By Fraser Traverse
As published in Miss A’s Heartfelt Living eMagazine.
My inbox is filled each week with resumes from people looking for work in the DC area. So I see a lot of the good, the bad, and the ugly in cover letter and resume writing! Some of the things I have mentioned below may seem silly or obvious to many of you, but I think they bear repeating because I really do see these mistakes every single day.
Make sure your email address is professional. “Ladiesman1” isn’t appropriate. Sign up for a new email address if necessary.
Don’t use acronyms when communicating by email. “LOL” or using “u” for “you” may show the employer you are young and hip, but unless it’s a company specifically looking for a social media guru, skip the lingo.
When responding to a job lead by email, do not simply send attachments. Although most companies have virus protection, many will not open attachments even if they get through company filters in the first place. Put the text of your cover letter and your resume in the email itself and attach the “pretty” versions as backup. Plus, simply saying, “My resume and cover letter are attached” is no way to introduce yourself by email.
Lose the generic intro language that doesn’t separate you from the pack: “I enjoy fast-paced environments and challenging work. I am also a speedy learner and invite the opportunity to learn every chance I get.” Boring!
Try to come up with an individually tailored intro sentence for every email application you send. “This is to communicate my interest to occupy the position as advertised” doesn’t show me that you’ve even read what the position advertised is, much less thought about whether you are a good fit for our company.
Avoid run-on sentences, especially those that don’t mean or say anything: “My goal is to secure a responsible and challenging position within a stable growth-oriented organization that will allow me to utilize excellent administrative, production, and interpersonal skills to maximize work performance and effectively promote positive customer relations.” Huh?
It’s probably best not to mention your faults up front in the cover letter, even if you are trying to be funny (this one missed the mark): “With respect to skills and experience, I do not type 75 wpm or 60 wpm or 35 wpm for that matter. Nor do I have two, five, or seven years of experience in a law firm or legal environment. ”
Finally, I can’t say this enough: proofread, proofread, proofread! This one really made me laugh: “I am very articulant and I think I would be a well fit for the position.”
Obviously not all emails I get have been this bad. I have seen plenty of good cover letters and resumes too. Recently a gentleman listed his previous employers, his job titles, and then the results he achieved for each company in concise and straightforward language. His successes were impressive, yes, but his presentation was even more so and made even the least of his accomplishments seem monumental for the company he worked for.
I also loved one resume that had a very brief quote from a previous employer worked into the text. He gave the employer’s name and paraphrased her recommendation of him, saying, “… works tirelessly … often under heavy pressure … ably managing our communications program …” This was a great way to work in a reference from, in this case, a top-level government administrator who wouldn’t otherwise be available by phone for a personal reference.
Finally, a cover letter that caught my eye was one that clearly stated the person’s credentials without being too wordy or too generic. An interesting summary of the person’s resume left me wanting to read further: “I have experience writing press releases, bios, social networking, creating press packs, blogs, and contact databases. I worked for an international nonprofit assisting with youth advising in New York City while completing my degree. I have experience in education grant writing as well as program evaluation and analysis. Recently my research has taken me to Uganda, Mexico, Qatar and South Africa.”
In short, whatever your level of experience, take the time to tailor your email and make as good a first impression as possible. Good luck and happy writing!