don’t start your cover letter with “my name is” and other rules

Some random thoughts from hiring work recently, in no particular order:

* Do not start your cover letter with “My name is…” unless you are under the age of 10. This does not make you sound like a grown-up.

* When a job posting asks for something like 2-3 years experience and you have 10+ years of experience, you need to address that in your cover letter. That employer is telling you clearly that they’re envisioning someone more junior in their career than you are, and your chances of being considered will go up dramatically if you explain why you’re interested anyway and why you’d excel in the job. You might think that this is obvious (and that clearly more knowledge and more experience will help you do a better job), but if you don’t explicitly address it, they will assume that you didn’t read the job posting clearly, that you’ll be bored in the role, or that you’re going to try to turn the role into something other than what they need, and they will pass you up.

* Stop writing “Salary is negotiable” when the recipient of your letter never even asked you about salary.

* Do not send a resume with no dates of employment on it. I’ve seen a handful of candidates doing this recently, and someone out there must be telling them that this is a good thing to do (probably to avoid age discrimination, is my guess). This makes it look like you’re trying to hide something, and it’s incredibly unhelpful — I want to know how recent your experience was and how long you did it for. Holding a job for 10 months nine years ago is very different from having done it for five years very recently. (And if it is being done to avoid revealing your age, you have now done the opposite, by highlighting weirdness about your age.)

* Speaking of dates, if there are jobs from the 1970s on your resume, it’s time to take them off. Unless that’s the decade you spent as a cabinet official or something, it’s really not relevant to your candidacy at this point.

{ 206 comments… read them below }

  1. LBK*

    I’ll admit, I do #1 in my cover letters a lot. What’s a better way to start them? Just jump directly into “I saw your opening for X and I think I’d be a great fit because of Y”?

    1. Cruciatus*

      Yes. Or something closer to that that shows enthusiasm for the position. Your name will be at the end, and if it’s an online application they already know your name. It’s taking up precious real estate within the cover letter. But that’s just my opinion.

    2. nyxalinth*

      I used to do it, too! Then I saw something–probably here–that said “Don’t do that!” So I stopped. Can’t even imagine now how many times I got round filed right off the bat for it, but now i know!

    3. Ruth*

      “Dear Sir or Madam:/Dear members of the search committee:/Dear Ms. X:

      I am writing to apply for the position of …”

      and then take it off from there! (I generally use “members of the search committee” or “Ms. [Hiring Manger] and members of the search committee” because libraries generally hire by committee”)

    4. Adam*

      Yep, I always start by mentioning what position I’m interested in and go from there. I figure they want to know right away why you’re contacting them so highlighting the position you applied for gets them in the correct frame of mind quick.

    5. Anx*

      While I don’t think I’ve done this in a traditional CL, I may have done this in some emails.

      In regular CLs I know my name is in the address or on the header, but in emails it feels so abrupt not to introduce yourself. Even though my email address has my name in it. I think I need to start thinking of my email address as analogous to the Address Block in a regular letter. And it does precede the body of the text since you see the address before you click.

    6. Stephanie*

      I don’t do it in cover letters, but I am guilty of this in introduction emails, i.e. “Hi Suzy, My name is Stephanie LastName and Mary Smith forwarded along your name in regard to Chocolate Teapots, Inc….”

      1. Anons*

        I think there’s a time and place for it. I don’t do it in cover letters, either, but my field has a lot of cold contacting in it and I’ve found that’s often the best way to introduce myself when I’m doing that.

        “Hi (name),

        My name is (name) and I’m a (title) with (Organization). (Person) suggested I contact you about (x) and I’m hoping you can help me with (y specifics).”

        It’s basically putting a phone call script in writing but for some people, in some situations, that’s the best way to approach contact.

        (My cover letters usually begin with, “I am writing (to express my interest in / to apply for / about) Job Title Opening…” and go from there.)

    7. Jackie*

      Omg…so mortified…

      I’d been doing it lately, too, because I saw it somewhere and thought it sounded a little more conversational. Template changed; there’ll be no more of that!

    1. nyxalinth*

      That was me in 1970. Now, if we’re talking later like 1977-1979, I would have “President of local Shaun Cassidy and KISS Fanclubs. Fended off annoying classmates daily, increasing productivity by 20 percent.”

      1. Diane*

        Tangent: I had a Shaun Cassidy t-shirt in fifth grade, and the boys teased me about it because it wasn’t something cool like KISS, until they realized I could, um, adjust and make him cross his eyes. It took me several years to realize they were looking at my budding boobs and not his face.

  2. Sascha*

    Re: dates of employment

    I had a friend who believed that the dates were not important because she thought employers didn’t really care for how long or when you got your experience, just that you had the experience or exposure to certain skills or types of work. I tried to explain to what Alison said regarding duration and freshness of the experience, but she didn’t think that was a core component. So when her husband sent a resume to me with zero dates on it, I sent it back and told him to put dates on. They both in their early 30s so it wasn’t about age.

    This is in IT, and she said she had read that “IT managers don’t care about dates.” Maybe it’s true for some. But I’m guessing for the vast majority, dates are important.

    1. LBK*

      I would think IT would be a field where dates are EXTREMELY important. If you did database support from 1990-1995, your experience is basically useless now because the systems are going to work so differently. Heck, even experience from 5 years ago might not be that valid anymore with how quickly technology changes.

      1. Coelura*

        Most DEFINITELY important in the IT industry. I need to know how much experience you have (duration) and the freshness of that knowledge. IT knowledge goes out of date at an ever increasing speed.

      2. Anx*

        I would think that the experience is still extremely useful for interpersonal and cognitive skills but not the technical skill itself. An older programmer/IT professional back in the game keeping up with new technology and trying to reenter the workforce does have some valuable experience…but it’s very important for the employer to know the context.

        1. LBK*

          I’ll agree with that to an extent, but I still think the workplace culture in the IT/tech space changes rapidly as well. Whereas in the 80s/90s it was probably a lot of older workers because learning to program was relatively inaccessible, now developers are a lot younger on average, and a different mindset comes with that. There’s also development styles things like Agile that didn’t exist back then.

      3. chewbecca*

        Unless the person were to apply at my company. Our software is ooooooold. I just checked an the copyright dates are from 1980 & 2009.

        We just upgraded TO Windows XP in the past year. Of course, Microsoft no longer supports XP, but it’s better than Windows 2000!

    2. PEBCAK*

      Without dates, I assume they are all short-term gigs. I don’t believe that short-term gigs provide experience in things like having to go back and clean up your own messes, and I therefore find them less valuable (or maybe, valued differently?).

      1. Brett*

        They are listing the amount of experience instead of the dates.
        “9 years Database administrator at Chocolate Teapots, inc”
        I think this could actually work for IT because for IT you can list specific skills.
        9 years Database administrator at Chocolate Teapots, inc
        * Tuned and configured four enterprise Sql Server 2008-2012 OLAP and OLTP databases.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I got one like that recently. It’s just too far afield from convention. It immediately makes me wonder what you’re trying to hide.

