Find a Job
What's Missing in Your Job Search?
By Robin Ryan, career expert and author of “Winning
The biggest mistake many job hunters make is skipping writing a cover
letter when sending off a résumé, says Jim, an AT&T
human resource manager. He shares his insight, saying, "Cover letters
are very influential, and a well-written letter can grab an interview
just on its own merit. It's too bad most job hunters are so lazy they
don't write one. That's an error no savvy job hunter wants to make."
Writing cover letters is hard for most people so they talk themselves
into not doing it. That's No. 1 on our "don't" list. We published
a survey of more than 600 hiring managers including the exact formula
employers want you to use in "Winning Cover Letters." Here are
some key ones to keep in mind:
Don't lose them with your first sentence.
According to the survey results, a cover letter and résumé
get only a 15-second glance, so your first line either grabs the reader's
attention or loses it. Hiring managers prefer you use a powerful first
sentence that summarizes the top skills and experience you can bring to
the job. For example, “Five years experience as project manager
with a proven track record of being on time and within budget is the background
I'd bring to your position.”
Always skip beginning with overused standard, “I'm applying for
the ad I saw on your Web site.”
Do sell the meat.
Poorly written, generic form letters never work. More than 90 percent
of the hiring managers agreed that specifics sell.
Mike, a vice-president of human resources, points out, "The cover
letter is the very first thing we see. To stand out, use short, powerful
evidence detailing past achievements, skills, experience and results you've
achieved. Forget offering boring details and endless job descriptions
-- results is what gets attention."
Do demonstrate that you can write.
Many employers noted that they view cover letters as samples of applicants'
communication ability since they likely wrote the letter themselves. Be
sure to be concise and articulate, and never more than one page.
Do illustrate the qualifications needed.
Many applicants do not address the qualifications requested in the job
listing -- big mistake. The better strategy is to address each specific
qualification and state the experience and skills you possess to perform
that task or function.
Don't let careless errors torpedo you.
Hiring managers hate typos and spelling mistakes. People can avoid this
fatal mistake if they carefully proofread before they send. Good layout
and presentation that is easy to read are essential. Microscopic type
is a bad choice since small sizes can make addresses, phone numbers and
e-mails illegible. Arial is a good font choice, size 12 point, especially
when faxing can often blur the type.
Do list contact info.
Cover letters can be separated from résumés. Be sure your
name, address, home or cell phone number and personal e-mail are on the
letter. You would be amazed to know how many people forget this all-important
The entire survey, the results, major mistakes to avoid, plus sample
cover letters are published in the book "Winning Cover Letters,"
2nd Edition, by Robin Ryan.