The Not-So-Effective Cover Letter


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Here’s a newsflash: Cover letters work, plain and simple. This is why I’m intrigued by the fact that a) jobseekers rarely submit them and b) hiring managers seldom read them. As a result, I started asking questions. Specifically, “What’s your problem with cover letters?” Here’s what I found out.

Jobseekers claim all the pertinent information is included in the resume. Translation: “I don’t know how to write an effective cover letter so I just scrap it. ” Hiring managers say cover letters serve no purpose. Translation: “Jobseekers don’t know how to write an effective cover letter so I’d just as soon not be bothered. ”

Top 3 Reasons Most Cover Letters Don’t Work

1. The one-size-fits-all method. Hiring managers are extremely jealous. Although they are aware you are courting other companies, they want to know that you at least care enough to hide it.

Solution: Avoid form letters. Instead, customize each letter with the hiring organization and the position in mind. Here’s an example.

“With over nine years of HRIS and human resources experience, I have had the opportunity to contribute strong, sustainable improvements within the HR functions, particularly in areas of systems development, implementation, and maintenance.

When I read the job description posted on your corporate website, I was immediately drawn to the similarity between your requirements and my experience. In particular, I meet your prerequisite for an HRIS Specialist who has the ability to train end users effectively in a variety of applications and processes. From my enclosed resume, you will note that I approach end-user training with a patient, diligent manner. ”

2. I want, I need, I must have. Me, me, me. That is the approach many candidates take when writing their own cover letter. This self-centered approach, without a doubt, backfires every time.

Solution: Focus the letter on how you can benefit the hiring organization. Here’s an example.

“The following are examples from two different employers that illustrate my ability to integrate time- and cost-saving solutions for the HRIS infrastructure:

  • For XYZ, I implemented an entirely new HRIS system that affected data and records for 25,000 team members, expediting processes by converting our applications to Lawson as the company grew at a breakneck pace.

  • For ABC, I eliminated a slow-moving manual process and developed a system from the ground up that processed commissions for 700 people, leading to a reduction of three processing days per month. ”

3. Taking a “pretty please” approach. No one wants to hire a desperate jobseeker.

Solution: The tone of the cover letter must be kept on a professional level. Here’s an example.

“In addition to technology and problem-solving skills, what I also offer is the ability to create and maintain data tables, structures, files, interface requirements, and data integrity protocols for ongoing administration. ”

Cover Letters Can Win Job Interviews

Persuasive, targeted, and commercial-like cover letters fare well. And that is exactly what a cover letter is—a commercial, starring your experience.

About The Author

Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation, and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and . She is President of CareerStrides and the National Resume Writers’ Association. Visit her website at or email her at .


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