          As Sunflower said below, it puts up way more of a red flag than whatever thing it’s intended to disguise.

          1. Laura*

            Alison, in your experience, have you come across any fields where functional resumes are actually preferred or considered the standard? I once had a friend insist that functional resumes were preferred in her field (organizational development) and I didn’t fight her on it because, after all, it’s her field. But I’m skeptical.

  3. Dan*

    I think my dad’s resume has a job from the 70’s on it. But if he takes it off, his resume would be blank. (He’s still working at that company.)

    1. The IT Manager*

      I hope he’s moved up since then. And if he were to update his resume he’d only mention recent accomplishments and job titles because what he did in the 70s is probably not a relevent to new positions he’s interviewing for now. In his case, I ‘d recommend that he list his position titles by date if that’s feasible to show progress and ability to adapt to change.

      1. danr*

        I did that on my resume… I stayed at one company for most of my working life, but held many different positions, all increasing in responsibility. I think it’s harder show that situation than being in a new company every few years or so and having positions with increased responsibility.
        I had dates on the resume, since “No Dates?” was my first question to AAM and got a proper “Don’t Do That!” with more details as a response.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I would put separate entries for each new position, even though they’re all at the same company, especially if you had increasing responsibility in the new position (and not just a fancy title change).

      2. Dan*

        Yeah, he’s second from the top of the food chain now. But I don’t think he has any intention of actually updating his resume and finding a job outside the company. Tried it once a few years back, oh well.

  4. PizzaSquared*

    How detailed should the dates on my resume be? Do you think it’s ok to just include years (e.g. “1997-2004”)? I do that mainly because I think it makes it look cleaner and easier to quickly scan, but if people think including the month (or even the complete date) is important, I’d reconsider.

    1. Sascha*

      I think it’s important, mostly with jobs of shorter duration because 2000-2001 seems like a full year, but if it was actually December 2000-January 2001, that is definitely NOT a year.

      1. Dan*

        AAM has pointed out that “2000-20001” could be anywhere from a week to two years, so those definitely need dates.

        If it was short duration in the past, you may as well leave it off.

    2. Sunflower*

      Well I’m inclined to think the older it is/longer you worked there, the less relevant the month is. Like a job you worked for a while in 97-04, the months don’t really matter. But I think more recent jobs, they do matter. And it’s important for your resume to follow a format so I’m saying months should be on there. The exact date is overkill imo.

    3. LouG*

      I would think that if you’ve been there a long time (several years), leaving off the month is okay. You should write the month if it is a shorter stint. If you were to write 2013-2014, I don’t know if that’s a month or a year.

    4. AB*

      I absolutely loathe application systems that require a complete date for a job. I honestly couldn’t tell you the exact date I started a job three years ago, and there really isn’t an exact date that I started my current position (it was an internal transition).

      I once worked for the IRS, and did a best date guesstimate on the application (considering they required the past 10 years of employment and two years out of school, most of my past was short term, part-time jobs). Six months after I starting working there, I got a letter in the mail informing me that I had misrepresented my employment dates for some of those part-time jobs, but that they believed it was done without intent to deceive and they weren’t going to fire me. An example of the misrepresentation: I put I started working at Subway on June 1st, 1999 when it was actually June 12th, 1999.

      1. Liz*

        I get that it was the IRS and therefore bureaucracy and all that, but…they sent you a letter in the mail while you were still working there? Like to your home address? Jeez, why wouldn’t your manager or whoever just talk to you about it (and give you the letter afterward as proof, if necessary)?

        1. De Minimis*

          I don’t know about how the IRS does it, but we use the Office of Personnel Management for our background checks, so the process is not really under our control at all, other than the initial authorization.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I got a job offer from my current employer one night…4 months after I had started working for my current employer.

        I probably should have taken that as a sign of things to come. Rofl.

        1. Audiophile*

          Really?? Wow that’s just baffling.

          I can barely remember specific dates for employment, I guess regularly.

          My current employer has my date wrong, so that should be fun for the next background check.

          1. De Minimis*

            Mine somehow messed up my birth year, which could have caused me a lot of problems but they were able to eventually fix it.

      3. VictoriaHR*

        This is why I keep all of my job search data (dates of working where, contact info/addresses/phone for previous employers and references, former manager names, etc) in Evernote online, so I can access it anywhere I have an internet connection. I also clip any job posting that I apply to, to Evernote so I have the job description and the date I applied right there. It makes it so much easier.

    5. PizzaSquared*

      Good feedback, everyone. Thanks. I’m not trying to hide anything (I have no gaps since I graduated many years ago, and no really short stints). I definitely don’t want to give the impression that I AM trying to hide something, so I’ll add the months.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      I would go with month/year for consistency. It looks weird to have year-year for one job and then month/year-month/year for another job… it’s almost as if you’re highlighting for the hiring manager that you were at that job for only a short time.

  5. AMG*

    Just curious–how far back do you think a person should go? If you have relevant experience from 20 years ago, should it be included? I am thinking of my husband on this, and age discrimination could be a factor (IMO).

    1. Dan*

      What’s relevant from 20 years ago? Serious question. In my field (analytics / software development) most of the stuff I do didn’t even exist back them.

      I’d say a decade.

      1. summercamper*

        My dad restores antique tractors – while some things have changed in the past 20 years (he orders parts online now instead of mail order), a lot of things have stayed the same.

        It’s probably one of few fields where it’s worth listing old experience, because “I’ve restored 250 Ford 8Ns in the past 30 years” is pretty awesome. Sure, someone who has only been in the business for 5 years is probably perfectly competent, but tractor collectors have strange attachments to their machinery and value extensive experience.

        Similarly, I would probably prefer to get surgery done by a doctor who has done the exact same operation 250 times rather than the doctor who has done it 50 times, even though they are both perfectly competent.

        Alison’s point still stands – my dad finds other ways to reflect his extensive experience on job applications than listing the first equipment repair shop he worked at back in the 70s – but there are some fields where things don’t change much and really old experience is still relevant (if you’ve remained in the field and are still current, that is).

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I had the same thought. In the energy infrastructure design/build business, there are big cycles. You might have done X in the last boom, got laid off, worked somewhere else doing Y for 10 yrs, and now have an opportunity in X. There aren’t a lot of people with X experience, so you would want to include that.

          I also think number of companies plays a role. If you’ve worked 3 places in 30 years, why not mention all three? I guess you have to find a way to showcase your experience without indicating that you’re too expensive. A hard and fast rule for everyone doesn’t seem appropriate.

        2. Cath in Canada*

          So, he’s an ex-tractor fan?

          (sorry, couldn’t resist. My Dad is a terrible jokes fan – never thought I’d actually have a chance to use that one in context!)

        3. Dan*

          My guess is people in those positions *know* when their “old” experience is still relevant, and aren’t just “wondering.”

          Just out of curiosity, would you prefer to get a surgery done by a doctor who’s been doing it since the 1970’s and hasn’t kept current with the new stuff, or someone who’s kept up on current practices?

