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Cover-letter Caution: Don’t Make a Costly Mistake


The average job-search consists of dozens—even hundreds—of applications sent before securing a position. (At the extreme end, Google has been noted to be exponentially harder to get into than Harvard, hiring less than 1% of applicants.) The sheer volume of résumés and cover-letters makes it high-risk for mistakes. It can be tempting to become a copy-and-paste Quick Draw McGraw, hitting every posted position with your stock wording. This can can have results that are ineffective at best and catastrophic at worst.

Companies receive hordes of applications for each posting, only 20% of those, on average, resulting in an interview. You are not helping yourself stand out by using language generic enough that it applies to multiple positions. The need for customization now extends to résumés as well, with many companies using software to screen résumés for keywords correlated to jobs.

Let’s not forget every applicant’s worst nightmare, daily realized in every HR department: a cover-letter directed to the wrong company, assuring the hiring manager that you would love to work for their competitor. What should you do if you accidentally miss a salutation when updating a cover-letter? It may be a gaffe you can’t recover from, but lying will only exacerbate the problem. Most companies will appreciate and respect your honesty if you come clean and apologize upon discovering your error.

We want to hear from you! Have you ever done this? What was the outcome? Join us on social media to share your war stories.

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