t go overboard by using “!” throughout.

  •       Write with clarity. Convoluted, overly wordy sentences do not lead to interviews. Word choices are important. If writing isn’t your thing, find someone to help you.
  •    Keep it to one page, if possible. It’s considered the ideal cover letter length—enough space to highlight achievements and how your skills/experience dovetails with the hiring firm’s needs—without losing their interest.
  •   Proof it and re-proof it. Never send a cover letter with typos, misspellings, or grammatical mistakes.

 

DON’T

  •     Prattle on about how great the company is. The cover letter is about how your skills can help them.
  •     Mention non-relevant hobbies, interests, or hot-potato issues (e.g., religious and political interests).
  •    Include vague wording, or overuse trite phrases (e.g., ‘end-to-end solutions’).
  •     Use an obviously boilerplate cover letter. Gear each one to the position description.
  •  Brag. It’s one thing to explain expertise, but boasting about being a “guru” or “unparalleled expert” is over the top.
  •   Regurgitate the bulk of your resume in the cover letter. Include one to three accomplishments that directly relate to the employer’s expectations for the position.

 

Hiring managers want reasons to turn the page to read your resume. Otherwise, they wouldn’t waste time reading cover letters! Give them good reasons: respectful language, insight into your unique qualifications, and above all: perfection in delivery (word choices, grammar, punctuation, and spelling).

Below, is a sentence from that infamously bad cover letter, cited in The Huffington Post article: “Awful Cover Letter to JPMorgan Becomes Laughing Stock of Wall Street.”

“That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups.”

Hopefully, you already know never to include your bench-press prowess in your next cover letter.

And, while I’m using humor here, never use humor in a cover letter:

“I am eager to put my McGuyver-like design ability to use in the workplace. I’m sure you receive hundreds of these letters a week, but how many of those people have built an entire campaign with nothing more than old barbed wire and used Popsicle sticks? None? I’ve never done that, either, but it would be a neat trick. I would like to come by and show you my work in hopes of making something of my life so I can move out of my parent’s basement.”

The Forbes example (above) could go either way (humor-wise): if the writer was being glib, it’s not appropriate. If s/he is serious, it’s funny for the wrong reasons… And, not to nitpick, but he spelled MacGyver wrong (and I’m not sure why he capitalized “Popsicle”)!

Reader’s Digest’s article “10 Cover Letter Disasters that Won’t Get You an Interview” has some good cover letter “don’t” examples, too. The one below isn’t just terse, it shows no effort on the applicant’s part:

“Here’s my resume. Call me. (Phone number).” 

Another pointer: sentences must make sense. Here’s another Forbes article example:

“It is my desire to develop and generate the revolving scheme to filter to the consuming public in.”

If you are writing-challenged (I’m higher-math challenged, so there you go); or, if English is your second language, enlist a professional writer/editor to make sure sentence structure is clear and word choices are appropriate.

Lastly, don’t brag about your talents in an overinflated way. It makes you look foolish and—as the example from HireGround’s “Example of a Bad Cover Letter” (below) shows—coming across as over-confident can be offensive:

“I think you would be a fool not to hire me.”

Seriously? Can’t you hear Mr. T say: “I pity the fool who doesn’t hire me!”

Below is a brief Do/Don’t list for enticing hiring managers to not only read your cover letter, but move on to peruse your resume as well.

DO

  •     Take the time to research the hiring manager’s name. And, spell it correctly!
  •    Present your best, most compelling experience/education related to the position.
  •      Provide specific examples of achievements, with a little (not a lot) of backstory to explain the circumstances and how you improved the situations.
  •    Use a professional, positive tone. Negativity will send your cover letter and resume to the recycling bin. Be upbeat, but don’t go overboard by using “!” throughout.
  •   Write with clarity. Convoluted, overly wordy sentences do not lead to interviews. Word choices are important. If writing isn’t your thing, find someone to help you.
  •    Keep it to one page, if possible. It’s considered the ideal cover letter length—enough space to highlight achievements and how your skills/experience dovetails with the hiring firm’s needs—without losing their interest.
  •   Proof it and re-proof it. Never send a cover letter with typos, misspellings, or grammatical mistakes.

DON’T

  •    Prattle on about how great the company is. The cover letter is about how your skills can help them.
  •     Mention non-relevant hobbies, interests, or hot-potato issues (e.g., religious and political interests).
  •     Include vague wording, or overuse trite phrases (e.g., ‘end-to-end solutions’).
  •      Use an obviously boilerplate cover letter. Gear each one to the position description.
  •   Brag. It’s one thing to explain expertise, but boasting about being a “guru” or “unparalleled expert” is over the top.
  •   Regurgitate the bulk of your resume in the cover letter. Include one to three accomplishments that directly relate to the employer’s expectations for the position.

Hiring managers want reasons to turn the page to read your resume. Otherwise, they wouldn’t waste time reading cover letters! Give them good reasons: respectful language, insight into your unique qualifications, and above all: perfection in delivery (word choices, grammar, punctuation, and spelling).

 

 

Editors Note: Countless studies have shown that professionally-written resumes get more interviews. Compare Resume Writing and Resume Editing to see which of our services is right for you.

  • Bilal Aslam

    These are quite helpful guidelines. Aformentioned Dos and Don’ts are very essential to keep in mind. Here is another source that I find very helpful in this regard. http://www.sample-resume-download.com/

Kelly L.

Kelly is an award-winning, published business writer and marketing communications expert with 20 years of corporate, agency, association and non-profit experience. She has authored hundreds of resumes for every industry and has a loyal client following.

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