The 7 Deadly Sins of Cover Letter Writing

By Jada A. Graves

A cover letter is designed to inform and interest an employer to read on to your resume. All too often, though, the cover letter bores, offends, or sometimes amuses—but not in a good way—the people who read them. Successfully achieving the former is the first step to gaining an interview with the company, but commit the latter and your job materials will be sent to a hiring manager’s “no” pile quicker than you could write “References Available Upon Request.”

What are some of the gravest sins you could make when composing a cover letter? Read on:

2. If you’re including typos and misspelled words, “your” going to miss a good opportunity. Often, it’s not on obvious spelling errors that job seekers get snagged, but on the little niggling slip-ups that spell check might not catch. Quadruple-check all their vs. there sentences and watch out for its vs. it’s mentions. You should also be diligent to avoid common grammar mistakes, and know when to use “that” vs. “which” or “its” instead of “their.” These tiny boo-boos won’t seem tiny to the grammarian hiring manager.

“Your letter is an indication of your communication skills,” says Kursmark. “If you can’t write a letter for a job, what are you going to do when you’re writing emails, or speaking to people on the telephone?”

Also falling under typos and misspellings: botching the name of the hiring manager. Leslie Smyth won’t appreciate receiving Lesley Smith’s mail. “People are sensitive about their names,” Kursmark says. “They want their name spelled correctly, and they get offended if it’s spelled wrong. All might not be lost—it depends on how sensitive the [hiring manager] is. But you should still avoid making this mistake entirely.”

When in doubt: It’s always harder to spot your own mistakes. Ask an impartial friend or a mentor if they’d be willing to proofread your job materials.

6. If you’re using big, outdated SAT words, you’ll appear supercilious. Do you actually know anyone who uses the words “bathetic,” “perspicacious,” and “supernumerary?” Neither does your hiring manager. Save those antics for Scrabble—your manner of speech will convey your intelligence more than the number of syllables per word. “Be crisp and clear and use short words and sentences,” Kursmark says. “You don’t actually impress people by using $5 words. Especially if you misuse them.”

When in doubt: If you’re using Microsoft Word to compose cover letters, you can adjust your spell-check preferences to also “Show readability statistics.” This tool will estimate the grade level of the writing in your document. Kursmark recommends sticking to a sixth- or seventh-grade writing level.

See all 7 sins and the complete USNews article

How To Answer “So why do you want this job?”

“So why do you want this job?” Answering that question should be really easy! Often the answers are:

  • Well, I want a job…
  • I want to work…
  • I want to pay the mortgage/rent….
  • I want a promotion, it’s a bigger job…
  • I hate the job I’m in, I need to do something different…
  • My family are moving so I need to change jobs…
  • I got made redundant…
  • I’m a bit bored…
  • I like the sound of it…

I could go on.

The difficulty with all of those answers is that they may well be true and they may well explain why you have applied for a new job but they do not tell the interviewer any good reason why you should have the job. When you are going for an interview or applying for a job you need to give the interview compelling reasons for giving you the job and that starts with the basic question: Why do you want it?

So how do you give them that compelling reason? By treating this question as an opportunity for your sales pitch. By thinking about what it is that the interviewer wants in a candidate and what it is that they need to hear.

Ever been turned down for a job because you did not sound very enthusiastic? Been told that they were not sure if you really wanted it? It is actually a pathetic bit of feedback to give someone. Surely the correct logic is that they offer and if you don’t want it, you turn it down. If you are the best person for the job they should offer, but, it happens, so you need to make sure that it does not apply to you. This is your chance to sound enthusiastic, if not actually passionate, but how do you do that without sounding gushing and false?

Here are 4 key steps to selling yourself into that job:

When you are asked about why you have applied for this role, why you want it etc… start with:

Step 1:

‘This is a great company /organisation because…….’  Everyone likes to be flattered, so tell them why you think they are a good company, what it is you like about the company….

See steps 2-4 and the complete UnderCover Recruiter article

4 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job – Despite Following All the Rules – And How To Beat The Odds

By Alyse Kalish

I’ve never been prouder of my cover letter that started with a witty opening line about almost getting run over in London, or the interview that went so well the hiring manager and I went on a tangent about our college years, or when a recruiter basically told me I had the job over email.

Yet, in all three of these cases I went on to not get the job. So, needless to say, there have been what I can only call confusing moments in my job search.

These moments have been learning experiences for me (of course, after I cried over them and crafted angry emails that I was smart enough to not actually send). Not so much because they made me think I had to change everything I was doing, but more a reminder that the job search is, at the end of the day, a numbers game. You might not get it on the first try, and you might not even get it on the 30th try, but if you know what you’re up against, you will increase your odds.

With that in mind, it might be helpful to remind yourself of all the obstacles you need to overcome. I repeated these four facts like a mantra during my job hunt, and surprisingly, they only encouraged me to try harder. Yes, they might make you want to throw in the towel when you first see them, but bear with me, and I’ll tell you how to easily work around them.