          1. Julie*

            I was thinking the same thing – if your experience really is relevant, you’ll know, and you’ll include it. I could see that potentially happening. I was a political organizer many moons ago, and it could be relevant if I were applying for a sales or development position, but I would hope that I also had some more recent experience as well. I think if I wanted a hiring manager to know about my organizing experience, I would either find a way to mention it in the cover letter or bring it up in an interview. Otherwise, I’d need to include some pay-the-rent jobs I had between that and my current career.

      2. Mike C.*

        Aerospace would be highly relevant – the major commercial airplane manufacturers are focusing more on derivatives rather than completely new designs.

        Any industry where personal connections/network is used as well. Those really take time to develop and mature.

      3. Evan (in the USA)*

        Statistical analysis? I don’t know if my dad still has his job in that field from 25 years ago on his resume, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. The tools used to do that have developed a lot, and some of the processes have been tweaked, but the basics remain exactly the same. Math doesn’t change.

        1. Dan*

          It doesn’t stop them from updating textbooks with pretty pictures and charging $150 a crack though.

          The issue comes in because math *doesn’t* change, do I hire someone with a few years experience for a lot lower pay than the guy who’s been doing it for 30 years? That’s the rub.

          1. Evan (in the USA)*

            Yep, and my parents (who were homeschooling me) did an end run around the publishers by teaching me out of thirty-year-old math texts.

            And, well, isn’t that the question all managers face in any field? Hire the person with more experience – who’s able to do the job better – at higher pay, or pay less for the person with less experience? My dad got his current job by explicitly making almost that case to show why this company needed someone like him.

        2. Mephyle*

          Statistical analysis has changed a lot. What we were reveling in having the computing power to do (instead of calculating by hand) in the late 1970s to early 1980s is now very basic.
          What back then was high-powered expert stuff that needed more computing power than we had – some of it only glimpsed as a distant dream (cluster analysis, to name one example), my undergrad daughter now does on her laptop for a biology assignment.

      4. A Non*

        My mother was a licensed mechanical engineer, which is kind of a big deal in that field, then she spent the last 25 years as a stay-at-home mom with various part-time employment. Without the engineering experience on her resume, she’s a part-time children’s orchestra manager who wants to… be a project manager for a tech company? What? With it, she’s a tech-minded person who’s been wrangling a non-profit for a while, and is quite capable of getting your engineers to work together. So she’s perhaps the exception to the rule.

        1. Anx*

          I’d love to hear more comments about situations like these without clear, linear paths.

          I don’t have a long work history myself, but I’ve put jobs from 10 years ago on there before. High school volunteer experience even! It may have helped. I included it to illustrate that my interest in education and student support is nothing sudden and has been a long-term interest.

          It felt….weird, but I don’t regret it.

          1. A Non*

            My mom hasn’t had any success with finding a project management position so far, so I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on it. I suspect she needs to take some classes on project management to be a viable candidate, and even then I don’t think she’s likely to get results just by submitting a resume. She really needs a connection who knows what she’s capable of.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              If your mom maintained her license for those 25 years, she should have had some engineering/PM-related continuing education anyway. My home state requires 30 hrs every 2 years. If she didn’t maintain her license, then she would have to have it reinstated, which I think would be a big deal for someone out of the field for 25 years, but maybe not.

              Depending on the project management job she’s looking for, the PE may not be needed, of course, but in my particular corner of the ME world, it is.

      5. Ruffingit*

        A decade is about how far back I go. Just doesn’t seem worth 20 years because, as Dan says, what is relevant from that far back? It’s what you’ve been doing in the more recent past that matters.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve continued to include a job I had from the mid-90s to early-00s just because it’s my longest time at one workplace to date, and I feel I should include it to show that I have stayed with jobs for a long period in the past. If I can put together another few years of consistent employment I may consider taking it off.

          1. Ruffingit*

            That could go either way. It could either be a show of your ability to sustain longevity or a spotlight on the fact that you haven’t had longevity since and make them wonder why. I can see employers interpreting that in both a positive or negative way depending.

            And no judgment by the way because longevity at a workplace isn’t something I’ve had for quite awhile for various reasons.

            1. De Minimis*

              I’m inclined to keep it because it does tell a good “story” in that it shows a transition to professional work from a more blue-collar type job, but I had a long employment gap afterward that kind of wrecks the whole narrative.

    2. Luxe in Canada*

      My issue with going back 20 years on the resume to include one particular job is that either you’d have to include all the other jobs since (to avoid a weird gap), or you’d have a gap that raises questions. Could you go back ten years on the resume but then mention that one job on your cover letter? I’m thinking along the lines of, “I also picked up x skills when I held y position at company z in 1994, which led to accomplishments a, b, and c, etc”

    3. Rayner*

      Well, did he do anything twenty years ago that is so monumental to his career that he hasn’t duplicated or eclipsed it with something within the last twenty years?

      Technology and procedures have changed so much from 1990 to 2014, that I think he could include things like leadership and management, or if he co-ordinated a massive newspaper or something but only if he doesn’t have anything more recent.

      1. CEMgr*

        Reminds me of a recent job candidate….who when asked to provide her best example of using a certain skill, picked an example from 27 years ago! According to her, she’d been working for 35+ years straight in similar roles, but never again had a good chance to “deal with ambiguity” again, or whatever the skill was. And it was so long ago that when I asked for the slightest level of detail, she couldn’t remember. So usually….no. Long ago skill is relevant only in cases where:
        * You’ve (reasonably) not been able to repeat it (eclipse observation, Cabinet secretary, tsunami remediation etc.)
        * You remember it well

        1. Ruffingit*

          I love your examples of eclipse observation, Cabinet secretary, tsunami remediation. I want to meet the person who has those jobs :)

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it depends on the flow of your job history. If you’ve held three positions in the last twenty years, it seems weird to just put the top two and leave off the third.

      If, however, you’ve had eight positions in the last twenty years, leaving off the seventh or eighth makes total sense.

      When I was in my 20s, I listed absolutely everything I did post–high school. Now that I’m older, I leave off even a lot of my early work experience after college, and no employer has ever complained about the omission or wondered what I did during that time.

    5. CollegeAdmin*

      I just helped my mother with her resume. She had jobs on it going back to 1995 or so. I actually had her go back and add older ones – namely, the bank she worked at during the 80s.

      My reasoning? She worked her way up at that company from secretary to VP in 10 years, quit to have kids, and then worked as a school librarian and got a teaching degree. But her current job is a fairly high management position, so it looked like she jumped from school librarian to management with no experience or training.

      The point of this anecdote? Weigh your options. If someone ran the math based on the years my mother’s worked, they’d figure out her approximate age – a downside, especially since her looks don’t give away her age. (Mid-50s and still gets mistaken for late 30s or early 40s.) But the benefit of being able to present the successes and skills she has, in my opinion, outweigh that risk.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        The other piece is that age discrimination, although illegal (I think—not sure if some countries or jurisdictions are cool with it), can very well happen at any point in the process. So you may think you’re fooling people with your résumé, but if the hiring manager (whether consciously or subconsciously) discriminates based on age, she still has the opportunity to make a guess at your age once she interviews you… and then doesn’t hire you.

