Cover Letter Mixed Signals

I received a resume with a cover letter that sent mixed signals. It started out well but quickly changed course. Below are the first three sentences:

I am a results oriented leader with a proven track record of success. I have several years of experience in a variety of fields including insurance and product / project management. In addition to my extensive leadership experience, I have strong communication, customer service, and administrative skills.

The first sentence is general but decisive. It makes a statement that emphasizes results, leadership and success. My expectation at this point is to hear specifics about the leadership experience and the track record of success.

The second sentence backs off from the statement of success with a wishy-washy “several years of experience in a variety of fields” statement. It’s difficult to be less impressive than this. In reviewing the resume, the job seeker has more than a dozen years of experience in leadership roles. There was no need to be evasive. A simple statement such as “I have led teams in the <industry> for more than a dozen years.” This isn’t very impressive, but is a lot better than the original line. Another option would be to merge the first two lines: “In more than twelve years leading teams in the , I have a proven track record of success and achieving results.” This combines the statement of experience with the statement of success.

The third sentence again backs off from the first sentence even further. It emphasizes communications, customer service and administrative skills. For a successful leader, these three skills are basics that should have been mastered. Mentioning them in a resume or cover letter isn’t a bad idea, they just shouldn’t be emphasized this early. A much better option would be to list a specific accomplishments that backs up the first sentence.

The cover letter went on for another 250 words with little change from the first three sentences. The job seeker would make a statement of success, and then back off with generic statements. The most compelling statement in the entire letter was the first sentence.