Don’t Do This to Your Cover Letter!

Woman looking shocked with hands over mouth.

When applying for a position online, employers usually require a cover letter be attached.  Typically, they will indicate the type of file format in which the cover letter is to be submitted. Often, Microsoft Word is one of several acceptable file formats.

Why Cover Letters?

Cover letters are useful to employers for a number of reasons.  Typically, cover letters enhance the basic information found on a resume. Also, a cover letter may be viewed as a sample of the person’s ability to write professionally.  On the flip side, failure to include a cover letter or other items as directed can imply something else. This will likely be read that the candidate does not follow instructions very well or pay attention to detail. In fact, if any required files are missing, the employer may just reject the application.

Everyone Wants to Look Good

Because a cover letter may form the employer’s first impression of you, it should, of course, be well-written. Thus, wise candidates will often have friends or mentors review their cover letters and resumes. Many times this may be done via email and with the “track changes” or comments features of Microsoft Word (or other software) switched on. This enables their trusted reviewers to read and then suggest changes right on the document itself. They might spot errors in grammar or suggest wording changes which could improve the items. Sounds like a good idea, right?


Therein, however, also exists a potential booby-trap.  At times, I have opened cover letter files only to find the track changes or comments feature still active!  So, what happens then? In this situation, I am not viewing not a finely-tuned and polished cover letter as the applicant might think. No, instead I see not only the original document – errors and all – plus all changes suggested by the reviewers! This includes comments like “beef up this part” and “fix your grammar here.” Oops…

What impression is this likely to leave with a potential employer? First, it might mean the applicant has really poor Microsoft Word skills; otherwise, this wouldn’t have happened. Second, perhaps this goof was simply an oversight. However, even that indicates the writer may be careless or does not pay attention to detail.  Finally, the text of the raw, unedited, original document could show the applicant’s unassisted writing skills are… well, terrible. I am sure if the candidate knew what had happened, he or she would likely be horribly embarrassed!

How to Avoid This

So, what can you do to avoid such a disaster? First, if you’re going to have others review your documents (which is a good thing) and use such word processor features make sure you really know how to use them properly. Second, pay attention to detail and test the final document before submitting it with your application. For example, send the final modified version to someone else first. Have them open the file and verify that it is indeed a “clean” copy. This way, the employer will only see what you want them to see: a well-written, polished document!

Agree? Disagree? Share your experience or thoughts?
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Featured image courtesy of RobbinHiggins-Pixabay 

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