        1. fposte*

          In the US, age discrimination against people over 40 is federally illegal. I don’t offhand know of any state or municipality that offers broader coverage, but there might be.

            1. fposte*

              Yup. (Save for any smaller place that says it’s not, as I said, but I don’t know of any.)

            1. Andy*

              My dad is 74 and can work several times harder and more effectively than I have ever been able to….or anyone else that I’m aware of. He is in constant demand.

    6. LMW*

      I think it depends on the position. For example, if I was hiring for a position similar to mine and someone had a hands-on writing or editing focused position early in their career, say the 70s or 80s, and then went on to management roles, I’d still like to know that they had that older hands-on experience. Those skills don’t change with technology (and actually, writers and editors that had to work on publications the old-school way are much better at getting it right early in the process because it used to be such a pain to manually change things!)

  6. Anon Accountant*

    Regarding dates of employment I’m thinking it maybe a way that candidates feel they’re hiding a long term unemployed gap and they’re afraid hiring managers won’t consider them if they’ve been unemployed for months, a year or more.

  7. TheOriginalVagabond*

    My sister and I were just discussing the point Alison made about dates on a resume (though not in the same context). I’m frustrated with my boss over some unethical practices, and it’s reached the point where I don’t feel comfortable working for him anymore. The problem is that I don’t have another job already lined up, so if I quit, I don’t want to have a gap in my resume (I don’t know how long it could take me to find another job). Plus, I’ve only been there less than a year, so that might look worse.

    My sister suggested taking the months off and only writing the years (ex., 2012-2013 rather than July 2012-May 2013). Does that look weird or bring up suspicions? Right now I’m hanging in while I look for something else, but I don’t know how much more I can take.

    1. Dan*

      That looks weird or brings up something suspicious. That short and that recent, I’m going to want to know if “2013” means January or December. A short stint a decade ago? You can just leave it off. I have a three-month contract gig I had out of grad school (2008) that no longer even makes it on my resume.

    2. Laura*

      Suspicious. It would look like you’re hiding something (and you would be).

      Good luck finding something else soon!

    3. Turanga Leela*

      As Sunflower said above, I personally wouldn’t care if your dates were 2006-2012, since that’s a good chunk of time either way. But less than a year, like 2012-2013, is really ambiguous. I’d put in the dates.

    4. Stephanie*

      That could be six months or nearly two years if you omit the months. Big difference. I’d leave the months on.

      1. TheOriginalVagabond*

        That’s exactly what I was telling my sister during our discussion. Is being at a job for less than a year (with a possible gap inbetween) going to reflect poorly on my resume and negatively impact my future job prospects? That’s my real struggle :/

        1. fposte*

          It depends on what else is on your resume. If you have four 5-8 year jobs before that, probably not. If it’s your only job, yes, it will. Somewhere in between = it depends.

        2. A Non*

          It varies depending on what field you’re in, and what your previous jobs look like. I have had several colleagues in the IT world who are highly skilled and excellent employees, who have also had short tenures – even multiple short tenures in a row – as they’re trying to find a good work situation for them. In this field, no-one’s really bothered by that.

          At some point you have to weigh your mental health against the possible ding on your resume. IMHO, mental health wins. There is no prize for sticking it out. Most people you would want to work for are going to understand that bad fits sometimes happen.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            If you are in a field where short stints raise red flags, having one short stint does not raise any flags (or shouldn’t).

            For example (again, not applicable to fields in which short stints are the norm), this would raise red flags for me as a hiring manager:

            2013-Present Company A
            2012-2013 Company B
            2010-2012 Company C
            2009-2010 Company D
            2008-2009 Company E
            2006-2008 Company F
            2005-2006 Company G

            This, however, would not raise any red flags for me:

            2013-Pres Company A
            2010-2013 Company B
            2006-2010 Company C
            2004-2006 Company D

            On the former résumé, I would think (again, in my field and a lot of fields—I know there are fields for which short stints are fine or even desirable) this person is either A) a horrible employee who gets asked nicely to resign / gets fired or B) is an amazing employee that I would invest a lot of training in who would then leave promptly. Neither A) nor B) would be desirable for me.

            On the latter, I would see this person has had solid tenures at a few organizations and probably is just unhappy at her current workplace.

    5. Sunflower*

      The thing with resumes is it seems like if you stray from the standard, you’re putting up more of a red flag than the stuff you’re trying to hide will. Like using a functional resume or omitting dates is throwing up much more of a red flag than having your most recent work experience have ended months ago. When a candidate makes a functional resume, they think ‘great, the manager will see the great things and the bad things they might not notice so much’. But the first thing a hiring manager will actually think is ‘wait something is wrong here’. It’s like you’ve already turned them off before they’ve read anything about you. So I think you end up hurting yourself way more than helping with this stuff

  8. Dan*

    I leave dates off of my education, but do put them on my work history. Not so much because I’m old, but I can get really lazy and not want to finish things. When I list a job I’ve had since 2009, and got my MS 3 years later from a school 500 miles away (took me a few years to finish my thesis), I give the impression that I have an online degree, or otherwise inevitably invite conversation as to the “odd” dates. I really don’t want to spend my interview discussing my lazy streak.

    Not many people have asked about education dates, so I figure I’d get far more questions if I leave the dates on — questions I want to avoid if I can. I also “technically” graduated relatively recently, so I don’t want the work I did do to appear of less significance because I “just” had a BS when I did it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Leaving the dates off education is fine if you’re not a recent grad. (If you graduated in the last ~5 years, it does look weird not to list your graduation year.) It’s pretty typical for people who graduated 15+ years ago not to list the graduation year. (This is different than not listing employment dates though; you must list those.)

      1. De Minimis*

        Would it be different if you have one degree in a vastly different field than the one that is relevant to your work experience?

        I’m just now to the point where I could leave the year off my graduate degree, but I’m wondering if that would raise more questions because my undergraduate degree is in a completely different field—and also I have a pretty significant employment gap in recent years and I wonder if leaving the year off my degree might make it look like I’m trying to hide something. Just not sure what would be more of a problem.

        Could there be a case for leaving the undergraduate degree off completely, or would that also seem weird?

          1. gingersnap*

            Is there ever a legitimate reason for leaving your undergrad degree off? The institution I received my undergrad degree from is in turmoil, and may lose its accreditation and/or close soon- I’d far rather only be judged on my graduate degree from a flagship state university!

            1. De Minimis*

              I think it would just raise too many questions, and it’s probably true that if you have a grad degree that is what employers are going to be looking at.

              I get questions about mine just because the fields seem like opposites, but sometimes I’ve been able to use that as a selling point.

            2. Stephanie*

              I feel like that would raise too many questions because if you got a graduate degree, you had to get an undergraduate degree somewhere. It also seems like the graduate degree from the flagship would mitigate the impact from the undergrad.

              I interned with a guy who went to a middling state university and then went to Stanford for graduate school. He named dropped Stanford at every turn (and barely mentioned the state university undergrad). I’m sure he’d leave off his undergrad if possible.

