Category: cover letter

Don’t Make These Cover Letter Faux Pas

Don’t Make These Cover Letter Faux Pas

cover letterA killer resume might be able to get you the job, but you’ll never have the chance if your cover letter is a dud.

In the world of hiring, there’s a lot of attention paid to writing the perfect resume. Especially for those of us who are better at coding than writing, getting the resume help we need can be a crucial step on our career path. But for every perfect resume in the world, there seems to be at least double the amount of lackluster cover letters. That’s because people don’t understand that a resume isn’t just a resume — the cover letter is part of the package, too.

This is to say: your cover letter should never be an afterthought.

Whether the job you’re applying to has a casual or formal company culture, you need a cover letter that’s somewhere in between the two. Too casual, and you’ll look sloppy; too formal, and you won’t be memorable. Your cover letter needs to strike the right balance between friendly, professional, and engaging to get the hiring manager to actually look at your amazing, perfectly polished resume.

If you’re starting to realize just how many pitfalls there are in writing a great cover letter, you’re on the right track. Doing it well takes time and attention to detail.  Fortunately, some job candidates make the same types of cover letter faux pas over and over again, which means you can learn from their mistakes.

Here are our top 5 cover letter faux pas. Steer clear of these mistakes, and you’ll do your resume justice:

  1. Generic Opening Lines

To Whom It May Concern. I Am Writing To Express My Interest. My Name Is. If you’re currently using any of these in your cover letter, time to break out the eraser and start again. Hiring managers get dozens, even hundreds of cover letters, which means starting off on a bland foot probably won’t get you to the next step. Your opening line doesn’t have to be the written equivalent of fireworks, but it should make the reader want to keep on reading — not stop him dead in his tracks.

  1. Lack of Editing

Spelling and grammar mistakes happen — but not in cover letters or resumes. Any error in your cover letter gives the hiring manager one less reason to keep considering your application. Don’t give him the satisfaction! Proofread like crazy, and have a friend or professional give it a read, too.

  1. Using the Wrong Words

Relying too heavily on jargon, idioms, or slang can make your cover letter appear unprofessional. While some industry speak may be necessary depending on your situation, remember that the person reading your cover letter might very well work in HR, not the department you’re applying to.

  1. Not Using the Right Words

Many companies use software to weed out candidates and reduce the applicant pool. How do they do this? Keywords. This means that it’s absolutely necessary to use the exact terminology that describes what it is you do and what you have to offer. Tip: Look to the job listing for ideas.

  1. Too Much Complexity

Florid language or complicated fonts only make the hiring manager’s job harder. After you complete the first draft of your cover letter, go back through and see how you can make it simpler. Remember, simplicity translates into effectivity, which is exactly what you want. Keep it short, sweet, and simple, and you’ll dramatically improve your chances of showing off that dazzling resume of yours!


Stephen Van VreedeAbout Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (out June 11, 2015). Contact Stephen directly at or send him an invite at To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You? Also, feel free to take his complimentary resume self-assessment quiz, How Certain Can You Be About Your Technical Resume? You might be surprised by what you find out!


The Softer Side of Tech Revisited

The Softer Side of Tech Revisited

Now that Labor Day has passed us by, summer is fading, and the kids are back to school, there’s one thing that is sure to happen…in fact, it already has…

IT and tech candidates are going to decide they are now ready to get going with their job search, you know, the one they have been meaning to do but have been putting off all summer?

As a result, the other thing that’s sure to happen is a surge in the market of tech-related job seekers all vying for open positions from now until Thanksgiving when they put the brakes on searching again.

Yes, the job search market has a predictable cycle too, and if you find yourself coming up against it during the “peak” seasons (specifically, spring and fall), it’s wise to bring your A game.

Therefore, I want to revisit a post I published back in February 2014 in anticipation of the upcoming spring season. Now that fall is coming, I think it is a good time to look at it again.

cultural fitSo, for a little bit now, I’ve been discussing the importance of “soft skills” in the 2014 IT job market. The following posts all touch on how the market is favoring those IT professionals who are, well, softer:

Today, I’d like to highlight perhaps the top 10 soft skills in demand, things that you need to show, not tell, in your next career move.

1. Strong Work Ethic

When I first started writing resumes, it was considered bad form to put “hard worker” or “hard working” on a resume because it was one of those… no duh….things. Who doesn’t think they are a hard worker and have a strong work ethic? But increasingly, in today’s market, employers are demanding professionals to demonstrate a strong work ethic. One way to do that would be to prepare a Problems-Solutions-Results (PSR) page as an addendum to your resume. It can showcase problems you have faced and how you have worked to resolve them.

2. Positive Attitude

Here’s one that can be tough for some personality types. Let’s be real. It isn’t that you are negative necessarily (although others might perceive it that way); it’s more likely you are direct, to the point, and in your mind a realist. Unfortunately, though, these traits aren’t always well received in today’s corporate market (neither is a healthy dose of sarcasm) even if sometimes they are what’s needed. So finding a way to be direct while being sure to end on a positive note will go far.

3. Good Communication Skills

Many times people only focus on the verbal and listening part of communication skills, but in today’s world, writing skills are at a premium. So showcasing your background in this area is important too.

4. Time Management Abilities

5. Problem-Solving Skills

Again, here is where the PSR mentioned earlier would come into play.

6. Acting as a Team Player

The PSR could also provide you with an opportunity to showcase the work you’ve done in a team environment. A Testimonials page could do the same thing by letting your colleagues “refer” you through their kudos of you.

7. Self-Confidence

8. Ability to Accept and Learn From Criticism

Inevitably, you will be asked a question during interviews about a time when you had to take criticism and what you did with it. So be prepared to provide an example.

9. Flexibility/Adaptability

Here is where an Innovation page could come in handy. Outlining ideas for changes in business operations or procedures that you see that could enhance business activities and show adaptability is highly sought after.

10. Working Well Under Pressure

Once again, the PSR page is a great place to demonstrate a scenario where you handled pressure and came out strong.

Cover Letters Get a Bum Rap

Cover Letters Get a Bum Rap

These days, whenever employers post a job opening, their inboxes are flooded with responses from a variety of job seekers with varying levels of education and experience. Needless to say, it is an ordeal for employers to weed through the pool of candidates to find not only someone who is qualified for the position but also who fits in with the corporate atmosphere. As a result, applicant tracking systems have become a big business, anything to help companies sift through resume after resume after resume.

The Importance of Resume-Writing Credentials

The Importance of Resume-Writing Credentials

Hiring practices have changed enormously over the last decade as employers gravitate to online postings, resume databases, and automated screening software. Combine these changes with the recent surge in unemployment, and job seekers face a complex and challenging task to create their marketing materials and manage their job search for best results.

The Great Cover Letter Debate

The Great Cover Letter Debate

To cover letter or not to cover letter … that seems to be the question these days. This past week alone on Twitter, my business partner and I must have come across or participated in no less than 30 discussions that started out something like this: “Do I really even need a cover letter? Does anyone read them anymore?”