Quick Answers to Common Cover Letter Questions
This week, we ransacked the inbox and answered a few common questions about cover letters and their role in the job search process.
“Is it wrong, unethical, or in bad taste to submit a cover letter and resume for a job that’s technically out of my reach? I have four of the five ‘required’ credentials listed in the job post, and I’m afraid that if I apply, I’ll only upset the hiring managers and waste their time.”
You used the phrase “in bad taste.” Let’s make a few things clear: Your job search and your career path are not instruments for someone else’s convenience and amusement. You need work, and you need work that can engage your talents, move your life forward, and keep a roof over your head. If a hiring manager has to “waste” five precious minutes reading your resume in order to make this possible, that’s just too bad. But the truth is, you have nothing to worry about. Most hiring managers are respectful, reasonable adults who appreciate anyone who shows enough interest in their company to want to work there. Apply for the job. Use your cover letter to emphasize the four credentials you do have, and don’t dwell on the one that’s missing.
“The first paragraph of my cover letter just doesn’t sound right. I’ve re-written it hundreds of times, and while the rest of the letter is okay, this part just isn’t sending the right message. No matter what I do, it’s too long, and it’s so clumsy it could have been written by a fourth grader. Help!”
Chances are, you’re trying to pack too much information into one or two sentences. If you’re trying to convey who you are, what you do, the position you’re applying for, where you saw the post, and why you should be hired, that’s too much for one bite. Break this information up into shorter sentences, and relax. You may have been told to “grab the reader’s attention” by piling your whole message at the beginning and turning your opening line into one reckless, desperate blurt. But there’s no need. Calm down and trust that your reader would rather skim through three short, easy sentences than untangle one endless, convoluted line of text.
“I’m a talented, experienced structural engineer, and I love what I do. I’m also great at it. But here’s my problem: I’m a terrible writer. I mean, really, really bad. How can I keep my cover letter from closing me out of opportunities?”
You’re not alone. And fortunately, you have plenty of resources at your disposal that can help. First, visit LiveCareer and use the site’s Cover Letter Builder for pre-written cover letters that will help you stand out to hiring managers. Second, search your personal network and find a writer or editor (or both) in your list of contacts who can sit down with you and give you some pointers and editing help. Don’t let this minor obstacle stand in your path!