            3. A.*


              I’m not a hiring manager, but I wouldn’t hold an applicant accountable for his or her alma mater’s current problems. The school was accredited when you graduated; that’s all that should matter.

            4. Blue Anne*

              I think my sister had some similar concerns about her degree from Antioch. She listed it anyway and answered questions as they came up, hasn’t been a problem.

  9. Mimmy*

    #1 – Oops…I have the tendency to do this. Not on cover letters, but on networking emails. I may say “Wakeen Jones suggested I contact you. My name is…”.

    1. Sadsack*

      “Wakeen Jones suggested I contact you,” is a good way to start, but the My Name Is part is redundant since you probable have a closing with your name in it anyway.

  10. Hummingbird*

    I use to write #1 in my cover letters when I first got out of college. But then it dawned on me they can see my name at the top of the letter (with address) and my signature with the typed name under it at the bottom. I stopped doing it, and jumped right into my interest in the position.

    But even then, some people still can’t get my name right.

    Also, do you tell the reader of the cover letter where you saw the position posted? Some websites say “Mention this site in your cover letter.”

    1. Felicia*

      I only mention where I saw the job if the job posting specifically says to do that – and I know it’s not a job site thing, it’s a particular employer thing, because not all job postings have that. I find the “where I saw this position” thing the hardest to naturally work into my resume.

    2. Ash (the other one!)*

      No. It’s promotion for the website. If anything I go and find the actual posting on the company’s website so I can just say “applying to the teapot position advertised on your website.”

      1. Felicia*

        What if the job posting isn’t on the companies website? For jobs I see that say to mention where you saw it, the job posting isn’t on the companies website. And then not all job postings on that job site say to mention where you saw it, so I assume the company must have chosen to have it there? Or else they’d all have it. Usually it’s a job that’s posted on several different sites. Sometimes I’ve even been asked when I was in interviews where I saw the job.

  11. Candy Floss*

    I have a friend who was advised by a career ‘expert’ to leave dates off her resume, because she had been unemployed for 3 years. I thought it was foolish because as a hiring manager, if a resume doesn’t have dates, my first thought is “Where are the dates and why don’t you want me to see them?”

    1. KJR*

      I recently received such a resume. It looked good on the surface (relevant experience, etc.) so I e-mailed the candidate asking for dates. I never received a reply, so he was not contacted for an interview.

    2. Popy*

      As a hiring manager, would you consider someone who had been unemployed for 3 years? What advice would you have for someone who has been out of work for that long or longer for their resume?

      1. KJR*

        That would depend on both the position I was hiring for, and the reason the applicant was unemployed for 3 years. I would need to talk to the applicant to find out more, and wouldn’t automatically discount them I would also be interested to hear if they had been doing other things (volunteering, related course work, etc.) that may have kept their skills updated while they were not in the work world.

      2. Candy Floss*

        For their resume, I’d say go with chronological. My feeling is hiring managers expect that and when they don’t see it, it’s either annoying or a red flag or both. Having a really strong summary at the top can mitigate it a bit. And with the way some online applications work, you’re not going to have a choice anyway with many emplyers.

        I was unemployed for a year about 8 years ago so I would consider someone with a substantial period of unemployment, if everything else about their background was a fit for the role.

        It’s well-documented that there are plenty of companies and hirning manages who consider it a deal breaker though and there’s nothing you can do abotu that and it’s my belief that trying to deflect attention from it by leaving dates off a resume or doing a functional one (rather than chronological) does more harm than good. the hiring managers who wouldn’t consider someone who had been unemployed for a long time aren;t going to be swayed by that and it risks alientating the ones who are open to it.

        Just my two cents :)

  12. RB*

    Every time I see a functional resume with no dates, the theme from Psycho plays in my head.

  13. Susan*

    “Unless that’s the decade you spend as a cabinet official or something, it’s really not relevant to your candidacy at this point.”

    Haha. Allison’s sense of humor is half the reason I read this blog.

    Oh, somewhat related question, just out of curiosity. I helped my dad with his job search a couple years ago because he was completely mystified by the Internet. He did not go to college, so under education it says X High School, 1972. He has 40 years of experience at this point–couldn’t he just leave education off? Or is that just standard? I hope this doesn’t seem rude, but it reminded me of when I used to include GPA, but only had a 3.4 and a friend said maybe I shouldn’t include it as it’s rather average and doesn’t add anything.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      He must take that off! He can remove the entire education section — that’s better than listing high school there. And that would have been true decades ago; it’s not about how much time has passed, but rather about the fact that high school doesn’t belong on your resume.

      1. Jom*

        What about for jobs that require it explicitly?

        How does an applicant know they won’t be rejected from the software because it was scanning for “High School Diploma” and not “B.S University”? Is it appropriate to the company and ask? I know I applied for a position and a worker there asked why I didn’t submit my application and I explained I did. Even though I entered my high school info in the application box, it rejected me because it wasn’t on my resume. I’m afraid to leave it off now.

        1. AVP*

          That is so unusual that I would think it’s more about the company than about you, and would just chalk it up to them being weird (and take it off your resume).

          Unless you’re in a field where high school is particularly relevant, but I can’t think of what that would be.

        2. Onymouse*

          Well that’s just great. One more thing to worry about (however uncommon it may be) Technically I have a Secondary School Diploma, not a High School Diploma.

  14. Once Anon a Time*

    Regarding #1, I know some people said you should start with “My name is…” because they already know your name, but what if they don’t have an application system and you are just sending your resume?

    I respond to a lot of job ads on Craigslist, where they specifically state to forward only a resume (no cover letter). So I follow the instructions and forward my resume without a cover letter, but I always write a short note in the body of my email explaining who I am and what position I am applying for. Is it bad to write something like this?

    Dear Hiring Manager:
    My name is Anon Atime. I would like to be considered as a candidate for your chocolate teapot designer position, as advertised on (Craigslist, Monster, Indeed). For your review, I have attached a copy of my resume. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an interview, please contact me at ——.
    Anon Atime

    Should I still take out the “My name is” line and just start with “I would like to be considered…”?

    1. Once Anon a Time*

      Correction: the first sentence should have said “you should NOT start with”.

    2. Susan*

      My instinct is that this is fine (although I think it would hurt absolutely nothing to cut that sentence too). I think they should be able to get your name from your signature in an email, though. I am a freelancer, and I use Gmail so it’s not like I have a fancy email address. But I think having a signature with your name, title, contact and perhaps a web address for your services/portfolio (if applicable), makes it look more like you’re sending a business letter.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, you still need to take that line out. It’s not used in business communication. Your name is at the bottom of the letter, which is where it belongs.

  15. GrumpyBoss*

    I wonder how many hiring managers even bother with cover letters anymore. If you are still receiving paper resumes, that makes sense. But in the applicant tracking system my company uses, it is such a pain in the butt to go and seek out the cover letter uploaded as an attachment, that I never bother. If you are interesting enough with your experience, even if you are way over or under qualified, I can spare a 15 minute phone call. That tells me way more than a cover letter ever would.

