A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Dear Sue: I am in the process of looking for a job. I have updated my resume and now that I am about to send it out, I am wondering if it is essential to include a letter with it. What are the latest thoughts on cover letters?
Sue Says: Including a letter with your resume is a good idea. Although some people assume a cover letter is optional, many experts advise against ever submitting a resume without one. It will be viewed positively, and enable you to add a personal touch to your submission.
It should be written to the person doing the hiring, and will usually be read before he or she takes a look at your resume.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen, an employment consultant and co-author of Dynamic Cover Letters, reveals the three most common cover letter mistakes:
1. Not addressing a letter to a named individual.
In most situations, job seekers who go the extra mile can find the name of the person they need to write to for a job interview. Sexist salutations (Gentleman, Dear Sir) should be avoided at all costs. And, don't address letters by the title of the person either - take the time to find the name of the individual, which is much more effective.
2. Failing to be proactive by requesting an interview.
Job seekers need to take the initiative in cover letters and ask for the interview. You should only be writing the letter if you feel you are qualified for the position, so don't end the letter weakly by saying something like, "I look forward to hearing from you." Instead, end the letter by saying something like, "I will call you the week of October 3rd to set up an interview."
3. Telling what the company can do for you rather than what you can do for the company.
Employers don't care that hiring you will fulfill one of your lifelong ambitions; instead, they want to know what you can do for them. Job seekers need to show that they can make an immediate impact to the job.
Create a cover letter in the same manner you would write any business letter. You will want to keep it brief, address it to a specific person and sign it personally.
Dear Sue: I am responding to your column about why people get hired. I agree with you that it takes much more than skill and knowledge to get a job.
I found out the hard way that employers' hire a person based on their "likeability".
Think about it - if they hired based solely on "ability", they would test your skills and intelligence. 98% of employers do not.
When I went on interviews, I found that I didn't click with most of the people I met. As a result, I didn't go very far in the interviewing process.
The resume sells your ability, the references confirm your ability, but it's your likeability and whether you will fit in the organization that counts.
- L. Wright
Sue Says: Many people don't want to believe it is true, but it is. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but in most situations, skills and knowledge alone are not enough to land a job. A person who is enthused, positive and likeable will have an advantage over someone who is not.
These characteristics do not come naturally to everyone, but anyone can work on becoming a more likeable and valuable employee.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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