Quick Trip to the No Pile

Hiring managers often face a mountain of online applications so they are looking for a quick, efficient way to review the applicants and narrow down the pool of candidates to identify potential interviews.  Unfortunately many candidates make it easy for the manager to move their application to the no pile very quickly.  What at the doing wrong to move to quickly to the no pile?  Often the manager need look no further than the cover letter.

No cover letter provided.  The message to the manager is “I am not interested enough to take the time to prepare a customized cover letter.”  If you are not that interested, why should the manager waste valuable time on you?  It also forces the manager to do extra work by trying to determine how your experience aligns with the job.  With numerous applicants in the pile, why expend the extra effort on you?

Typos and other errors.  You can write all day about your excellent communications skills and attention to detail but it is more important to show the manager these skills.  Typos or grammatical errors in your letter can earn you a quick trip to the no pile.  Managers will use your cover letter as an example of your writing skills.

All about me.  Your cover letter should focus on the value you bring to the company and specific position and how you can make a difference for them.  It should not be about what you want or need.  Do not start every sentence with I or every paragraph with I.  Vary your sentence structure.  Read your finished letter from the perspective of the hiring manager to ensure that you address how you can meet their needs.

Too casual.  It should be a business letter, your name and address on the top in the same format as your resume, date, address block, salutation prior to the body of the letter.  Demonstrate your professional writing skills in your cover letter.  It should never be more than a single page.  Sincerely is the acceptable close, never fondly or other approaches.  Use “Dear Mr. Smith” not “Dear Joe”, or “Dear Joe Smith”.  Your letter should contain an introduction, body and then a strong close.  Do not just summarize your resume.  Focus on your transferable skills.  Avoid jargon or overly casual and informal language.

Failure to customize.  You need to customize every letter to the specific needs of the company and the specific requirements of the position.  Show them why you are a strong candidate for this job.  Most hiring managers can spot a template letter and it will quickly move it to the “no” pile.  Do not make careless errors cutting and pasting from a prior letter.  Getting the company name wrong or using the incorrect job title is a clear signal that you didn’t invest time in customizing the letter and that you are not paying attention to the details.  Demonstrate your knowledge of the company as well.

A strong customized cover letter increases the chances that you will be invited for an interview.


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