“And is the cover letter included in your fee?” Leon asked.
“No,” I replied. “Because there’s no such thing as “the” cover letter. Ok, there issuch a thing, but there ought not be!”
When clients ask me this question – or when I see resume writers who offer to write “the” cover letter as well as “the” resume – I cringe.
That tells me that the job seeker views a cover letter as an addendum to his or her resume – that the candidate changes only the name of the target company and the title of the position to an otherwise static document. And as documents go, most cover letters are, to be quite frank, awful.
Want to know why? Leon’s was a perfect example of what’s wrong with most cover letters:
I am applying for a challenging opportunity as a Sales Associate, or any similar position where I can utilize my talents while effectively managing multiple deadlines. I am highly confident that my experience, enthusiasm and cross-functional capabilities will be a major asset to your team.
Previously, I was the General Manager of [Name of Retail Store] during this time; I was directly responsible for all aspects of the profitable operation of this high traffic retail location.
Professional attributes and areas of experience:
* Passion for the retail environment
* Enthusiastic self-starter who takes direction and executes initiatives
* Excellent customer service skills
* Trained in MS Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Word)
In closing, I am requesting an interview to discuss this position. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Here’s What’s Wrong With It
What opening was Leon was applying for? Sales Associate, right? Or anything like it! Anything you got!
You see my point.
Leon Thinks Leon is Great. He’s got experience, enthusiasm, and cross-functional capabilities, after all! He’s confident about them, but I’m not, because I have no idea what type of experience or cross-functional capabilities he’s talking about. Nor do I have any clue how they relate to the job I posted. But it’s nice that he “executes initiatives.” Were I in the market for an initiative executor, Leon would be it.
Leon has to demonstrate to the person who posted the job that he’s great; saying it doesn’t make it so.
Leon’s technical literacy is questionable. He’s trained in MS Office? So are the students at my local middle school. Technical literacy is hopefully not a requirement for the job Leon is applying for.
Leon’s requesting an interview. That’s nice; I’m sure Leon’s a lovely person whom I’d enjoy chatting with, but I’m trying to hire someone here. His cover letter should have me reaching for the phone to schedule him for an interview because he looks like a great candidate. Not because I’m doing him a favor.
So I Taught Leon About Cover Letters
Why do we write cover letters, anyway? Because they are expected – even though most recruiters admit to rarely even reading them. So, first, make the cover letter easy to read. Sometimes attaching it as a separate Word document is unavoidable, but if at all possible, paste it directly into the text box on the ATS application or, better yet, into the body of the email to the hiring manager or recruiter. Attach your resume, not your cover letter; recruiters are busy people, and they don’t have time to open two documents per candidate.
Next, really read that job description. Make sure you understand what the recruiter is looking for. If, upon reading it, you say, “Wow! This is me,” identify one or two specific reasons why and write a brief paragraph linking something you’ve done to those reasons. Be brief. Tantalize. The goal of the cover letter is to make the hiring manager want to read your resume. (and the goal of your resume is to get you an interview…and the goal of the interview is to, well, get the offer. But’s that’s another post).
Please don’t ask me to write you a cover letter, and if you hire a different resume writer, don’t accept her offer to write you one, either. I’m happy to show you how to write one, but it’s going to be a completely different document for every job you apply to.