When a friend of mine — I’ll call her Carol — asked me to help with a job cover letter last weekend, I said sure, piece of cake. I write and edit for a living. How difficult could it be to fix a page of my friend’s prose?
Painfully difficult, it turns out. I spent hours sweating over Carol’s letter, and even then I didn’t feel I had cracked it. The first line stumped me, and still does. “I am very pleased to submit my application,” she began. That seemed awfully stiff, and besides, the company she was addressing would be lucky to hire her. But my alternative was too informal, and possibly overconfident: “I would be thrilled to become …”
For help, I combed through the web and turned to three of my job coach sources. I found lots of horribly written letters (“As a highly skilled sales manager with proven experience …”) and some difference of opinion. My conclusion: Cover letters make a difference, even short ones. Don’t ever send a boilerplate “Enclosed please find résumé” note. Do tell a story and even crack a joke if you can. Always mention mutual contacts, and make sure you proofread carefully. Even though today’s cover letter is always an e-mail with a résumé attached, as opposed to a hard copy sent by snail mail, do err on the side of a more formal prose style, avoiding common e-mail abbreviations like “u” instead of “you.
Category: Interviews & Resumes