As a Human Resource professional, I place job postings on several job boards fairly regularly. For each job posting, I make a point to include the company name, company description, job title, job description, pay, location and my direct contact information; the usual criteria. At the end of each posting, I state “Interested candidates should send their cover letter and resume to Jason Pindzia at firstname.lastname@example.org”.
I receive a ton of resumes from candidates who send in a generic cover letter addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam”, “To Whom It May Concern”, “Dear HR Department” and so on. This is an example of a cover letter I received today:
I am interested in the advertised position at your company.
Please find my resume attached.
Keep in mind that the only content I changed was the candidate’s name. I didn’t even tell you the best part yet. Wait for it….the candidate just graduated with a Degree in Human Resource Management!
When reviewing cover letters I only expect a few things:
1. Is the cover personalized?
2. Is it a generic cover letter that is sent to many different companies?
3. Are there any spelling errors?
I state in every job posting that all cover letters and resumes should go directly to me. Because of this, I expect every cover letter to be addressed to me. If the candidate applies to a position where there is no specific person mentioned, they should call the company and ask who to direct the cover letter and resume towards or do some research on a computer such as looking up the company contacts on LinkedIn, looking at the company website and etc. In my opinion, if you expect the company to take the time to read through your materials, take the time to research the correct contact person.
HR professionals can spot a generic cover letter from a mile away. What gets my attention is when the cover letter addresses the specific company and their needs. Candidates should research the company prior to writing the letter. Did the candidate address the specific position? If I advertise “must have experience in ABC”, you should mention your experience with ABC in your cover letter. If it’s an entry level position, for example an entry level sales position, talk about your previous sales experience, customer service experience or if you don’t have any of that, talk about how you like interacting with people.
When it comes to spelling mistakes, I’m a fan of the three strike rule. If a cover letter has three spelling mistakes, I stop reading it. I’ll take a quick look at your resume and if it absolutely blows me away, I’ll still consider you, but if not, your information goes in the shredder or gets sent to my deleted items folder. Careless and easily correctable mistakes tell me that you didn’t take this simple task seriously. You’re trying to find a job! I think that’s serious and something that you should invest time into.
Take my advice on cover letters. You will rise above the pack if you put in the time and effort that others don’t.
My next blog entry will focus on what I look for in a resume.