Friday, July 25, 2008

Cover Letters – 5 Things Not to Include

Cover letters whether read or not are always expected with a resume. The debate of the importance of the cover letter may continue but its use can be very helpful for those that have a little extra information to share but the resume just isn’t the right place for. Extra information may include relocation information, additional achievements from earlier work, or the true dynamics of what makes you special and irresistible for the position.

There are also things that should definitely NOT be included in the cover letter. The top 5 don’ts that come to mind include:

Too Generic. Make sure you take the time to develop the cover letter into a strategic tool by using the company’s name, and referring to employees, projects or departments specific to the company. A generic cover letter will not only waste the time of the hiring manager and recruiters but it will also irritate the reader realizing it is a standard letter. Be specific and use that to your advantage by showing how your uniqueness can help a specific project, problem, or program currently being worked on.

Too much personal information. Sometimes additional personal information is necessary to clarify a situation or fill a gap on a resume. Including too much information on your cover letter should be avoided. Things to watch out for are rehashing information already in the resume, providing too much personal information or going through too much professional history.

Too long. Just as with providing to much personal information, making the cover letter too long can be a detriment to your job search. Cover letters should not exceed one page and they should be concise and to the point. Rambling on about achievements, your dreams, past experience or anything else will just lose the reader. The cover letter is a tool to draw the reader in and give them a taste of your personality and further reason to hire you. Being too wordy will lose attention, especially of recruiters and hiring managers that read many cover letters and resumes every day.

All about you. Although the cover letter is written about you it shouldn’t focus only on your wants. A couple of sentences about what you are looking for are really all there should be about what you want. Again, the cover letter is a selling tool and so additional information in the cover letter should be about tools, skills, or experience you have that you can contribute to benefit their organization.

Badmouthing past employers. If you have been fired from a previous position, or didn’t like a past employer – don’t mention it. You might think you are defending your reasons for leaving a previous position. but to a hiring manager it will sound like badmouthing and wining. Hiring managers will move to the next resume/cover letter package if they read your complaint letter. They don’t want new employees coming into their company and lowering morale or starting problems by badmouthing old or new employers.

Cover letters aren’t always read but they are almost always expected. The first line of filters that read your career documents might pass the cover letter by but someone further up the chain or even your future boss just might; so make it count!