3 Cover Letter Myths You Shouldn't Believe

cover letter myths in 2012Cover letters are a hot topic these days. Some say they are worthless; others say they are priceless. A recent study by Zip Recruiter indicates that 50% of hiring managers require a cover letter, and that of those, two thirds of them reject an applicant because of something included in the cover letter.

Based on that stat, I'd say learning to write a good cover letter is a skill that a job seeker needs. Unfortunately, there's a lot of bad advice out there about writing cover letters. Most of it stems from experts with outdated notions about what a cover letter's real purpose is. Here are three myths about cover letters you shouldn't believe.

1. Keep it short.

Cover letters used to be used a formal introduction to the resume. It was believed the resume was going to do the heavy-lifting in terms of impressing the hiring manager. So, experts advised to keep the cover letter short and let the hiring manager get to the 'good stuff.'

Well, fast forward to today where most hiring managers don't believe what's on a resume anymore. Instead, they want to get a sense of the applicant's personality, and the cover letter is the best way to convey that. Longer cover letters, complete with sub-titles for paragraphs, are working in today's competitive job search. As long as you can get the reader at "hello" and hold his or her attention with a compelling story, a longer cover letter can serve to impress the hiring manager with your communication skills. This leads to myth #2...

2. Use formal language.

While it might seem to make sense to use a lot of formal text and fancy words in your cover letter, studies actually show that it makes you look less intelligent. Moreover, you would never speak that way to the hiring manager if he or she were in front of you. Why say, "I'm pleased to be applying for the esteemed role of Manager of..."? It just sounds stuffy. Instead, cover letters should share your story in uncomplicated language that is easy to read and believe.

3. Explain what experience you have that proves you can do the job.

The idea behind this myth is that you need to summarize what skills on your resume the recruiter should look at. In reality, that's just a waste of breath. The employer is smart enough to look at your resume and figure out what is relevant. Your cover letter should just focus on proving to the hiring manager that you understand why the job is important to the company's business.

Look at the hiring manager as the leader of a tribe that you want to join. The cover letter should present to the hiring manager your understanding of what the company does, what it does is important, and how you are in alignment with their mission. When you show the hiring manager that you "get" what the company does, you're also proving you could be a valuable contributor to the team.

Cover letters are a necessary evil. But, more importantly, their purpose and value in the job search has shifted. Avoid believing the myths and you'll start to develop a cover letter that will get the attention you want – and deserve.

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Its a miracle I followed the tips and made a cover letter; apparently, it worked I found a career and apear shaped body of a girlfriend. Thanks for sharing the tips.

October 31 2012 at 11:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
April Hunter

J.T. - appreciate this advice. It's great to hear up-to-date information that can really make the difference in the market. There is so much out there that is based on outdated knowledge/experience - in this days and times, we must have the most effective approach to winning that job! Thanks again!

September 04 2012 at 7:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I feel for recent College graduates and others out of work ..Spent months looking for a job after College
thirty plus years ago..Not much has changed excluding the internet in looking for employment..I found that most or too many HR Departments are worthless and their staff(s) unprofessional .Then, like now they screen hundreds of resumes and call in a select few for interviews..After about the first three, four minutes you realize they didn't even read your resume..Now your supposed to do plenty of reasearch before the interviews and they can't spend five minutes doing the same ?..I had one interview where the HR flunkie took a twenty minute break during the interview...You have to play the game to get hired.....

April 23 2012 at 11:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JohnC's comment

Keep in mind that HR professionals have to as you say "screen hundreds of resumes". We are obviously not going to call in each and every person who submits a resume. We are only going to spend our valuable time calling individuals whose resumes stand out above the rest. And if you are called in for a face to face interview, we are not going to go over your resume bit by bit. Obviously we've already read it (otherwise we wouldn't have called you in) and obviously you know what is in your resume. Our job is to go beyond what your resume tells us so that we have a better understanding of your overall work history, how it's relevant to the current position and see if you would be a good fit for our company. Sorry if it may seem to you that we don't do our research and spend the time. Of course there are going to be people who are less professional, but the majority of us want to find an excellent person for a position.

April 24 2012 at 8:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
James Boss

Networking is by the most effective way to find a new job, so work on that. If that isn't working then you will likely have to write a few cover letters. Look at the Cover Letter as a brief explanation to convince the hiring manager to look at your resume ... they likely got the cover letter because a search algorithm kicked out the resume, so now the cover letter has to convince them the resume is worth looking at.

April 23 2012 at 9:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good article. I am saving it as a word document and will refer back to it when I update my resume and cover letter...which will be soon.

I worked for a company that closed their doors and sent all employees to a free two-day seminar that provided everyone a professional, water-marked, heavy-paper resume that did not work for me and that I thought was very weak and deceptive. I have always had good results with my own resume, but used theirs just to see what would happen. No job interviews. Going back to using my own resume.

As a manager who has reviewed many resumes and hired exempt, salaried supervisors and many hourly employees, I think everyone should write their own resume and cover letter, using only the advise from others that they like and think will work. If you don't like it , don't use it.

April 22 2012 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The author J.T.ODONNEL is about 10 years behind times and needs to find a new career herself.

April 22 2012 at 11:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This article is so out-of-date. I have been to so many seminars on job hunting it's not funny. I've listened to so many recruiters, head hunters and HR "Professionals" I wanna puke. But they all say the same thing They (and most everyone else) DO NOT READ Cover Letters. Most of the "professionals" don't even recommend sending one. Some Companies even state in their ads Do Not send cover letters. So, what's a job seeker supposed to do? I ask you.

April 22 2012 at 10:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wp41e's comment
John Lewis

Here's another thing to consider--your resume probably will not even be seen by a human being.

IF you are dealing with a company that requires you to submit your application (yes-*application* is what it really is) via the internet, your work is scanned only for certain key words and if those are not there--or not picked up according to the search algorithm used--your hard work is tossed into the bit bucket, never to be seen again.

April 22 2012 at 11:07 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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