En Route: A Career Blog

Will a poor cover letter hurt your employment chances?

AUTHOR: Darlene Zambruski
CATEGORY: , , ,
POSTED: December 11, 2012 at 9:47 am

In a word – yes.

Most of us are so focused on our resumes, we put little to no thought into a strong and effective cover letter.

Don’t Make These Mistakes

As a hiring manager, I’ve had applications where the cover letter is a simple note stating, “Here’s my resume. I need a job.” Trust me, I found that particular candidate less than compelling. Because of the ‘letter’s’ brevity, I didn’t waste too much time on the applicant’s resume.

Another candidate sent me a cover letter she’d written for a job in the auto industry. Given that I don’t hire for auto industry jobs, I was mystified as to why she hadn’t bothered to rewrite the letter for our job opening. Again, her lack of attention to detail colored my response to her resume.

I did not invite either of those candidates to interview.

Another Cover Letter Mishap

Another type of cover letter I truly dislike is when a candidate tells me something I already know. The wording might go something like this: “ResumeEdge is one of the leading resume writing companies on the Internet with certified writers in 40+ industries.” How true that is. However, I already know what ResumeEdge does. I work here. What I want to know is the candidate’s skills, knowledge and abilities.

An effective cover letter should interest the hiring manager or recruiter in your professional background as it pertains to that particular job opening. A one-size-fits-all cover letter won’t work. An interview-winning cover letter will entice the recruiter or hiring manager to read further.

Tips for an Effective Cover Letter:

1. Make certain you address your cover letter to an individual, preferably the hiring manager or recruiter. If you don’t have a name, don’t make the mistake of addressing the letter to ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or worse, ‘To Whom It May Concern’. That’s tantamount to getting a letter addressed to ‘Dear Occupant’. Search the internet for the hiring manager’s name. Call the company and ask for it. If that fails, then don’t put a salutation on the letter.

Begin this way (after the date and where you’re sending the letter):

RE: Job posting (here you’d put whatever the job title or number is)

After that line, go directly into the body of your letter.

2. Write a compelling first paragraph to paint yourself as the perfect candidate for that particular position. Make certain this paragraph doesn’t use the exact wording as your resume’s opening summary. Reading repetitive data becomes boring and you lose your edge in the hiring manager’s mind.

3. Bullet the middle of your letter with additional skills/knowledge/abilities that perfectly meet the job’s requirements. You may want to try a T-style letter here. That is, create two columns. Column One (to the left) will be titled – “Job Requirements”. Column Two (to the right) will be titled – “My Skills”. As closely as possible, you’ll match your skills to the stated job duties.

4. End on a proactive note by writing, “I’ll be contacting your office within (give a time period) to discuss this opportunity.” In this job market, you can’t sit back and hope good things will happen. You must make certain they do.

5. Proofread your finished letter carefully to avoid grammatical mistakes or spelling errors. A cover letter is the hiring manager’s first impression of you. Therefore, its contents must be flawless.

A strong cover letter gives a hiring manager or recruiter a glimpse into your attention to detail, your past achievements and how well you’ll be able to handle the job. Don’t submit a letter that’s written for everyone with little to no detail. The more effort you put into your cover letter, resume and job search, the greater your rewards.

Darlene Z.

Darlene Zambruski is a resume writing expert and CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer) with more than 13 years of industry experience. She has authored 10,000+ resumes in every industry and at every career level.

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