by Robin Ferrier
There’s a lot of advice out there about what you should include in your cover letters. Below, I’m providing some advice on what NOT to do.
I received a query from someone the other day who was looking for a job. While I’ll give the person credit for actually addressing his email to me — so many people employ the “Dear Sir/Madam” — the letter was atrocious. Why?
In the first line, he said he was “wondering if there are any employment opportunities” with my organization.
LESSON: Do your homework because I’m not going to do it for you. Find out for yourself if there are any employment opportunities. You did enough homework to find your way to my site and to track down my email address. Don’t just use it. Instead, find your way to the employment section. (Because trust me, nowhere on our site is my name affiliated with job opportunities.) Granted, I don’t have a direct employment link on my site, but that’s because we’re a satellite campus for a major university and we don’t handle hiring here. The main campus does. So if you don’t see an employment link on my site, don’t just stop there. If I’m part of a larger organization, go to the larger organization’s web site and find the employment link there.
Next, he told me who he was — a medical student who has the summer off.
LESSON: Congratulations on having the summer off, but why are you waiting until May to figure out what you’re doing with your summer? I’m not inclined to hire someone who waited until the last minute to look for summer work because I’ll be worrying about what work you’ll put off until the last minute when you’re working for me. Also, telling me what you’re studying doesn’t tell me what you’re qualified to do — or what you want to do or what skills you bring to the table — even if I did have a job opening.
He closed with: “If there is anything available or if you would like me to e-mail a resume then please let me know.”
LESSON: Really? You provide that little information in your cover letter and you didn’t even include your resume?
This email was riddled with errors: His approach, the lack of information… the fact that he was a medical student inquiring about a job at a location that doesn’t have any medical offerings on its campus. It was just all around sloppy… and even though this particular person might be a great employee had we had an opening, the response he merited was basically “thanks for asking but we’ll pass.” How could I have responded otherwise?
So what should/could your cover letter include? Well, we’ll save that for another post… (After all, I have to give you a reason to come back, right?)
Robin Ferrier is the editor of What’s Next, Gen Y? and Communications Manager for the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. She is also the President of the Capital Communicators Group and the co-chair of the Marketing Committee for the Tech Council of Maryland. She has inadvertently become a frequent career / professional / job hunt resource for friends and colleagues due to a career path that has included five jobs in 12 years.Google+