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!


Innovations in Job Search Strategies

The other day I listened to a pod cast billed along the lines of how to avoid a long job search. I thought it would have something new and remarkable to share, but as is so often the case in career related "news," it was more of the same.

I'm not criticizing; I honestly feel that a common sense, practical approach is safest and most effective. If the job hunter does something outlandish, like send his resume on a giant piece of paper, packaged neatly into many, many folds (that need to be unfolded many, many times), or that sends her resume along with a box of chocolates, these applicants receive no more credibility than those who use traditional methods. Certainly if the resume content sucks, the entire gambit gets a good chuckle in the office, and that's all.

(I know as I've seen this happen.)

I agreed with my competitor's presentation that focused on the tried and true: work hard, take it seriously, and apply strategy.

In a nutshell here's how to shorten the job search:

  • to increase your odds, don't apply only to posted jobs where you are competing with hundreds if not thousands of candidates. Best bet? Source hiring managers and contact these directly - by phone.
  • you must learn to sell yourself - skills, knowledge, reputation, abilities - on your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and in person. How? Approach this along the lines of a marketing brochure in which you use strategies that hold power, that is to quantify accomplishments. Dollars, percentages, and numbers quantify most accomplishments. For those who don't work in a commercial, profit-driven environment, it's about reputation, leadership, partnerships.
  • prepare for each interview! And do take your interviewing skills seriously. I see that people query terms such as "interview coach" before they visit my site, but the numbers of visitors don't correspond to the numbers of inquiries I receive for interview services. Yes, there's an investment to be made, but without it? You may end up like the woman who had 100 interviews, no job offer, and still refused to accept that perhaps her interview skills could be improved. I provide practical ideas and actionable tactics to take mediocre interview skills into polished and prepared.
  • prepare questions of your own. Intelligent questions that show you've researched the company and have critical thinking abilities!
  • finally, follow up after the interview with a thank you.

Beyond the resume and cover letter, there are additional documents that you can create (or work with a professional if you're unsure about how, what, how long, what content is best, etc.) that will absolutely Wow! the interview team.

The job search has changed, yes - it's far more competitive. However the answer is not in pizzazz and hoopla, at least not for the vast majority of job-hunters, but in realizing the power of the well-written word.

- determined to take job search writing from mediocre to masterful, Stephanie