You’ve spent so much time creating and perfecting your resume. The time comes to submit it and you do the right thing: you tweak it to reflect the key words that will speak to that specific company and position. You are undoubtedly getting that job, right? Well, maybe … maybe not. Have you carefully looked at your cover letter? Is your cover letter undermining all of your good effort?
Often job seekers overlook the cover letter because they don’t believe anyone looks at it. The fact is that some won’t. However, some will and some will give it careful consideration. It’s a risky action to make the assumption that your cover letter does not matter. If it is sloppy, generic, or lackluster, your reader may very well never open the resume. I work with many people in transition and I often see job seekers make 4 critical mistakes that get their resume deleted.
- Not including a cover letter. The cover letter is your chance to use your own voice to explain “why you” — why you are the best candidate for a job. Paint the picture for the reader as to why you are better than your competition. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to tell your story to the reader. Don’t just rely on the resume.
- Attaching the cover letter to your email. In today’s electronic world, chances are you are not going to mail a resume and cover letter. Rather, you will most likely send them via email. If a recruiter or hiring manager opens your email, why would you add an additional step for them to see the cover letter? They are reading the email, so make that your cover letter. Cut and paste it into the body of the email so they see it as soon as they open it.
- Not being clear in your story. Whether writing a cover letter, networking or interviewing, job seekers must be able to clearly and succinctly articulate the value they bring to an organization. Too often, people refuse to sit down and clearly identify what they do better than others in the same position. Instead, they go on and on and never actually get to the heart of the “why me.” In a paragraph or two at most, you must be able to tell the reader what problems you can solve for the company. This is about what you can do for them, not about your objective in the job search.
- Writing a generic letter. Just like your resume, you must tweak each cover letter for the specific reader, the position, and the company. Too often, the writer uses the same cover letter from application to application. Nothing makes me delete or toss a resume faster than when it is obvious that an applicant really doesn’t know who we are, what we do, or what we need. Tailor. Tailor. Tailor.
With so many people vying for the same jobs, why not make sure that everything you are doing is increasing your chances?
What are some things you think cause a cover letter to work against a job seeker?
Susan Ruhl is managing partner, CFO, OI Global Partners – Innovative Career Consulting, Inc. She was also just elected Chairman of the Board of OI Partners, Inc. Susan facilitates the Denver-based Executive Talent Board, a peer-networking group for C-level executives currently in the job search. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Marquette University.