Monday, November 5, 2012

Five Cover Letter Myths to Avoid

Cover letters, not unlike resumes, are subject to many myths. Continuing this series of job-search myths, I delve into cover letters and the bad advice that could cost you in your job search.

1. You don't need a cover letter: It's not uncommon for job postings to either say a cover letter isn't necessary or to not mention a cover letter at all. Unless the posting specifically states "candidates submitting cover letters will not be considered" (and I have yet to see a job posting that says this), you should always submit a cover letter with your resume. Including a cover letter is a mark of professionalism, enabling you to stand out in ways that your resume won't allow.

2. No one reads cover letters: Not true. This isn't to say that every hiring manager/HR administrator reads them, but they sophisticated ones do. They want to go beyond the resume and learn more about the candidates motivations, interest, and how they present themselves outside of the bullet points. Your cover letter should compliment your resume, allowing you to express what would make you a strong candidate outside of the conventions of a resume.

3. It should mostly address your resume: If your cover letter is simply a summary of your resume, you are in trouble. Use the space in a cover letter to address why you are interested in the position and to address specific requirements in the position description that your skills, background, or character are particularly able to meet, or specific accomplishments that you believe would translate into success in your position.

4. It should be long: Cover letters do not need to be epic in length. A strong cover letter can get the job done in 10-15 sentences (some even less). Stay focused on what excites you about the position or company and briefly summarize key strengths and successes in your professional background that address their needs. 

5. Be pushy: Some career experts recommend that candidates end their cover letters with a statement along the lines of "I will call you next week to arrange an interview." Not a good idea. Many candidates feel that a company's hiring should center around them, and statements like this indicate a "me first" mentality. Would you rather stand out by being aggressive or by what your background says about you? Rely on presenting yourself as the best candidate, not strong-arm tactics.  

Share your own cover letter myths or questions below!

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