what’s wrong with my cover letter? by Alison Green on April 10, 2012 A reader writes: I’m actively job-hunting, and I’ve had no luck getting interviews. People tell me that I’m great in person, so I have to assume that I’m doing something terribly wrong when I represent myself on paper. I recently received feedback that I’m giving “too much” information to the HR rep/hiring manager, so I wanted to submit the question, “How much is too much?” For reference, I generally include an opening statement in my cover letter/cover email that reads, “My name is Jane Doe, and I’m interested in the [position]. I believe marketers need to know their customers, and cut through the clutter. Right now, you as a hiring manager are my customer, and I know you’re probably a little bored with all the resumes on plain white paper. So, I’d like to invite you to check out a quick presentation that highlights my skills and accomplishments, get to know me in a short interview video, or read through my blog. I realize that sometimes people prefer the traditional route, so feel free to skip the bells and whistles, and go straight to my resume.” (The underlined words are links in the real version.) I continue with a paragraph that details the skills that relate to the specific position, and I often include links to examples of those skills in action, similar to the formatting shown above. I’ve read through a couple of the great cover letters you’ve posted on your blog, and I feel that I do strike a tone of interest, personality, and qualifications vs. boring regurgitation. However, I’m clearly falling flat, as I’ve yet to receive an interview! I would appreciate any thoughts from you or your readers that would improve my chances of landing the interview. Two immediate problems that I see: 1. You’re coming across as too salesy/presumptuous with this sentence: “I know you’re probably a little bored with all the resumes on plain white paper.” You don’t know that — many of us aren’t bored with them at all, and it’s mildly annoying to be told that we are … and it’s more-than-mildly alarming to think you’re willing to make these kinds of assumptions when you don’t know your audience. This would be true in any field, but especially in marketing. 2. You’re also implying that you know better than we do what information we want. We ask for a cover letter and resume because that’s the most efficient way for us to quickly see who you are as a candidate. If we like what we see, we may want more, and at that point might decide to check out your blog, etc. But we want the cover letter and resume first, because that’s what works best for us — that’s why we ask for them. It would be highly inefficient to sit through a presentation or watch a video before we even know if you’re a strong candidate. After all, the majority of candidates aren’t strong candidates, so purely statistically speaking, you’re not likely to be either. We don’t have time to watch videos and presentations before we’ve determined you’re someone we’re interested in. (This is one of the many reasons that video resumes won’t ever take off — you can’t scan them like you can a resume.) You should feel free to include links to this stuff in your materials, but don’t open with it and don’t imply that we’d obviously prefer this stuff. We don’t. And don’t go overboard with the links themselves — a maximum of three or four between the cover letter and resume combined. You’ve got to keep in mind that reviewing resumes is a quick process; it’s not a lengthy time investment, at least not at this stage. Marketing is partly about knowing your audience, and in this case here’s what (most of) your audience wants: a clearly organized and concise resume that makes the chronology of your career clear and emphasizes your accomplishments, and a cover letter (no longer than a page) that explains in a compelling way why you’d excel at this job. That’s it. Try that and see if you start getting better results. You may also like:something your cover letter does not need to dowhat IS a cover letter, anyway?should companies require job applicants to submit videos to apply?