Did you ever apply for a job you knew you were qualified for, then never got called in for an interview?  Did you ever ask why you never got that interview?

Go back and look at your cover letter.  If you don’t have one, go write one.  Then, before you send it out to anyone, come back and read this article.

I know, cover letters seem like a waste of time.  And do they really serve a purpose?  Yes they do, but not the purpose you might think.  Ideally, the hiring party would read your cover letter, be impressed with what you can offer their company, and call you in for an interview.  But, this isn’t an ideal world and most of the time that is not what happens.  The real purpose of your cover letter is to show a potential employer that you know how to write well.  Be clear, to the point, relevant, and, most importantly, use proper grammar - no short cuts, no excuses.  Your cover letter is important because it is an opportunity for you to make a first impression - you are judged not by what you say, but by how you say it.  

The first applicants to get weeded out are those that make mistakes in their cover letters, and grammatical errors are among the worst.  Another annoying thing to read in a cover letter is overboard enthusiasm and puffery; however, if well written, excessive enthusiasm and puffery is easily overlooked.  Mistakes early in your cover letter will result in one of two actions. 

  1. The reader will toss your cover letter and résumé in the trash can and move on.  
  2. The reader will continue reading, but his focus is no longer on who you are.  He is now going through your cover letter with a fine tooth comb checking your grammar.  

If you're lucky he will get through the letter, if there are no more mistakes, and he then comb over your résumé for mistakes; you just missed a major opportunity to make a great first impression because of a couple of overlooked errors. (I almost wrote minor errors, but considering what happens because of them, there is nothing minor about them.)  

Here are examples of simple and easy-to-make mistakes: 

  • Did you put the correct date?
  • Did you spell out every word - no abbreviations?
    • suite - not “ste.”; street - not “st.”; New York - not “NY”.  
  • Did you properly punctuate the greeting?  “Dear Mr. Joe Smith:” - not “Dear Mr. Joe Smith,”?  

The first step in correcting errors is editing.  Print your letter for editing after writing it; don’t edit on the computer screen!  And have another person read it, they can see things the writer cannot.

There are too many applicants, too many kids fresh out of college, and too many qualified people applying for jobs for a hiring person or committee to waste time reading a document, a first impression, that is riddled with errors.  

One wrong punctuation mark = riddled with errors

Hiring parties don’t do this out of any malice (though I am not guaranteeing this) or to make our lives miserable.  They do it because time is valuable, time is money, and someone who can’t take the time to make sure a short one page document is error free is not the person they are going to spend more company time and money on bringing in for an interview. 

Folks, the job market is not impossible, it's not dried up, but it is competitive.  Show the employer your best from the start.