Your cover letter can be an asset or a liability. If it’s a liability that diminishes your candidacy by an ineffective presentation, don’t use one. It’s an asset if the hiring manager is motivated to review your resume. Some critical errors to avoid:
- Your cover letter lacks “potency”: Think of your cover letter as an “appetizer” to a terrific meal. If it’s dull and unappealing, the expectations for the resume will be low. View your cover letter as a strong “marketing” vehicle for what’s to come. Many cover letters read like a book and are ignored or leave a bad impression. Convert it to a convincing endorsement.
- The cover letter is too long: Using the cover letter as a narrative about your career is a mistake. The cover letter needs to be short and strong. Match measurable results to the key items in the position description. If they’re looking for an experienced process improvement supervisor, use a bullet point, “A 12% increase in productivity through process improvement technology”. They’ll want to see the how you achieved that result in your resume.
- You miss the core of what they need: A generic cover letter misses the opportunity to make a positive impression. The position description will tell you what the hiring manager needs. Matching the critical elements with results will get you noticed. Usually the top 5 items on the position description are the most important. Match them to your measureable results with bullet points of achievement. That will get the hiring manager’s attention.
- Overexposure to the word “I”: One individual seldom achieves all results. Show yourself as a “team” player with a unique individual contribution. Focus on what the hiring manager is seeking. Done the right way, the hiring manager will see you as a contributor within a work group. Example: “Your goal of a high performance team reflects my management and operating style”.
- Don’t list irrelevant experiences: Don’t wander into side issues that take the hiring manager’s mind off of your competencies. Irrelevant material will draw the reader away from your primary objective. Never criticize your current company. The cover letter should make a positive impression as a prelude to your resume.
- Don’t use humor, inflated words or arrogance: Humor can work against you. Inflated words about how great you are can be worse. The worst of all is arrogance. When hyped-up words are used, your veracity is questioned, “How could all those accomplishments be achieved in such a short period of time?”
You’ll never get a second chance to make a good first impression. If the cover letter is not done right, you start from a weak position. In summary, the cover letter should:
- Highlight three to five key result areas that directly parallels the open position
- Translate how your experiences can create successes for the hiring manager.
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