Cover Letter No-No's (What Kills the Chances of Yours Getting Read)

Cover letter techniques to help you get noticed by hiring managers

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An estimated 50 percent of recruiters never read cover letters. It's no wonder why. After speaking to several recruiters I know who place hundreds of people in jobs each year, here's what they shared:

When they open a cover letter, if they skim it and see it's just a repetition of what is already in the resume, they skip reading it.

In fact, studies show you have less than six seconds to get their attention. According to my recruiting colleagues, most job seekers fail miserably in that short window of time!

A Cover Letter Isn't a Resume

The resume is a fact-based summary of your skills and accomplishments. A cover letter is your chance to share with the employer how you feel aligned with their company, mission, product, service, etc. According to my recruiter friends, here are just a few examples of things job seekers commonly put in cover letters that they don't like:

1) As you'll see, I'm a motivated, high achiever with 15 years of experience in...
You are telling the recruiter flat out you are repeating what they'll see in the resume, ultimately, wasting their time.

2) I know I would be a huge asset to your team.
You are making a big assumption about your value, which recruiters don't appreciate. They'll be the ones to decide if you could be a "huge asset."

3) At XYZ Corp, I was instrumental in a cost-saving measure that...
Again, telling them something they can find on the resume, and therefore, wasting their time.

4) I am applying to your ____ position as seen in the _____.
They already know you are applying if you are submitting the application online. Don't use up the body of the cover letter explaining the obvious. If they asked you to make note of the job you are applying to in the application, simply put a "RE: Applying for ___ Position" below their address and before your "Dear Hiring Manager," in your cover letter as a way to let them know.

I could give you a lot more examples, but you get the drift. If you want your cover letter to get read, give the recruiter something worth reading!

Good Test For Your Cover Letter - Would You Say It In Person?

A great way to tell if your cover letter is sending the right message is to ask yourself, "If the hiring manager was standing in front of me, could I read this cover letter to them and sound normal?" The answer is usually "no," because we tend to mistakenly write cover letters in a formal, self-promotional tone.

4 Tips for Creating a "Disruptive" Cover Letter

If you want to improve the chances of your cover letter getting read, then you need to give it a F.A.C.E. Lift. You should focus the content of the letter to include the right:

Format - Clean-lined font, 11 point in size, left-text justified with one-inch margins. Stay clear of fancy, scripted fonts and tiny type - both make it impossible to read. And, keep margins in place so there is plenty of whitespace on the page for easier reading.

Attitude - Use conversational speech (no fancy words) and don't be afraid to show enthusiasm. This is your chance to let your personality show.

Connection - Discuss how you feel connected to the company's product, service, mission, business model, etc. You have to share how you feel part of their corporate tribe.

Experience - Tell a story about a personal or professional experience that taught you how important the work is they are doing. Find a way to back-up the connection you share with them by validating it with an experience that taught you what they do is valuable.

PS - Always Start With An Exciting Statement

The best cover letters get hiring managers at "hello." Don't be afraid to open the cover letter with a bolded, powerful statement like,
  • I remember the first time I used your product.
  • My life was changed the day I learned how to ____.
  • I've been tied to your company for 10+ years now. Here's how...

These are wonderful openers that engage the reader to pay attention to the story you are sharing with them. And, if you do a great job, they'll be inspired to go over and check out your resume, too - they might even give it the proper attention it deserves. (Here's a free video tutorial where I explain step-by-step how to create a disruptive cover letter with a bold opening statement.)

Better still, when done right, the disruptive cover letter makes for a great conversation piece when the recruiter contacts you. Many of my clients have told me the first thing a recruiter has said to them during a phone interview is, "Wow, your cover letter really was outstanding. It was so refreshing to read one like that." And that's exactly what you want, right?


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