Junk Cover Letters and Bad Resumes
by Teena Rose

Junk Cover Letters Kill Good Resumes

There are so many unprofessional, unfocused, and canned cover letters floating around the job-seeking population, so are you surprised that some recipients don’t absorb them upon receipt? Who wants to spend valuable time reading a cover letter that sounds like it was written for the company next door? Writing a great cover letter takes time. Time that jobseekers sometimes don’t want to allocate after spending hours tooling a perfect résumé.

Does Your Cover Letter Use a Personable Approach?

Since you were an infant, hearing your own name encouraged some reaction from you. Everyone loves to hear their name from time to time, so don’t be afraid of intertwining the contact’s name into the content in one or two key areas. Providing a personal touch, however, doesn’t stop with strategically placing the person’s name in the content. The letter should also be a professional and intimate piece of career marketing material that’s filled with details exclusively for the recipient. After viewing the letter, the reader should have the feeling the author is speaking directly to him or her — and no one else.

Does Your Cover Letter Include Specifics?

How often do you incorporate company-specific details, such as a problem the company’s facing that you intend to resolve, congrats on a newly received contract or maybe a recent merger?

You’re probably wondering how you will ever conduct so much research on each company before approaching them. You must think about your job search in terms of quality not quantity. Sending countless cover letters and résumés is a very time-consuming process that has proven repeatedly to be a waste of valuable resources and money for many jobseekers. Jobseekers could find employment quicker if they took a consolidated and thorough approach to their job search rather than blanketing their efforts with diluted methods.

Does Your Cover Letter Sound Unique?

Write your cover letter using a conversational language: a writing technique that utilizes sentences similar to those spoken. Have you ever noticed that we sometimes write with a very structured tone and utilize words that we would rarely use in everyday conversation? With a conversational tone, however, the content should consume the reader because it’s immediately different from the dozens, hundreds, or thousands the company received over the last couple of weeks.

Although you utilize a different approach to the letter, it doesn’t mean that you won’t weave select keywords and key phrases pertinent to the position into the letter as well. The sole purpose of the cover letter is to reflect that you are a dead ringer for the position. The hiring company is looking for a good marriage between the open position and potential candidate, so avoid including anything irrelevant in the cover letter.

Will I Need Fifty Cover Letters?

If fifty cover letters are what you’ll need to get the job done, then the magic number is fifty. You should focus your job-search efforts on the company’s wants and needs, not on your own. Within a less than favorable job market, we’re definitely in a company market versus a jobseeker’s market from the late 90’s. Hunted down and offered high salaries, IT professionals reaped great positions with limited or no working experience. The days of jobseekers being in high demand are no longer the case because employers can now sit back and "cherry pick" candidates if they choose, therefore placing the need for great cover letters in high demand.

Jobseekers sometimes become desperate when jobs seem scarce, and they resort to quick and ineffective techniques to securing a job. Writing cover letters that you would want to receive, if you were on the other end of the spectrum, is a good rule of thumb to follow. Outline for the letter recipient all the core elements that are pertinent to that specific company only, use language and specifics that speak directly to the reader, and ensure that your letter displays you as a perfect match for the opening. With these few select techniques, you’re bound to secure more interviews and more job opportunities.

Bad Resumes Can be Salvaged

There may be nothing wrong with your résumé, but how do you know? Who’s been your résumé expert: you, family members, or friends? Everyone has a specific expertise so don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional when unfavorable results are received from your résumé. Career coaches, interview trainers, and résumé writers are available in your local area or online to help with virtually any career challenge you’re facing. Just as you’re an expert in your field, you should recognize that there is someone to assist you.

Here’s a list of problems that could be present in your résumé:

Skill Redundancy

Comfort comes when performing the same types of duties for different employers, but it causes skill redundancy within a resume. Take an administrative assistant, for example, who has worked for three different medical physicians and performed the same types of duties over a 10-year period. A challenge surfaces when designing the résumé because the writer faces the task of listing the same job responsibilities for several positions covering a large chunk of time.

