The Trouble with Cover Letters…

…is that they’re hard to write.

As I go through the tedious process of applying for job after job, never hearing back from any of them, and then worrying that something is wrong with my email inbox, I’ve found that one of the most difficult parts is the cover letter.

How do I make myself appealing to a company?

How do I simultaneously express my uniqueness without sacrificing professionalism?

How do I properly convey my enthusiasm?

And, above all else, how do I hide my desperation?

Okay, the last one I’ve managed pretty well, but nevertheless the whole process is daunting.

With each new job possibility comes a new cover letter, or at least a new draft of the original. Right now, looking at my Documents folder, you would find at least 11 files with the words “cover letter” somewhere in the title. Many are just variations of each other, others are failed attempts at me being witty, none are, as of yet, successful.

When you google search “cover letter,” an abundance of websites pop up to assist in helping you write the perfect cover letter. The so-called experts and all of their knowledge is a bit overwhelming, causing me to take each suggestion with a grain of salt. I have, however, discovered that there are a few constants in masses:

1. Absolutly, Positivly, Unconditoinaly NO mispellings or grammatic erors.

(see what I did there?)

2. Take this opportunity to go into greater depth and detail involving your specific skills in relation to the job you are applying for.

3. Individualize it.

4. Highlight how you would be an asset to the company.

5. Each Cover Letter should be Company specific.

(this one might require researching the company, which is always a good idea if you’re applying to work there!)

Am I missing anything? Or is there, quite simply, no perfect recipe. No guarantees. No promises.

Each resume I send seems like a shot in the dark, I guess I’m just hoping one of them will get noticed.

Professionalism in a Personal Sphere

The internet is a wonderful thing. With just a google search, we can find just about anyone’s facebook, twitter, myspace, or blog. We can reconnect with old classmates, teachers, friends, or co-workers. The information is at our finger tips and readily available. And yet, while these easily accessible social networking sites can do wonders for our personal lives, we must keep in mind that they are PUBLIC information.

I was prompted to write this by one particular tweet from a former co-worker of mine. It was simple and it was in response to a friend. It stated: “I was so high at the time.” Reading it, I couldn’t believe that she would write that. Then I thought back to facebook updates I had seen from classmates in the past. One particular girl I knew was sure to mention “smoking a blunt” in just about every update. I couldn’t believe that anyone could be so careless, especially as young adults soon to be entering into the work environment.

In one of my college Public Relations class, my professor gave us an assignment: Go on your facebook tonight and clean it up. Take down any pictures, comments, or information that you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see.

The simple fact is that more and more employers are using internet searches to screen future employees. One study found that nearly 45% of employers used social networking sites to research applicants! This number only continues to grow as the internet-saavy generation prepares for entering the career sphere.

So what should you do? How should you “clean-up” your sites? Well, take a look of these results from the above-mentioned survey describing why a candidate was “not hired”:

Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information – 53 percent

Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs – 44 percent

Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients – 35 percent

Candidate showed poor communication skills – 29 percent

Candidate made discriminatory comments – 26 percent

Candidate lied about qualifications – 24 percent

certainly some might argue that their security on facebook or twitter will stop employers from finding inappropriate information, but be aware that this is not always the case. We all have heard the saga of facebook’s inefficient security measures, and we also never know who might be a friend of a friend.

Another major argument is that these sites are PERSONAL, and should be viewed as completely separate from their PROFESSIONAL lives. Unfortunately, to display true professionalism, you must adopt maturity in all aspects of your life. Your employers may not be the only ones googling you on the internet–clients are likely to be similarly interested in finding out exactly who they have hired.

And yet, there is actually a positive side to the increased use of internet screening. If you are one of those candidates who uses the internet wisely, or displays an apt understanding for specific sites while displaying a clear professionalism, then you certainly will have a leg up over the competition. So use the internet and social networking to your advantage. Depending on your field, it could be a crucial deciding point in whether or not you are hired. From the same survey mentioned above, employers listed the reasons why, after an internet screening, they “did hire” employees:

Profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit – 50 percent

Profile supported candidate’s professional qualifications – 39 percent

Candidate was creative – 38 percent

Candidate showed solid communication skills – 35 percent

Candidate was well-rounded – 33 percent

Other people posted good references about the candidate – 19 percent

Candidate received awards and accolades – 15 percent

So be smart about what you put on the internet. It’s a public forum, and despite any sort of security, you never know who might be looking. That “silly” picture of you and your friends that night you had “a little too much to drink,” may not seem so “silly” to a future employer.

For more information, check out the survey and its results here.