10 Cover Letter Myths Debunked

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Imagine that only one other candidate sits between you and your dream job. Your credentials line up equally impressive and it all comes down to the cover letters. Your letter regurgitates the same skills, jobs and clubs from your resume, while your opponent is witty, passionate and creative. Who’s getting the job?  Not you. Dust off one of your cover letters and grab a red pen: These 10 cover letter myths reveal why you didn’t get the job.

1)  It Shouldn’t Be Too Eager

Employers can sniff out passion as soon as they read your cover letter. Research the company and show your interest in helping it grow. Be open about why you love the company, your previous job experience and where you see your future  heading.

2) It Should Rework my Resume in Letter-Format

Your resume makes you shine, but your cover letter should align yourself with the mission of the company. Chances are the employer already read about your involvement with Glee club─you don’t have to keep mentioning it. Mercantile Bank Human Resources employee Misti Stanton, said the cover letter and resume should have a distinctive relationship. “You don’t want something totally different from the resume, but it has to connect and be a counterpart. Keep me eager to where I wish I could turn the next page and want to meet you and interview you,” Stanton said.

3) It Should Follow a Standard

The three-paragraph rule is not the golden key to an awesome cover letter. If you’re applying for a position that requires creativity or innovation, show your employer that you’ve got it. Create a website, YouTube video or infographic to show off your skills. University of Maryland alum Drew Snadecki took the unexpected route and rapped his cover letter. “The idea came from my employer’s requirement to give a 2-3 minute audio track with my cover letter describing who I was. It was either this internship or nothing, which gave me the courage to be like, ‘Screw it.’ I wrote raps in high school and poetry as a fun hobby for myself, so I decided to just merge my skill with rap with this cover letter track,” Snadecki said.

 4) It Should Greet With “To Whom it May Concern”

Do whatever you can to find out who will read your cover letter. Scour your company’s website high and low and research the names of hiring managers who may be reading your letter. “To Whom It May Concern” sounds like you’re contacting an estranged family member, not someone you want to hire you.

5) It Won’t Ever Be Read

Yes, it will. The cover letter shows employers how you can rub their backs, as opposed to what they can do for you. During my internship search, several companies made uploading a cover letter optional. My laziness swooped in and convinced me to click submit with no cover letter attached. I saved time, but I lost an opportunity to stand out from other applicants.

6) It Shouldn’t Be Too Personal

Turn down the opportunity to monotonously list your talents and passions. Instead, share a short story about how you came across the company or your journey working up to this position. Instead of statistics, give potential employers a taste of who you are.

 7) It Shouldn’t Take a Risk

Analyze the position you are applying for, and if it’s a position that understands a little witty humor, take the risk. Companies are looking for applicants with vibrant personalities, not clones with the same stale cover letters…who wants to read that? Snadecki’s risky rap was well-received by maDCap hirer David Ross. “Not to make fun or anything but almost like, did this kid really just rap his cover letter?  I was sold immediately. It was creative. It was bold.  And that’s exactly what we were looking for,” said Ross.

8) It’s All About ME

You’ll have your time to brag if you get an interview, but demonstrate how familiar you are with the company by spitting some impressive facts. Do they have any great products? Have you been obsessed with them since you were ten? Let them know…in a non-creepy way. “In my mind the cover letter answers two questions: why are you interested, and why are you qualified? Of course the why are you qualified portion is important, but make sure you don’t skip over why you are interested. It’s your opportunity to make your argument as to why you are a great fit for the company,” said Chelsea Greene, a career coach at the University of Michigan Career Center.

9) It Should Be Brief

Keeping it short and sweet is good for speed dating, but your cover letter is the place to lay everything out on the table. Cover letters should be around 1-2 pages, so make sure you say everything you want. Format your letter so that it follows a cohesive structure and avoid getting off topic.

10) It Should Tell Employers What They Want to Hear

Chances are you don’t know exactly what they want. Your best bet is to be honest as to why you’re interested in the company and how you can be an asset to the team. Faking it ‘till you make it will only force you to live up to something you’re not.

Erika is a senior Communication Studies major at the University of Michigan. She enjoys reading, photography and binge-watching A Different World on Netflix.

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