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Cover Letter Casualties - Put Professionalism First In Your Cover Letter

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsCover Letter Casualties - Beware Of Ego Overkill, Proof, Proof, And Proof Some More, No Room For Excuses In The Cover Letter

Put Professionalism First in Your Cover Letter

Job Seeker's Story

When Tasha, a Recruiter for Horizon Ventures, would advertise for a position, she was always shocked by the poor quality of applications that were received. Tasha had come to expect she would be throwing away more than half of the submissions due to issues such as glaring typographical errors, unrelated experience, and missing information, but there was one applicant whose cover letter she will never forget.

Tasha was reviewing résumés and cover letters that had been faxed, e-mailed, and mailed to the office, when one caught her eye. Before even looking at the cover letter or résumé, she was stopped in her tracks by a handwritten note that had been stapled to the letter. It seemed that the applicant, who we will call Tina, made a last-second decision to write an addendum to her cover letter. In her haste, she ripped a piece of lined notebook paper out of a spiral notebook and wrote a note indicating that her computer was broken so she could not make changes to the document, but wanted to indicate a change of address and to mention she was applying for the Scientist I position.

Tasha did not find Tina's solution to her computer problems very professional and could not picture her being a detail-oriented employee for any position, let alone that of a scientist. Tasha did not respond to Tina's application, but held out for a candidate who made a professional first impression with her employment documents.

Job Seeker's Stumble

Unfortunately, Tina neglected the golden rule of applying for employment: First impressions are the most important. Because her documents were messy, out-of-date, and unprofessional in appearance, the prospective employer saw her as an individual who would most likely be messy and unprofessional. In short, she was judged by her first presentation, which makes sense when that was all the reviewer had to go on when assessing Tina's candidacy.

Job Seeker's New Strategy

Your application documents—résumé, cover letter, and anything else you might be submitting—are walking advertisements for you. You can expect to be judged by the way they look and read. Therefore, quality is critical in your cover letter (and other documents). Specifically:

  • Personalize the Letter: Don't use dated salutations such as “Dear Sirs,” as you could be insulting a female reviewer. You should strive to find out who to address. When you cannot identify your target you should use, “Dear Prospective Employer.
  • Stay Professional: Your letter is your calling card, so be professional in content, presentation, paper choice, and submission.
  • Focus on Quality: Check, double-check, and triple-check your content for errors in spelling, layout, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Additionally, you should opt for dynamic language and a vibrant presentation.

First impressions count, so make the most of yours with a quality presentation in your cover letter.

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