      1. Global Gal*

        The bane of my existence in international development work is that a large portion of online application systems I encounter these days disallow the submission of cover letters!

        Meanwhile, the application system also disallows one from submitting ones own CV (i.e., resume for Americans) that one would have structures surely per AAM’s wise advice. Inteade, the app creates its own auto-CV for you, after you input things (which, if you do a lot of consulting work, totally wraps your info into confusing knots when you typically work with multiple clients. This, instead of allowing applicants to submit a clear, concise resume structured for clarity such that the organization of ones consulting work is in some logical framework.

        Then, too (adding further annoyance for applicants,) when one is an expert in a particular field and is (per professional norms,) say, researching and writing books, doing speaking tours (at relevant, prestigious institutions,) etc., throughout one’s career, the online application system forces these normal, expected (per maintaining one’s stature as an “expert” in a particular area) work scenarios as little micro-jobs, making one look as though job-hopping, randomly—rather than having a normal career—which, in my line of work, should ideally incorporate those things.

        If I could at least include a cover letter, in one or 2 sentences I could clarify things. *Sigh*

        1. Diane*

          YES! I’ve been applying to jobs (my company is shutting down next month), and I cannot tell you how many times I come across online applications that do not allow a cover letter. Its gotten to the point that I no longer do a custom cover letter before going through the application process. If there’s a field, I will gladly pause and write one and go back and include it. Horrible, horrible online applications.

          1. Eudora Wealthy*

            If the application system gives you the opportunity to submit your resume as a pdf file (but not your cover letter), you could append the cover letter to the resume and submit both as one file. It seems like some hiring managers would appreciate your ingeniousness in getting that through HR’s rigid system. OTOH, perhaps it violates the rule about not giving them what they don’t ask for?

    1. Rayner*

      Then you have a terrible application system, if it penalizes or prevents you from reading cover letters.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I absolutely do not disagree. I hate the system. I have to click onto about 15 other screens to get to the attachments.

    2. H. Rawr*

      I may not read thoroughly in my first round of review (if you are a high schooler applying for an analyst position, I’m pretty confident I can skip right to the “thanks, but no thanks” email. Past that, though, cover letters are fully reviewed. I’m rarely excited about a candidate without getting a feel for them in their own voice. Even in our cumbersome system, opening a cover letter is significantly easier than calling an applicant, and probably gives me a lot of the info I’d want from that 15 minute phone call.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Any jobs I’ve applied to that have had applicant tracking systems have made me apply after fact. I usually apply with a résumé and cover letter, and then later in the process, the hiring manager says “Can you fill out this online application, too?”

    4. Robin*

      When I was helping an org with hiring, you would not believe how many beautiful, immaculate, lovely resumes I received that were accompanied by cover letters with obvious typos, that named the wrong org, or were just so poorly written as to be almost unreadable. So yes, cover letters matter. A lot of people have resumes that have been reviewed and polished, but cover letters can give you a much better insight into what kind of writer they are.

  16. PizzaSquared*

    I have another date- and gap-related question.

    I had a job about eight years ago, for about a year and a half (call it “Company X”). While my reasons for taking it seemed sensible at the time, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. So after a year and a half I actually returned to my previous employer (“Company Y”). All in all I worked for Company Y for almost 9 years, but it was broken into two chunks.

    I had a friend review my resume recently, and he suggested removing the Company X. It looks kind of “out of character” (it was a different industry than I’ve worked in before or after, and while the title was similar to others I’ve had, the responsibilities were pretty different). I agree, in the sense that I have gotten many questions about that job, why I took it, why I left, basically people being puzzled about it. I have good answers to those questions, but it makes me wonder how many people see it and don’t even bother calling me to ask.

    However, I’m afraid that even WITH detailed dates on my resume, leaving Company X out might make it look like I’m trying to mislead people into thinking I worked at Company Y continuously. Or alternatively, they may wonder what I’m trying to hide in that gap.

    So, am I correct in my belief that the downsides of removing Company X are greater than the downsides of leaving it on? (I can’t really just truncate the resume at the job after that one, because it would remove a lot of still relevant and important experience.)

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      You said your “reasons for taking [the job at Company X] seemed sensible at the time,” so why not just say what those reasons were, when asked? Or even just tell prospective employers what you just told us—that you returned to Company Y because it was a better fit?

      I’ve had a very bizarre series of jobs, and when I’ve interviewed for jobs, I always get questions. What’s most important is that you have answers, some kind of narrative (hopefully truthful) that ties the pieces all together.

      1. PizzaSquared*

        I do say what they were when asked. My concern (and the concern my friend brought up) is that it may cause people to not even bother considering me, and thus not give me the opportunity to explain. I’m not sure that’s the case, and before this thread I’d dismissed the advice without too much thought. But the more I read about people bypassing resumes because of vague red flags (which I admit I also have done as a hiring manager), the more I second-guess myself.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I can’t speak for everyone involved in hiring, but I wouldn’t take it as a red flag, unless Company X is ideologically opposed to the company you’re applying for a job at.

        2. fposte*

          Wow, I think it’s pretty unlikely that anybody would ding you for a year-and-a-half stint at a different company eight years ago. People get lured back to previous employers all the time. You wouldn’t hold that against somebody who applied to you, would you?

  17. Jubilance*

    I’ve always done #1 when I write cover letters, which isn’t often (mostly cause every job I’ve had I’ve gotten without a cover letter, and also I’m lazy). Whoops!

    1. fposte*

      I would say it’s not something that’s going to cause deep damage, because it’s still common enough that you’ve got cover; it’s more that it’s kind of young and unsophisticated and that it’s better to start out stronger.

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      In which case you must put, “My name is Marshall Mathers aka Eminem aka Slim Shady aka the REAL Slim Shady (please stand up).”

      Couldn’t resist.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Seriously, I’ve had this in my head all afternoon since reading this post.

        Hi my name is, what? My name is, who? My name is, chka-chka Slim Shady Hi my name is, huh? My name is, what? My name is, chka-chka Slim Shady. . .

        1. Candy Floss*

          Ditto! I want to apply for a job now so I can start my letter with Hi, my name is what?

  18. Canadamber*

    So just how big of an employment barrier is age, anyway? My mom is in her late 40’s, and she’s having trouble finding another job, but what about for those in their, say, 30’s or 50’s? When does it really start?


    1. De Minimis*

      Some fields traditionally are younger and at that point I think discrimination can start being an issue if you’re over 30.

      1. Anx*

        Good grief.

        I’ll be lucky if I can even start a career by my 30s. This is not what I needed to read today.

        1. De Minimis*

          It’s really just a handful of fields, I think….tech startups, some [but not all] professional services firms….the common element being an expectation that people will be willing to work long hours for not a whole lot of pay considering the time being put in. The perception is that younger people will be more willing to make their lives revolve around work.

