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I Hate Reading Cover Letters

Posted by Bill Branstetter

Dear BillI hate reading cover letters.  You hate writing cover letters.

Most recruiters I talk to think that cover letters are a complete waste of time. So why do we put ourselves through such misery?  The problem is that some companies are still asking for them and will ding you for failure to follow instructions if you don’t send one. And then there are those cover letter fanatics who expect them but won’t ask for them in order to test your professionalism. Therefore, not having a cover letter is not an option.

The truth is, a well-written cover letter is a useful weapon in your job search arsenal and, when properly presented, it can set you apart from the other cleared candidates. The reason why recruiters dread cover letters so much is because they are essentially all the same. They are an afterthought – hastily thrown together once the real work of resume crafting is finished. Here’s an abridged version of the standard formula:

Dear Hiring Manager,

I’m interested in your job.  I think I’m great.  I’ve done lots of great things.  I look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,

David

The cover letter is not about you. It’s about the hiring manager. The hiring manager has a problem and you are the solution. Instead of expounding eloquently about how amazing you are, clearly and briefly state how you can solve the problem using the skills and experience you’ve picked up in your career. If you have a decent job description, use the bullet points in it as talking points in the cover letter.

Here are some do’s and don’ts of writing a cover letter:

Do:

  1. Mention the name of the position you are applying for and the name of the company. This little bit of personalization helps to show you’re not sending the same cover letter to every job you’re applying for.
  2. Say something that shows you’ve done some research on the company.
  3. Show some personality and, if you have one, a sense of humor. This can backfire if you go overboard, so run it by some other professionals to get their opinion first.
  4. Keep it simple. It doesn’t need to be long or verbose.
  5. Include details that aren’t in your resume such as an interest in relocating to the area of the job or when you’re available to start work (if it’s something other than a two-week notice).

Don’t:

  1. Don’t google “Cover Letter Example” or use a template you found online.  Recruiters can tell when you do this and it makes us like you less.
  2. Don’t claim to be a self-motivated, driven, energetic, confident, highly qualified team-player with a proven track record of generating results. This sort of subjective babble is on every single cover letter.
  3. Don’t say that you want to use your skills to work for a growing company. We know this already.
  4. Don’t use words that you wouldn’t normally use (I’m looking at you “herewith”).
  5. Don’t write like you’re following a guide to correspondence etiquette from the 50’s.

If you’re able to write a cover letter that is tailored for the position and shows a bit of personality, you will literally surprise the person reading it. We don’t expect good cover letters anymore. Yet our hope that someday, someone will write a compelling cover letter keeps us reading them. Use that pessimism to your advantage by writing a quality cover letter. If you do, the recruiter will look forward to calling you.

Bill BranstetterBill Branstetter is a corporate IT Recruiter, HR Director, Facility Security Officer and IT Manager for ASG in San Antonio, TX. He’s also the author of The Six Second Resume. Follow Bill on Twitter @billbranstetter.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 26, 2015 8:52 am

One thought on “I Hate Reading Cover Letters”

  1. Thank you! I appreciate your candor and will use the suggestions in my next cover letter.

    Cheers!

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