Cover Letter Misdirection

I received a resume from a job seeker with a cover letter that created false expectations.  The cover letter indicated that the job seeker was currently employed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It didn’t give any details of the individual’s career – just that he worked for the FBI.

I expected the job seeker to have a law enforcement background.  We work with a lot of former military officers with security, law enforcement and intelligence background.  Reading that the individual was from the FBI, I assumed that he had a background that was related to these fields.  I was completely wrong.

The job seeker was a public relations specialist, with significant marketing, graphic design and multimedia design experience.  Although he interacted with law enforcement personnel, his role was entirely focused on PR. 

The problem with the cover letter was that it directed me down a particular thought process that was unrelated to the candidate.  A much better cover letter would have highlighted the public relations experience of the job seeker.  Mentioning the FBI in the cover letter is good, but emphasizing the career of the job seeker is essential.  The best cover letters show the value that a job seeker will provide an employer.  This requires describing past accomplishments.

Because my firm works some security positions, I read the resume close enough to understand the candidate’s experience.  If I specialized in graphic design and PR roles, there’s a chance that I might discard the resume after reading just the cover letter.

When you write your cover letter, make sure it focuses on the value you would bring to an organization.  This requires you to create a clear picture of what you do and how successful you are at doing it.  If you don’t make this clear, the impression you give may not match reality.