1. Most Hiring Managers Won’t Read Your Whole Application

It’s true—along with your resume, cover letter, references, and whatever else you included, the hiring manager probably has to read hundreds more. There will be times when your materials will simply get lost in a digital pile because they all start to blur together after a point. It stinks, but out of millions of people in this world, you have to assume you’re not the only person applying.

How to Beat the Odds

55% of hiring managers don’t even read cover letters, so knowing this, Muse Editor-in-Chief Adrian Granzella Larssen suggests that you try a different approach to grabbing the hirnig manager’s attention. Consider crafting a summary section or links to your work in your resume, or take advantage of the “additional information” section of your application. If you’re only being given a few seconds to make an impression, make sure they count.

“You should still write that cover letter—wouldn’t it be a shame to not include one for those employers who do still consider it worthwhile? But you should also do all of the following, which’ll make sure you stand out even if it never gets read,” she says.

4. Your Materials Probably Never Made it Into Human Hands

Companies get tons of applications. And if you think the powers that be have time to read through all of them, then you have a lot of faith in the human species.

No, your application most likely goes through an applicant tracking system (otherwise known as ATS) first. This is basically a robot that scans thousands of documents for keywords and requirements, saving hiring managers a ton of time, but also cheating lots of desperate job seekers like yourself out of the chance to show how awesome you are.

How to Beat the Odds

Muse writer James Hu did some research on ATS and found that wording is king: “For your application to rank highly for the position you want, your resume needs to contain the right keywords. So, your best bet is to tailor the content to the exact way the job description is written—including plural words, abbreviations, and numbers (e.g., note whether the company spells it nonprofit or non-profit; three years of experience or 3 years of experience). Yes, adjusting your wording for every application takes more time and effort than sending a generic resume, but as you can see, it’s well worth it.”

In addition, he notes that ATS looks for hard, tangible skills over soft skills such as “leadership” or “team player,” which are vetted during later stages in the process.

The truth hurts, especially when it’s out of your control. But take these as motivators to break the mold—and remember that you’re not alone in the frustration. After my 30th try, I finally beat the system, which means you can, too. And honestly, probably sooner, because by simply reading this article you already know a lot more than I did when I started out.

See all 4 reasons, How to Beat the Odds, and the complete TheMuse article

6 Interview Types You Must Know as a Candidate

Before you go on your interview, you should realize there are several common types of job interviews. You will definitely want to inquire what type of job interview you will be going on beforehand so you can best prepare for it. Don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter what type of job interview will be conducted, as it serves both of you and the interviewer to know. In this article, I am going to discuss the six of the most common types of job interviews.

2) Panel interview:

In a panel interview, you will be interviewed by a panel of interviewers. The panel may consist of different representatives of the company such as human resources, management, and employees. The reason why some companies conduct panel interviews is to save time or to get the collective opinion of panel regarding the candidate. Each member of the panel may be responsible for asking you questions that represent relevancy from their position.

5) Phone interview:

A phone interview may be for a position where the candidate is not local or for an initial prescreening call to see if they want to invite you in for an in-person interview. You may be asked typical questions or behavioral questions.

Most of the time you will schedule an appointment for a phone interview. If the interviewer calls unexpectedly, it’s ok to ask them politely to schedule an appointment. On a phone interview, make sure your call waiting is turned off, you are in a quiet room, and you are not eating, drinking or chewing gum.

See all 6 types of interviews and the complete UnderCover recruiter article

5 Job Search Mistakes That Can Cost You The Job

By: Amanda

Embarking on a job search is a job in and of itself, and with so many opportunities out there, it can be hard to decide how best to spend your time.  In order to find success at the end of the process, it’s important to be aware of trivial mistakes that could stand in the way of a potential job offer.  To get you started, here are five mistakes you’ll want to avoid at all costs:

Not following instructions

If you rush to submit an application or prepare for an interview, you could miss key instructions that can raise some red flags about your eligibility for the role.  To be sure you don’t make a foolish error, read everything, from the job description to interview instructions, carefully.  Sending your resume in the wrong format or going to the wrong floor for your interview is sometimes all it takes to eliminate you from the running.

Applying for everything

While a job search can be time-consuming, applying for every job that is mildly related to your skill set is typically not the answer.  Rather than casting a wide net, focus on the quality of the opportunities.  In the end, spending more time on one job that you’re really excited about is more likely to pay off.

See all 5 mistakes and the complete execu-search.com article

9 Reasons You Didn’t Get Called for the Second Job Interview

Jay Webb

You did not answer the questions that were being asked. I think that some job seekers are participating in an entirely different interview than the one that’s actually taking place.

You weren’t truly prepared. There is no excuse to not know the business of the company with which you are interviewing.

You were boring! Your anecdotes were irrelevant, and your attempts to find common ground or to be funny were even worse.

See all 9 reasons and the complete article