Very few job opportunities do not require a cover letter. Cover letters are a must-have in the application process because they give you an opportunity to showcase your skills beyond the traditional resume.
Each part of your cover letter reveals something important to potential employers — whether you want the job or not. And unfortunately for some job seekers, not all of the revelations are positive.
Take a look at some examples of real-life cover letter sentences that don’t quite make the cut in the competitive hiring landscape.
1. “My skills and experience are an excellent fit for this position.”
At the beginning of every cover letter, state the position you’re applying to. Then describe exactly how your skills and experience are a good fit.
Employers are not interested in applicants who will jump at just any job. They want applicants who have their eyes on the open position and who have relevant experience. By generically stating you’d be a great fit for the position, you admit to hiring managers that you haven’t taken the time to find the specific job title, review the qualifications or think about how your specific skill set meshes with the role.
To avoid this perception, be specific.
Your initial statement should sound something like this: “With ten years of experience in the stock market, I am seeking a position as a day trader with ABC Investments.” This shows you actually care about the particular position and took the time to research the job title and customize your cover letter.
2. “I have been looking for an opportunity to work in this industry.”
Employers want to hire someone who cares about their company, not someone who finds all companies in a particular industry interchangeable.
Don’t wait for the interview to show you’ve done your homework. For example, when applying for a store manager position at Jamba Juice, a statement like, “I have a dedicated work ethic and years of experience as a chef,” doesn’t work. Jamba Juice is known for hiring upbeat, energetic employees. The business specializes in smoothies — not French cuisine.
Instead think about how your past experience applies specifically to Jamba Juice.
If you write a cover letter specific to an industry and not a particular company, you’re wasting an opportunity to show your passion for this specific company — something hiring managers look for.
3. “Thank you for taking the time to read my resume.”
Studies show that people who ask for raises are more likely to get them. The same concept is true in your job application. Ending a cover letter with a request for an interview will lead to more job offers.
Weak closing messages like, “Thank you for your time,” or “I hope to talk with you soon,” give the hiring manager a choice: To call you back, or not to call you back. Asking for an interview creates the impetus for the hiring manager to at least call back in response to your application.
Address your cover letter to a specific person. Look up the name of the hiring manager or human resource manager before you send it off. If the company website does not list the hiring manager’s name, call the business directly. You’ll show a heightened level of interest and indicate you’re serious about this job.
4. “I am an experienced, goal-oriented team player.”
Hiring managers read cover letters all day long. They are used to reading the same words and phrases in each letter. If you write a cover letter with the generic format, you express you’re a generic candidate who didn’t put much thought into how your experience or goal orientation fits in with the role.
Resumes and cover letters should show personal qualities, not tell about them. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Instead, think about writing statements like this: “I served as the COO of Plant Pharmaceuticals for ten years. During that time, I managed a team of 50 people and set aggressive revenue goals. Last year, our executive team wanted to increase departmental revenue by three percent, but I was able to bring in an additional six percent by introducing an innovative social media strategy that drove over 100,000 new sales.”
The last statement shows all of the same generic qualities, but backs them up with actual facts.
5. “I’m everything that you’re looking for… and more!”
Job postings often include keywords that show what the company wants in an employee. These keywords represent skill sets that are important because they can be used in your cover letter.
Incorporated these keywords into your cover letter so that hiring managers — and more importantly, applicant tracking systems — will better understand that you have the necessary talents and pay attention to each detail.
If a job posting requests an employee who is punctual and willing to learn new skills, you should incorporate these two attributes in your cover letter. This instantly shows that you understand the needs of the position.
6. “I look forward to you’re response.”
It sounds crazy, but spelling and punctuation are common cover letter problems. In a recent study by Grammarly, we learned there are five errors on a typical cover letter or resume. The top mistakes include verb tense, hyphen use, formatting and careless spelling mistakes (words that are spelled correctly but used in the wrong context).
Before sending your resume or cover letter, always spell check and proofread your document first. Better yet, have a grammar-minded friend do it for you. Misspellings, typos and errors show you lack attention to detail.
A cover letter is one of the first pieces of information a hiring manager receives about you. Many hiring managers use your cover letter to read between the lines and figure out what type of person you are. This piece of paper will determine if you get an interview or not.
So what do you want your cover letter to portray? That you’re careless, generic and arrogant? Or that you’re meticulous, dedicated and passionate? Although the interview will ultimately determine if you are hired, your cover letter is your secret password to make it to the interview.
Max Lytvyn, co-founder and head of product strategy for Grammarly, drives the future direction and technical integration of Grammarly’s product portfolio. Connect with Max, the Grammarly team and more than one million Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
Five Ways to Rejuvenate Your Resume
You can't turn back time -- but you can make sure your resume looks current and attractive to hiring managers, no matter what your age.
In a competitive job market, we have to do everything we can to make our resumes more attractive to hiring managers. This can be difficult for older workers, who fear that even if there's no bias (subconscious or conscious) against job seekers on the mature side of 40, a resume may make them look overqualified for the positions they want.
Here are five ways to make your resume more youthful, so you can score the interview -- and make an impression with your experience and enthusiasm, instead of your assumed birth date.
1. Remove Dates from Your Education
Hiring managers (as well as resume-reading software) may be looking for certain minimum requirements in the area of education. But they likely won't think about dates unless you mention them. If your life followed a typical pattern, the dates of your college degrees are an age indicator. (But education dates are a double-edged sword -- if you got your degree or certification relatively recently, you may seem inexperienced; too long ago, "over the hill.")
2. Focus on Recent Relevant Experience
Of course you're proud of all your accomplishments -- but the people looking at your resume are interested only in the skills and achievements that relate directly to the position they're trying to fill. Many job seekers (not only those with long work histories) make the mistake of putting too much on their resumes.
For example, if you're a 50-year-old marketing professional applying for a management position, the fact that you were congressional page in the late 1970s is interesting -- but probably not relevant. (And the fact that you were, say, a data-entry clerk for eight months in the late 1980s is neither of those things.) Look at the earliest jobs on your resume -- do they say relevant and unique things that will make you more attractive to this particular employer? If not, cut them.
3. Focus on New Technologies
"Teletype," "DOS," Wite-Out correction fluid: Your resume should have none of these things on it. Remove all references to outmoded technology from your resume. If you're a graphic designer, for instance, you know the design program Macromedia xRes is no longer being used -- so why would you waste valuable resume space on touting your xRes skills? List only software programs and technologies that are current in your industry.
4. Get Online and Get Connected
Like it or not, many jobs now require a familiarity with social media. And almost all job seekers can benefit from the knowing how to navigate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and industry-specific online communities. For many hiring managers and recruiters, if you're not online, you don't exist.
5. Give Your Resume a Personal Voice
Old-fashioned resumes contain a lot of lifeless writing, vague generalities and jargon -- words and phrases that have lost all meaning through overuse: "detail-oriented," "team player," "responsible for" and so on.
Instead of saying you're detail-oriented, give an example of how your attention to detail saved a past employer money. Instead of saying you're a team player, tell the hiring manager about how your team worked together to increase profits. And never tell a hiring manager you were "responsible for" something -- tell her what you achieved. Use numbers to quantify those achievements, and use strong verbs.
Finally, don't be afraid of "I" statements in your resume -- enthusiastically telling your story as only you can will give your resume more vitality and help it stand out from the pack.