Cover Letter Catastrophes

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been assisting a client who is looking to hire an office manager for her small firm. Not being a full time recruiter, I’ve been overwhelmed sorting through the plethora of cover letters and resumes, weeding out the under/over qualified ones, and setting up telephone screening interviews with those who seem to fit the basic job requirements.

Research indicates that employers will spend no more than 30 seconds (and that’s if you’re lucky) reading a cover letter to determine if it’s worth their time to read further into the resume. So, what makes a cover letter stand out with a positive impression, so the hiring manager wants to learn more about you?

Well, based on my recent experience, here are a few “What NOT to Do’s” , if you want to be considered for the first phase of the selection process:
• Don’t misspell the name of the company or the person to whom you’re applying. (It’s almost like calling your new girlfriend by your old girlfriend’s name. Never a good thing!)
• Don’t embed smiley faces or cartoons in your letter. (Unless, of course, you’re six years old and looking to join a Brownie Troop, a :-) is not appropriate!)
• Avoid overdoing it with descriptive words about yourself. One candidate wrote, “I am smart, reliable, organized, calm, happy, easygoing, hardworking, dedicated, loyal, honest and tenacious” all in one sentence. (Wow! It’s a good thing she didn’t write that she is concise and to the point.)
• Don’t write your entire life story in a cover letter; on the other hand, don’t be too brief and overly familiar. One candidate simply wrote, “Cheers!” and signed her name.
• Unless you’re applying for a role in a religious organization, don’t put quotes from the Bible, Koran, etc. (You may think Jesus is “the way”, but keep it to yourself).
• Be sure not to claim that you’re a detail-oriented individual and fail to catch even one spelling error in your letter.
• Above all, don’t fail to ask someone who has good editing skills to proofread your letter (as well as your resume and any other correspondence to a potential employer) for grammar, spelling, formatting, etc. You only have a few brief seconds to make that first impression – make sure it’s a positive and professional one and takes you to the next step of landing the job!

So…make sure that your cover letter is concise, professional and grammatically correct. Gear the letter to the specific person/company to whom you are applying and wait for that telephone to ring or for that awaited email response!

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Ignite Friday, February 4, 2011 @ 11:45 AM   0 Comments

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