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How NOT to Write a Cover Letter

How NOT to Write a Cover Letter

Get your cover letter noticed, not laughed at.

By Kizzy Preston

February 17, 2012

When you are fresh out of college and applying for your first job, you want to write a cover letter that stands out from the hundreds that are on the desks of human resources professionals around the country. You want to show that you are not only qualified for the job, but a cut above the rest. You want your cover letter to be memorable, but you want it to be memorable for the right reasons.

Recently an NYU undergraduate student learned the hard way that making vital mistakes in his cover letter not only made him miss out on a possible job, but it got him laughed at from the very companies he longed to work for.

The letter has now gone viral. In the letter he writes, “I am unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker I know, and I love self-improvement. I have always felt that my time should be spent wisely, so I continuously challenge myself … I decided to redouble my effort by placing out of two classes, taking two honors classes, and holding two part-time jobs. That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups.”

Can you imagine writing a cover letter that is so bad that companies everywhere are showing it to their employees as a lesson in what not to do?

So how can you avoid ending up in a situation like this overly eager student?

Highlight your strengths, but don’t brag— In a cover letter you want to show why you are the perfect person for the job you are applying for, while not seeming like you are bragging. It is okay to point out what experience and skills you have, as well as what computer software you know. You just have to do so with tact and a certain level of humbleness.

Suggest what you can add to the company, not what the company can do for you—Companies are interested in the bottom line. How can this applicant enhance our company, help us to make more money, grow and advance? They don’t want to know that by getting this job you will be able to buy a new car or pay your bills, or have the job of your dreams.

Give information not on your resume—You want to tell the hiring manager something they would not know just by looking at your resume. The cover letter is your chance to really show your qualifications and personality.

Be concise—A cover letter needs to get straight to the point. There is nothing a hiring manager hates more than a rambling two-paged letter from an applicant. They are busy sorting through hundreds of letters for one position. So make sure that your letter is clear, and to the point.

Be sure to read the letter that is getting this young applicant so much national attention, so that you can be sure not to make the same mistakes. With a cover letter, it’s okay to stand out as long as it’s for a winning letter.


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