5 Types of Cover Letters Hiring Managers Don't Want To Read

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

how to write a cover letter

Almost two years ago, I was fresh out of college searching for a company to join to begin my next chapter of my life. I remember having no clue what to write when companies asked for cover letters when applying for a position. I googled samples and the things that would come out were just horrible. Let me tell you, out of all the applications I was required to send a cover letter with my resume, I only had one company ask for an interview. 

Fast forward to today. Now, I'm in a position of hiring people - which is totally weird to me - and the cover letters that hit my inbox can really blow my mind sometimes...in a bad way. I finally understand why I received so very many rejection letters.

1) It's all about you, you, and - oh yeah - YOU.

The hardest part about writing a cover letter is trying to balance selling yourself to the hiring manager and not sounding like you're just tooting your own horn. I know you think you're great, but hiring managers do not care. We want to hear how we would benefit from hiring you. Not how you would benefit from us hiring you.

If you want to share your career goals, save it for the interview. Trust me, 9 times out of 10, your interviewer will ask about your future career goals. We want to know them, but it's not exactly a selling point in your cover letter to get us to give you a call you for an interview.

This also means you should not write, "I'm a go-getter, self-starter, passionate, etc..." Additionally, you shouldn't repeat exactly what the company's job description says. For example, we had "must be a business-savvy technology enthusiast" in our job description. So many cover letters came in saying "I'm a business-savvy technology enthusiast." Great, but do you even know what that means?

Give brief examples of how you are the person the company is looking to hire. If the company wants the person to work well on a team, don't just say you are a great team player. Hit on the point by highlighting a moment you worked on a team and how this experience will benefit the company. One of the best cover letters I read and made me immediately want to reach out to the person didn't try to be everything that the job description said we wanted. The person picked out a few qualities, shared actual experiences indicating they have those qualities and then said "This experience will help [company name] because [explanation]." 

2) You have absolutely no idea what our company does. 

This has to be the most aggravating cover letter I come across. It is very clear that you haven't visited our website or done any research on the company. Your whole cover letter is a canned response. We do not like that. Giving a canned response shows us that you either 1) are too lazy to do research or 2) don't actually care about working for our company and just want a job anywhere.

Job hunting is like dating. You need to charm us a little and show that you care by learning more about us. Personalize the cover letter by talking about facts they had on their website, case studies they've published, blog posts they've written, or anything about the company that impresses you. Even if you don't fully understand what a company does, showing that you have some understanding is way more impressive than not referring to the company at all.

3) You just copy and paste your resume and call it a day.

This happens way more often than you may think. Some people don't know what a cover letter is or how to write one, so they just copy and paste their resume or they put their resume into paragraph form. Do not do this! If we wanted to just read your resume, we wouldn't ask for a cover letter. This also indicates that you don't know how to research because a simple Google search can help you find plenty of cover letter examples. 

4) You're an excellent novelist when it comes to yourself. 

When it comes to cover letters, less is definitely more. There have been cover letters in my inbox that had at least 4 paragraphs with around 6-10 sentences per paragraph. Remember, hiring managers are looking through several applicants a day. We don't want to read your life story about why you should work for us. That's why interviews were invented. To be honest, I don't even read cover letters if there are more than 3 paragraphs. I just read the first paragraph and then skip to the end. Keep it short and sweet. 

5) You threw up your high school English thesaurus all over it. 

My favorite horrible cover letter I have read so far said, "I would love to work for your winning company." Winning? Did Charlie Sheen vocabulary seem like a good synonym for excellent or thriving or growing? Some of the worst cover letters are born when you start googling synonyms for professional vocabulary terms. If you feel like you're saying excellent too much, maybe rethink why you're saying excellent over and over. Trust me, we get the point that you think we're awesome. You don't have to say it five times in five different ways.

Be clear and concise in your cover letter. Don't over-flourish your sentences with buzz words. It makes them longer and can make whatever you're trying to say more confusing than it needs to be. Doing this will also help you keep your cover letter short and sweet while still getting across what you want to say to the hiring manager. 

As someone who has to read cover letters, I beg you... please avoid making these mistakes. Be transparent and more importantly be yourself.

Are you knocking out cover letters left and right? What are your tips for cover letter writing?

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