Not-So-Effective Cover Letter
by Linda Matias
Here’s a newsflash: Cover letters work, plain and simple. This is why I’m
intrigued by the fact that a) jobseekers rarely submit them and b) hiring
managers seldom read them. As a result, I started asking questions.
Specifically, “What’s your problem with cover letters?” Here’s what I found
Jobseekers claim all the pertinent information is included in the resume.
Translation: “I don’t know how to write an effective cover letter so I just
scrap it.” Hiring managers say cover letters serve no purpose. Translation:
“Jobseekers don’t know how to write an effective cover letter so I’d just as
soon not be bothered.”
Top 3 Reasons Most Cover Letters Don’t Work
1. The one-size-fits-all method. Hiring managers are extremely
jealous. Although they are aware you are courting other companies, they want
to know that you at least care enough to hide it.
Solution: Avoid form letters. Instead, customize each letter with
the hiring organization and the position in mind. Here’s an example.
“With over nine years of HRIS and human resources experience, I have had
the opportunity to contribute strong, sustainable improvements within the HR
functions, particularly in areas of systems development, implementation, and
When I read the job description posted on your corporate website, I was
immediately drawn to the similarity between your requirements and my
experience. In particular, I meet your prerequisite for an HRIS Specialist
who has the ability to train end users effectively in a variety of
applications and processes. From my enclosed resume, you will note that I
approach end-user training with a patient, diligent manner.”
2. I want, I need, I must have. Me, me, me. That is the approach
many candidates take when writing their own cover letter. This self-centered
approach, without a doubt, backfires every time.
Solution: Focus the letter on how you can benefit the hiring
organization. Here’s an example.
“The following are examples from two different employers that illustrate
my ability to integrate time- and cost-saving solutions for the HRIS
- For XYZ, I implemented an entirely new HRIS system that affected data
and records for 25,000 team members, expediting processes by converting
our applications to Lawson as the company grew at a breakneck pace.
- For ABC, I eliminated a slow-moving manual process and developed a
system from the ground up that processed commissions for 700 people,
leading to a reduction of three processing days per month.”
3. Taking a “pretty please” approach. No one wants to hire a
Solution: The tone of the cover letter must be kept on a
professional level. Here’s an example.
“In addition to technology and problem-solving skills, what I also offer
is the ability to create and maintain data tables, structures, files,
interface requirements, and data integrity protocols for ongoing
Cover Letters Can Win Job Interviews
Persuasive, targeted, and commercial-like cover letters fare well. And
that is exactly what a cover letter is—a commercial, starring your
Linda Matias is President of CareerStrides and The
National Resume Writers' Association. She has been quoted in The Wall Street
Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. Visit her website
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.