        2. Lizzy*

          It helps to learn organization culture ahead of time, so if you can uncover that type of information when doing your research; it will save you the headache. I find that these type of “Logan’s Run” cultures persist in trendy districts of major cities — i.e. I live in Chicago, so you see youth-dominant workplaces in areas like River North or Wicker Park. If you can apply at workplaces that value diversity versus a more homogenous environment, again this will make it easier when you apply for jobs.

          As Di Minimis points out, this type of recruiting can be conducive to certain fields. My last contract job was at an investment bank last year, and almost all the private capital managers were under 30 (most hired right out of college). They work long hours and the pay was less than market value (they do get excellent bonuses though). I have also heard that some corporate law firms hire fresh-out-school 25-29 year olds because there is an unspoken need to indoctrinate them when they are younger for a.) long-term investment and b.) to teach them hierarchies and knowing their place.

          I am 28 and I abhor these environments. At the rate my job search is going, I likely won’t land my preferred work until 30 (I do freelance and contract work), so I do my research ahead of time on LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Unfortunately, I look younger than my age (unfortunate in this instance), so recruiters often try to place me in these trendy, “fun” boutique environments assuming I will fit in. Heck, even at 22, I doubt I could see myself fitting in.

          1. Anx*

            I’m at the same age, and I agree….I doubt I could ever match what they were looking for even at 22.

            That’s a really tip about looking into culture in terms of age diversity.

            I have a hard time being surrounded exclusively with peers, because I feel like I’m trying to fit in at the cool kids’ table. And I have a hard time when there are no other people in my generation around, as I get very uncomfortable when I inadvertently start shaking things up and drawing the ire of all the soon-to-retires who just want to coast.

            1. Felicia*

              A lot of those environments where the employees skew really young , like no one is even over 30, tend to feel a lot like the “cool kids table” , and not just because they’re all young. It’s more than they go with a culture of forced team “fun”, and things like ping pong tables and foosball.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      It does go both ways. I am someone who looks roughly 20 years younger than I really am. Some women would say that it is a good problem to have, but it has caused me some serious issues when I interview. I have seen the look of disappointment on people’s faces when I show up to an interview. Their body language just screams, “Great, she’s just a kid”. I’m in my 40s and I’m finding it slightly easier now because I don’t look like a teenager anymore, but I don’t look like the experience on my resume.

      Seems to me that most companies want someone who is currently, and will perpetually remain, 35.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, this exactly. I’m 28 but get mistaken for a high school student periodically (yay chubby face) and college student all the time. Looking youthful isn’t really a benefit if you’re trying convey experience. At past jobs, we had casual dress. I usually tried to be a little dressier to compensate.

      2. Anx*

        It’s rough. It’s not a great problem to have because when you look young for your age it’s not always about flawless skin.

        For me it’s totally bone structure. I have fine lines, yellowing teeth, drying skin, hair that doesn’t grow as fast as it used to…but my baby face is the more noticeable feature and it’s very difficult to project any sort of authority while being ‘little girl’d. When I’m 50 I’ll still have wrinkles and dry skin and probably advanced rosacea so I’m not exactly thrilled about this.

  19. literateliz*

    I’ve never done this in a cover letter, but I’ve done it plenty in other professional communication and now I’m cringing! The most recent was earlier this week when I emailed the instructor of an online seminar to introduce myself, but I also regularly say it when making contact with potential freelancers. I guess since I’m offering them work rather than vice versa, they’re not likely to nitpick my phrasing, but I still feel like a dork, haha. At least now I know!

    1. literateliz*

      oh, and by “this” I mean the “My name is…”; clearly my embarrassment is such that I forgot there were other topics in the post

    2. CollegeAdmin*

      I’ve started with “My name is…” in professional communications as well – you’re not alone! I particularly did it when I started at my current job because I didn’t know anyone (and no one knew me).

      Example: “Hi Wakeen, My name is CollegeAdmin, and I’m DisorganizedBoss’ assistant. I’m looking to arrange a meeting for the two of you….” I figure it’s not the end of the world, since I’m not trying to make a stellar impression (as I would for a cover letter).

      Actually, I think this would work if someone didn’t sign their emails (e.g., “Best, CollegeAdmin”) but just ended them with “Thanks” or something similar so their name wasn’t repeated – I’ve seen some people do this. (But still included a (small!) email signature because they’re useful.)

      1. samaD*

        see….I like that phrasing for this type of communication because it mimics the conversation you’d have in person/on the phone and gives me what I need to know in the first two lines: who you are and why you’re contacting me.

  20. Anonylicious*

    I’ve spent my career in and/or working with the military, and it always makes me cringe when I hear someone says “My name is (Rank) So-and-So.” No! You *are* (Rank) So-and-So, but your parents did not name you Sergeant, or Captain, or whatever. (Unless they did, in which case they were just cruel.)

    1. fposte*

      Oh, interesting–that’s an old-school rule that I just love, and I didn’t realize that the military kept it alive.

    2. Future Bureaucrat?!*

      Well, there was Sargent Shriver… which is a mis-spelling of Sergeant.

  21. Future Bureaucrat?!*

    I’m applying for a job with a municipality, and I know one of the city council members. I’m thinking of starting my letter with “Councilmember (Jane Doe) and I were discussing the challenges facing the City of (Anytown)…” – Good idea? Or horrible idea? (I’d be working right under the city manager.

    1. Black Bart*

      It’s a horrible idea. It’s name-dropping and makes you look like you are trying to put yourself close to a circle of power to which you have not rightfully gained access – and anyone doing the hiring will see it this way. Plus, if somehow the person doing the hiring does not like that Councilman’s policies, you are done.

  22. Jill 2*

    I have a weird situation about dates and job listings. After two years at my first job out of college, I felt I was “supposed” to move on from the job and got hired elsewhere. I HATED it at the new place. During the same time, my old company restructured, and they hired me back six months after I left into a promoted position with higher pay. I ended up staying there another 3 years, and moved on from that company for good two years ago.

    My question is, when can I drop off the six month stint from my resume? I always use the month, date format, and have never left the 6 month stint off of my resume. But I feel like I was at my first company for five full years (which, I was), and the other job feels like such a blip. I suppose 10 years from now, it really will be. Should I wait another decade before dropping it?

    I’ll be honest, I think it makes me look stronger to have five years at one place, instead of two, 6 months elsewhere, and then three years back. But I don’t want to lie or be dishonest either.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Kai*

      I think it’d be perfectly fine to leave off the six-month job at this point, and just list the other job with consecutive dates like:

      1/2002-1/2004, 7/2004-6/2007 (or whatever)

      But since it was a promoted position, could you instead list them as two totally separate jobs, even though it was within the same company?

      1. Jill 2*

        That’s actually what I do now, and since I use months, it feels weird to me to leave a 6 month gap in there. Maybe I could list the overall date range for the employer, and leave out dates for each position there (I ended up being promoted twice)?

        Actually, that doesn’t seem right either. I feel like if I drop the 6-month stint and leave a gap, I’ll get questions, but if I include the job with no gaps, I look flaky. Not sure which is better.

