Wonder why you haven’t been able to land a decent job? It’s your cover letter. You may have an in-demand STEM degree, great internships, and a stratospheric GPA, but if HR managers and recruiters hate your cover letter, you’re never going to land that plum job your degree prepared you for. Keep in mind that a cover letter is the first thing an employer sees. If you liken it to a job interview, it’s that critical first 5 seconds when you walk in the HR manager’s office. A bad cover letter is like showing up in sneakers, shorts and a halter-top. You can almost hear the HR manager’s sotto voce comment, “Whoa, is this person for real?”
So why do they hate your cover letter? Hang on. This could be sobering but helpful:
The “Data” Cover Letter
If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, Next Generation, you may have seen the android known as Data. If your cover letter reads as if he wrote it, you can be sure HR managers and recruiters will hate it. The point is, it shouldn’t sound overly formal but more conversational. While most STEM-related jobs are technical in nature, you want to appear like a human being, someone your boss and co-workers will like. For no matter how competent you are technically, you’ll still have to fit in with the company culture.
The Clueless Cover Letter
You didn’t do enough research on the company you applied to or the position you applied for--and it shows. Your intro may be okay, but the all-important second paragraph misses the target. It fails to address the key points the employer outlined in the job description. Realize that HR managers and recruiters often carefully craft these descriptions to weed out “clueless candidates,” not just those who aren’t qualified. Check out this video on writing the “awful” cover letter.
The Endless Cover Letter
In simple terms, it’s too long. It drones on and on about details that should be in your resume. In paragraph after paragraph, you cover information and facts that speak to the job description but then segue or wander off into the deep ether of your job experience and life. HR Managers and recruiters hate this with a passion, because it eats up a precious commodity they don’t have—time. In Your Cover Letter Is Too Long, Marc Cenedella advises job seekers to limit cover letters to 2 or 3 paragraphs that cover 1 or 2 key points.
The Pointless Cover Letter
Your cover letter is short and to the point, but the point is, it doesn’t show how you can solve the employer’s problem. It fails to connect the dots between the employer’s current needs and your skills, abilities and degree. You may need to do some extra research on the problems the company faces and address one or two (using the job description as a guide). In Knock 'em Dead Cover Letters, author and career manager Martin Yate notes that you should reference the issues behind the job’s key requirements.
Sent out a ton of resumes? Can’t land a decent job after graduation? It might just be your cover letter.
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