Good and Bad Cover Letters

Our Sales Manager, Matt Shinebourne, muses over the quality of Cover Letters we receive from job applicants.

“Having been heavily recruiting for the last few years, I really am amazed at how many terrible cover letters I receive. Is the level of education in the UK so poor that University graduates are unable to construct proper sentences? More incredible are the multiple spelling mistakes. How can this be possible when Microsoft Word automatically spell checks everything? I don’t think it is too much to expect applications for a job to be spelt correctly and be well written. Recruitment Consultants, whilst showing some empathy, seem to accept this as the norm and often indicate that I am being too harsh in rejecting such poorly written efforts.”

Here are some characteristics of what makes a good and a bad Cover Letter:-

StyleGets to the point early in the first paragraph.Has long, detailed, rambling sentences that don’t grab attention.
Contains mostly crisp, concise sentences (a couple longer ones are OK).Hides your skills and accomplishments in paragraphs among less-relevant details.
Presents skills and accomplishments in bulleted format for ease of reading.
Omits needless words.
ContentAnswers the employer’s top question: “What can you [job seeker] do for my business?”Focuses on your needs rather than the employer’s (“This job is just what I’m looking for – creativity, flexibility, and a short commute.”).
Highlights your most relevant qualifications.Simply repeats details that are in the resume.
Focuses on how your skills, background, and accomplishments align with the employer’s needs.Assumes the reader will notice similarities between keywords in the job description and “similar” phrasing in the letter.
Contains exact keywords and phrases taken from the actual job description.Introduces information that is not substantiated in the resume.
Points out relevant information that is well supported in the resume.Uses arrogant-sounding “puffery” (e.g., “Look no further, I am a perfect fit for the job.”).
Expresses confidence without being arrogant.
ErrorsIs 100% error-free.Has one or more spelling or grammatical errors.
LengthFits neatly within one page, or is well balanced between two pages.Has a second page with just a few lines that wouldn’t fit on Page 1.
Includes substantial white space for visual appeal and note-taking.Looks cramped, with tiny margins and no room for notes.
ConclusionExpresses thanks to the reader.Fails to acknowledge the reader’s time.
Emphasizes your strong interest in the position.Leaves the reader uncertain whether you really care about the job.
Announces when you will follow up.Puts the next step in the employer’s hands, not yours.

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