Cover Letter - Mistakes and Missteps

A recent client, let's call him Sam, is a Senior Manager of Procurement. Sam is top-notch in his field. His New Leaf resume showcases great proof of his value in money saved through aggressive negotiations and other initiatives, and in his contributions to a sustained record of on-time deliveries - all proof of his ability to make purchasing a true business partner.

Strong resume in hand, Sam elected to come up with his own cover letter. (Generally I do not entertain my clients writing their own letters and insist on a package - resume and cover letter - except in extenuating circumstances, as in Sam's case.)

I suggested he pass the cover letter by me before he unleashes on the world, and thank goodness. Not everything on the internet is reliable or of reliably good quality, and the letter Sam sourced is less than stellar.

He found a cover letter on line, not sure where, and "customized" it to his purposes.

Here are a few of the reasons why I suggested to Sam that this letter was not going to get the results he wanted:

1. The language was odd. Yes, it had a distinct non-Canadian flavour, sometimes felt far too "feminine" for Sam's personality, and wasted space on fillers and other non-information space-occupiers.

"you will be delighted" was the feminine bit

"honour me with an interview" was an odd phrase

"my goal right now" is a redundant use of words as a goal refers to a current situation in this case

And these are just a few of many.

2. It was far too junior in its content. The phrase "keeping an office organized" hit me like a tidal wave! It's incongruous with a resume that declares that Sam's work maximizes performance, focuses on a resilient future, and increases market competitiveness.

3. That indescribable quality: style. This letter lacked an inviting style. The opening sentence "In regards to your vacancy, I am sure that you will be delighted to hear from someone like me ..." left me shaking my head. Really?

Contrast that opening sentence with the one from a letter I wrote for another recent client, a Quality Control Manager:

My career spans 20+ years, demonstrates a steady progression - currently as Director of Global Quality - and speaks to my adaptability: I transitioned from manufacturing to global, large-scale construction with great success.

That paragraph says so much more than "I'm sure you'll be delighted." The contrast speaks to the adage "sell, don't tell." Don't tell them they'll be delighted; sell them on your delightful accomplishments. It also overcomes - quite deftly, if I say so myself! - the potential obstacle to this Director's hire as the client once again plans to try a new industry / environment.

There's a heck of a lot more to the cover letter than filling lines with a bunch of words. I truly believe that the written word has the power to influence. The generic cover letter template Sam tried to customize would influence the reader to discount Sam's candidacy, unfortunately. However, a well-written and strategic cover letter has the power to influence a call to action: an invitation to an interview.

Did you know that New Leaf's cover letters were selected to Cover Letters for Dummies, Job Search Letters for Dummies, and Best Canadian Cover Letters? I'd love to be of service if you're in the market for job search self-marketing documents.

Thank you for visiting New Leaf's website. I hope my blogs inspire and inform!