Not including a cover letter is lazy—employers don’t hire lazy. (I certainly don’t.)
Regardless of how you apply for a job, whether through a referral or online, you must show how your skills, experiences, and personality differentiate you from other candidates. It’s for this reason, you should always include a cover letter.
Including a well-written cover letter tailored to the job offers several competitive advantages:
- It shows your enthusiasm and that you researched the company and job requirements. (You’re not lazy.)
- You’re addressing the hiring manager directly and bringing your relevant skills and experiences to their attention.
- You’re selling how you can add value to the company.
- You’re able to give the hiring manager insight into your personality.
- Your cover letter shows your writing skills. (There’s hardly an employer that doesn’t value above-average writing skills.)
A cover letter has only one job; to get you an interview. A great cover letter will have more cache with a hiring manager than a mediocre accompanying resume. Imagine what your “interview invites” results would be like if you sent out great cover letters accompanied with a resume that WOWs. Therefore, you don’t want to make the following mistakes that’ll hinder your cover letter from doing its job.
1. Attaching your cover letter to your email.
You want to ensure your cover letter gets read; therefore, write it in the body of the email. When the recipient sees your cover letter upon opening your email, they’re more likely to read it.
2. Writing your life story. / Providing irrelevant information.
Cover letters should be concise. Only offer details directly relevant to the job or prove you have the skills and experience the employer is looking for.
If I’m looking for a new sales-oriented call center agent, I’m not looking for someone who’s been providing “world-class” customer service or who’s, in their opinion, “detail-oriented.” These things don’t matter in terms of reaching sales goals. A person who knows how to uncover customers’ wants and needs and then offer them the appropriate product or service is whom I’m looking for. I’ll lose interest if someone goes on and on about their customer service skills. I want them to tell me about the biggest sale they ever made, along with their passion and methodology for making sales.
It’s not the hiring manager’s responsibility to connect your dots regarding why you’re an excellent fit for the position or how your skills are transferable. Use your cover letter to connect the dots. “Having sold life insurance for the past 15 years, I’m comfortable selling an intangible product, and therefore, I don’t anticipate not being successful selling registered RESPs.” (Registered Education Savings Plan)
Think about what the reader of your cover letter would like to see and what’ll convince them you are worth interviewing. Sentences like, “I see you need someone who’s available to work nights and weekends. I enjoy working these hours and am available to do so,” or “Along with my resume, I’ve included several samples of my writing.” goes a long way.
3. Not including requested information.
The most common application mistake I see is not following instructions. From experience, I’d estimate that 7 out of 10 applicants fail to address every stipulation listed in a job posting, indicating an inability to follow instructions. Name an employer who’d hire someone who can’t follow instructions.
Be sure to read the job posting in its entirety! It’s common for employers to ask candidates to submit examples of their work or portfolio, link to their LinkedIn profile, their availability, a video, or their salary requirements. In your cover letter, include anything you’ve been asked to include or mention that it’s attached (e.g., portfolio, writing sample, video, certificates). Failure to follow instructions is a sure way to get rejected.
4. Closing with a cliche statement.
“Thank you for taking the time to review my resume. I look forward to hearing from you,” shows a lack of creativity and hustle. (Name an employer who dislikes employees who hustle.)
Your cover letter should conclude with something like, “I’m looking forward to discussing what I can bring to the Social Media Manager role at Pendant Publishing. I’ll call you Thursday morning to schedule a time/date to meet.” This shows initiative, that you want the job and aren’t afraid to go after what you want. (Be sure to make the call.)
I once received a cover letter that closed with, “Call today, don’t delay.” The closing was aggressive, something I tend to gravitate towards. It grabbed my attention. Additionally, her cover letter outlined everything she could bring to the table as an employee. Her boldness impressed me, so I called her.
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job. You can send Nick your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.