I am often asked if cover letters are really all that important. How much work should be put into tailoring and customizing a cover letter to submit with a resume?
My answer is “it depends.” Some hiring managers read cover letters just as carefully as the resume. Some people put more emphasis on the cover letter than the resume itself. Others skip them completely and just focus on the resume.
If the job posting specifically requests a cover letter, omitting it could get your resume rejected automatically. Including a well-written cover letter, even if it is not required, adds a level of professionalism to your application. Not everyone takes the time to write them.
However, sending a cover letter that you have cut and pasted from a previous application is dangerous. The most common mistakes include:
- Forgetting to change the name of the company
- Forgetting to change the salutation
- Forgetting to change the job title
- Including a detailed list of your specific skills and how they apply to some other job
All of these mistakes will detract from your overall presentation.
Sometimes the request for a cover letter is a test to see how well you follow directions and communicate. This is especially important for management positions and roles that typically require written correspondence as part of your daily tasks.
Cover letters should never have any spelling mistakes, typos or grammatical errors. If you are a Technical Writer, Marketing candidate or Editor, your resume will be viewed even more critically.
Sadly, I once received a resume from a highly degreed Technical Writer. His resume had thirty-two spelling errors in it. When I pointed that out, his response was, “Well, if the company can’t see beyond that, then I don’t want to work for them.” The feeling was mutual.
For some brief examples of poorly written cover letters, see http://www.calm-water.com/interesting-cover-letters%e2%80%a6/