        1. Onymouse*

          Can you list it as:

          STARK INDUSTRIES, Gotham City 2002-2007
          Teapot Lead, 7/2004 – 6/2007
          Teapot Polisher, 1/2002 – 1/2004

          Still a gap (which you could fill by listing the other job underneath), but the first thing people see is the 5 years at 1 company.

    1. James M*

      Hi, my name is Prince Billybob and I need your help rescuing my $35 million inheritance out of Africanistan.

      Yup, exactly.

    2. Stephanie*

      The spammers keep up with current events. When Nelson Mandela died, I received one starting “My name is…” saying I was entitled to $1.5 million from the LATE NELSON MANDELA FUND (sic).

  23. Stephanie*

    Do you need to have a salutation for a cover letter? (This assumes I don’t have the name for a hiring manager already). I always thought “Dear Hiring Manager” sounded a little hokey.

    The science museum had a resume/job hunting workshop for the volunteers (since most are HS or college students). The presenter was like “And you must always find the name of the hiring manager for your cover letter or they will think you’re lazy.” That seems like bad advice.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, you need a “dear ___” of some sort. That presenter was repeating BS info that she’d picked up from somewhere else and which is widely repeated and flat-out wrong.

      “Dear hiring manager” is really fine; no one is analyzing it beyond just registering that you opened appropriately.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, the whole presentation was kind of exasperating and full of bad advice. I felt a little bad that some of these students were going to get all stressed out trying to the name of a hiring manager in some Fortune 100 company (among other things).

  24. Eudora Wealthy*

    “I am Spartacus.” That would be one of the very few times when it would be appropriate to start a cover letter by declaring your name–if indeed you were actually Spartacus!

    With regard to the 2-3 years experience versus 10+ years… I’ve seen so so so so many positions advertised requiring a bachelor’s degree and then they hired someone with a master’s, or required a master’s and they hired someone with a PhD… it just seems like being overqualified is the new normal and that having far too much experience isn’t as awful as is proposed here by Alison. Surely it depends on the city and the industry? Or not?

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah, exactly. Overqualified does seem to be the new normal. Academic jobs especially seem to love additional degrees that aren’t specified in a posting.

    2. A.*

      Completely anecdotal, but I’ve found a lot of jobs listed in my area have explicitly listed either “1-3 years” or “5 years” on the listings. I’ve also seen a ton of part-time positions being listed as unpaid internships, especially since it’s summer and the college kids are out. In what world is a 25-30 hour a week position an internship? Employers just don’t want to pay anybody.

    3. Sharm*

      I see this all the time too, and so I also question (to a degree) what I’ve seen Alison and others say here. I’m considering graduate school (well, business school) for that reason. Maybe compared to 10 or 15 years ago, the relative boost in pay for a grad degree isn’t what it was, but being employed is better than nothing at all.

      And many jobs I find interesting list is as a preferred qualification, so I think that’s my answer right there.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, but you’re talking education, not experience. Having 10 years of experience when a job posting asks for 2-3 says that you’re not sufficiently junior for the role to be the right match. Having a masters when the job posting asks for a bachelor’s doesn’t indicate anything about how experienced/junior/senior you are — it’s just about your educational background. It’s a different thing.

    5. Black Bart*

      I call the phenomenon that you mention Eudora the “golden unicorn”. A golden unicorn is a candidate for a job who has a PhD, a Master’s, speaks three languages, has written 12 white papers published in peer-reviewed journals, is built like a super-model, plays the clarinet in the London Symphony Orchestra recreationally, owns their own hedge fund, and has never been late to work or sneezed – ever.

      Employers think that things are SO bad out there that the hiring process has become like a Roman slave auction where employees are placed on a block while their handlers hock their best features to the wealthy merchants who want to buy them and then make them fight to the death in the gladiator’s arena.

      The problem with the Golden Unicorn is that he is the 2nd cousin to cold fusion, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and everything else that doesn’t exist. He was conjured, made up, wizarded into existence by a bunch of corporate analysts and bean counters who think that these horrible economic circumstances give them the dearth to socially engineer their companies with only the super alphas of the pack.

      Employers need to learn that they are passing up TONS of GREAT people all the time by questing for the Golden Unicorns.

  25. Sharm*

    All the talk of “My name is,” is making me flash back to Eminem’s Slim Shady.

    Just me?

    1. mess*

      I was thinking of rewriting my cover letter to start with something like, “my name is Maggie and I’m here to say–your search is over ‘cuz you’re gonna hire me today!” And maybe make the rest of my cover letter rhyme too:

      I’ve got 10 years experience in marketing and comms
      My tweets are legit and my blog posts are bomb!

  26. Mimco*

    Question on leaving “old” experience off a resume. My experience in the 1970’s thru early 1990’s is all management related, in my field. After that all of my experience is clinical. If I am looking for a management related job wouldn’t I want to include it? Management experience doesn’t really get outdated, does it?

    1. Ruffingit*

      I think management experience can definitely get outdated especially as the workplace changes so much. Office cultures and norms have changed since the early 90s and definitely since the 70s of course. Managing is often done in an entirely different way now. People manage via Skype and email more than they do in-person sometimes and that is a completely different way of relating to your subordinates than being on site. That’s just one example.

      I think you can keep some of the management experience on your resume, but I don’t know that I’d go as far back as the 70s. That was 40 years ago, I think you’d want something more updated. You also need to be able to discuss why you went from management to clinical and why you want to come back to management. Highlight any managerial duties that you might have had while doing clinical work just so you can show you’re still in the game. The 1990s was 20 years ago, which is a lifetime in a lot of places. They are going to want to know that you can step into the managerial side of things and hit the ground running. Remember that you’re competing with people for these jobs who have recent management experience so do what you can to show you can to be competitive with them.

  27. Kenzo*

    How about when job postings are listing 2-3 years’ experience but you have say, 1 year experience. But you know that 1 year experience is so hands-on that you could fulfill the job, no problem. Should you apply? How would you express your knowledge, ambition and passion?

  28. mPD*

    Having worked in HR for a short period of time I was noticing #4 more and more and disqualified those resumes immediately. It had nothing to do with age and everything to do with the fact that I felt the applicant was lying about something.

  29. Black Bart*

    I disagree about your comment regarding starting cover letters with “My name is…”. You are totally making up that it means that the writer is juvenile. What is probably more likely the case is that the writer does not know the reader, so he is introducing himself. You saying that it sounds like the writer is 10 years old is reading something into that phrase that is not there. I have written TONS of cover letters starting off like that and I have been steadily, professionally employed since 2001. So, to quote the Princess Bride “These words…. I do not think they mean what you think they mean….”

  30. I.M. Bananas*

    *sigh* I’m guilty of leaving dates off of my resume. I’m forty, and have only worked part-time for the past five years. I spent the last decade or so raising my children. I was afraid I was being discriminated against, so in an effort to get more interviews, I took off the dates and…I started getting more interviews. So far, I haven’t been offered anything, and of the jobs I’ve been offered, I wasn’t satisfied with the terms. So really, what should I do? Continue to leave off the dates, or put them back in?

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