Compiled by Katharine Hansen Ph.D. This article is one part of a much larger article on the importance of cover letters to job-seekers. Go to Cover Letter Reboot: A Crowdsourced Update of Traditional Cover-letter Advice for Today’s Job Search. We asked hiring decision-makers what mistakes job-seekers make in job-search cover letters that are so serious that the employers would eliminate these candidates even if they seemed qualified. Their responses:
- Letter contains typos misspellings and/or correctly spelled words used incorrectly (such as to/two/too their/they’re/there and it’s/its). Some respondents are forgiving of one or two such errors but eliminate applicants after that. Misspelling the addressee’s name is especially egregious.
- Letter contains poor grammar.
- Letter is addressed to wrong person wrong company or is targeted at the wrong job.
- Job-seeker projects a tone of begging or pleading for a job.
- Letter rehashes past experience — or rehashes resume — instead of showing what the candidate can contribute going forward.
- Letter is boilerplate generic canned — not customized for the targeted position.
- Letter contains too much detail is too wordy.
- Letter offers too much personal information heart-wrenching sob stories or is flowery cutesy.
- Job-seeker uses emoticons.
- Letter has poor structure or layout.
- Letter contains religious references.
- Letter consists of little more than “See attached resume.”
- Information in letter is inconsistent with information in resume.
- Letter contains insincere-sounding statements about how this is the best job in the world.
- Failure to follow instructions. Sheri Graciano human resource manager for the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau cites a case in point: “Because I work in the tourism industry I always ask applicants to submit a cover letter that tells me what they like best about Sacramento. You would be shocked at the number of resumes I receive that either do not contain a cover letter at all or have a cover letter that does not include the answer to the question I asked in the posting. I will not even look at the resume if an applicant can’t follow basic instructions.”
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Katharine Hansen Ph.D. creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers is an educator author and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers edits QuintZine an electronic newsletter for jobseekers and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University Cincinnati OH is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press) as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen Ph.D. Dynamic Cover Letters Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed) and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.