You should have a cover letter when you are sending your resume to an employer. The cover letter demonstrates professionalism (most of the time) and introduces you to the employer. Cover letters are typically skimmed very quickly by hiring managers, so they need to be short and concise. They also need to grab the reader’s attention quickly.
I collected the greeting and first sentence from ten cover letters to show what some job seekers write:
As you can see in the enclosed resume…
Assessment: “Hi” is too informal and the intro makes me want to skip the cover the go directly to the resume. Don’t start a cover letter with something saying you are going to repeat information in the resume.
Dear —. Whomever: (if you do not have a name, eliminate this line completely)
Throughout my management career , I have delivered strong and measurable results, meeting the many challenges presented.
Assessment: If you use a template, make sure you change it. A cover letter like this may be the fastest way to get rejected.
I am currently looking for a management or staff position in environmental and/or safety.
Assessment: A cover letter should have a greeting – “Dear Hiring Manager,” “To whom it may concern,” or “Dear Sir/Madam” all work and take very little effort to add. Ideally, you will address a specific person, but often this isn’t possible. The first line is all about the candidate and not about the company. A better way to start is to describe your strongest attribute.
Dear Sir, Madam
I am a results-oriented, high-energy, hands-on professional, with more than 15 years of business development experience, working in multinational firms.
Assessment: This isn’t bad. It’s professional and focuses on the skills of the job seeker. It’s vague – business development is very broad. This could be better by being a little more specific.
I am a highly motivated self starting project manager that is capable of handeling multiple projects.
Assessment: The cover letter should have a greeting. The sentence is very vague – “project manager” can be used to describe numerous different jobs and fields. Finally, a simple spell check would catch the misspelling of “handeling.”
Dear Personnel Director:
I would like to express my enthusiastic interest in a Supply Chain/Logistics Manager/Materials Manager position with your organization.
Assessment: This is a simple statement of objective. It isn’t a bad way to start, but could be stronger will some statement of the skills and abilities of the job seeker.
Having successfully advanced corporate performance and productivity through skillful development of technical training programs that align employee needs and requirements with the organizational mission,
Assessment: This is only the first half of the first sentence. It is extremely wordy and ineffective. A cover letter needs to be concise and clear. This fails at both.
Dear Human Resources Department,
I am looking for a dynamic and challenging position where I can utilize my leadership, operations, and human resources expertise.
Assessment: The sentence is an objective, but incredibly vague. It essentially says “I’m looking for a job.” The cover letter would be much better is this sentence was deleted.
To whom it may concern;
Below is a summary of my Program Management experience:
Assessment: This cover letter was essentially a bulleted list of experiences and accomplishments. Of all the cover letters in this group, it was the most focused on information valuable to the hiring manager. Despite this, the cover letter is abrupt. There needs to be more than just “Below is a list of stuff…” to start.
Dear Recruiting Officer.
Starting at <company name> in <city, ST> back in 1983, I’ve had a number of exciting, fulfilling, and challenging positions and opportunities.
Assessment: For confidentiality, I deleted the company name and location of the job seeker from the sentence above. This sentence is a terrible way to start a cover letter. This reads like a children’s story… “Once upon a time, at a company far, far away, I had an exciting career.”
A cover letter is a sales pitch with the goal of trying to get the reader excited about reading the resume. It should be short, concise and focused on the value the job seeker would provide the company. The best way to demonstrate value is to give examples of accomplishments and achievements.