Earlier this year, Task & Purpose released a job listing for a Digital Engagement Editor listing. While we received a lot of applications, two weeks into the candidate search, we wanted to punch somebody. We got way too many applications that used copy-and-paste cover letters.
Perhaps the biggest single mistake you can make in that initial introduction email is to have a generic copy-and-paste cover letter.
Let’s be clear, in your application, the cover letter is not a formality. It is a vital chance to introduce yourself to the hiring manager or whoever is viewing your resume, hunting for that perfect candidate. If you do not mention anything about the company, the job posting, or how you fit into it, you will be ignored.
Here’s an example of a real cover letter we received, one of about a dozen like this. I’ve redacted identifying information:
There is only one unique reference to this job in this email: the words “Digital Engagement Editor.” Other than that, and a couple glancing references to journalism, everything else here is so generic and vague that it could be an attempt to gain employment at any number of office-environment jobs.
That shotgun-style approach where you mostly copy and paste and send out 20 applications an hour may seem like a great idea, but it fools no one. And no one will reply to you. You’re wasting your time and you’re wasting my time applying to jobs this way.
“I’m certain my experience is a great fit for your requirements?” I promise there is not a hiring manager in the world who feels special and unique when they read that sentence. It is painfully obvious the person who wrote this has no idea what the requirements are, and their skills are not a good fit for them.
A good cover letter should include the name of the company throughout. It should refer to specific language in the job posting and include details about how this person’s background applies to what the job listing is looking for. That extra 20 minutes of work would have definitely resulted in this person getting invited in for an interview.
The truth is that there are no shortcuts in the job search. You need to be aggressive, but also have incredible attention to detail. The same traits that made you an effective service member will make you an effective job seeker and eventual employee.
This article has been modified from its original version, which was published on Task & Purpose, the veterans news and culture site powered by Hirepurpose.