Exploring the different résumé layouts that are available can help you decide a more appropriate presentation to help eliminate skill redundancy. What’s great about today’s resumes are they no longer need to be cookie-cutter documents. A jobseeker has room to be creative and unique, as long as the overall presentation is professional and offers all the core elements that hiring managers need to make hiring decisions.

Keyword and Key Phrase Potency

Keywords are terms specific to a person’s current or target position, such as acronyms and nouns. Unlike the last couple of centuries where action verbs (e.g. managed, supervised, oversaw) have been force fed to jobseekers, we’re now in an age where strategically placing nouns within your résumé is the new necessity. Human resources, recruiters, and other hiring managers are using position and industry-specific terminology in correlation with applicant-tracking systems. In search of seasoned or qualified candidates, it’s certainly a much better process than diving into a stack of hard copy résumés.

Is your résumé a keyword résumé? For years, authors in the career industry have been writing about the importance of keywords. Two publications, in particular, "Best Keywords for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews: Powerful Communications Tools for Success" (Impact Publications), written by Wendy Enelow, and "2,500 Keywords to Get You Hired" (McGraw-Hill Trade), written by Jay A. Block and Michael Betrus, are great tools on this subject. Transforming your résumé and cover letter are only a couple resources away.

Lacking an Intro Statement

An intro statement is important to the overall presentation of your résumé because it displays the type of position you’re seeking along with containing key back up on whether you’re qualified, or think you’re qualified, for the job. Hiring companies just don’t have the time like those back in the day to match jobseekers with open positions. Avoiding the use of an intro statement is a detrimental error that can significantly decrease the results you receive from your résumé.

Failing to include an intro statement or providing a simple one not only hurts your chances for catching a reader’s eyes, but also hinders your hits from "electronic" eyes as well.With résumé-management systems, the importance of including a thorough and focused intro statement is a wise move.

Implied Education

Listing a high school degree is fine, if you’re a recent graduate. Envision this scenario: a recently laid-off sales and marketing executive puts the final touches on his resume. In addition to listing his bachelor’s degree, the list includes an associate’s degree and high school diploma. Will he be hired or interviewed because he graduated from high school over a decade ago?

Once a person satisfies the requirements for and receives a college degree, the high school diploma is implied. Of course, the reader of the résumé may have graduated from the same high school, giving you an added shot at an interview, however, you’ll likely have a better chance when eliminating this information and saving the space for more relevant details.

Job Relevancy

A jobseeker that is applying for a position as an account representative shouldn’t include an entire paragraph or more about their stint as a caterer unless the position has elements that are transferable to a sales position. Tell the employer just what they need to know, and no more. Downplaying irrelevant skills, qualifications, and job history that doesn’t relate directly to your target position and industry can clear the path to core, want-be-seen education, work history, and skills.

Look at irrelevant information as obstacles for a person’s eyes. The hurdles that are present will keep, or slow down, the reader from seeing the important information that you want in the forefront. Weigh each portion of your career from the eyes of the hiring company. Will they care if I hold these skills? Will this be something that will play a role in the hiring process? If there are some elements of your career that you cannot downsize or eliminate, don’t worry. Designing a résumé isn’t always a black and white process; there are shaded areas where you’ll need to make the best choices for your situation.

Knowing the right facets of your background to include will make a huge difference in the overall presentation of your résumé. You’ll continuously face challenges throughout your career and with the design of your résumé: the correct knowledge, skills and abilities to list, and cataloging everything correctly. Always view your résumé, cover letter, and interviewing techniques from the eyes of the employer. They will be the deciders on calling you in for an interview and employing you, so everything you do should be for them.


Teena Rose is a certified and published resume writer and author of "Résumé Designs & Job-search Strategies for College Grads" (upcoming publication by CareerEpublications.com). Visit Résumé to Referral for additional information - http://www.resumebycprw.com .

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Copyright 2004 by Teena Rose. All rights reserved.

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