The Worst Cover Letter in Eight Years

I’ve been an executive recruiter for eight years.  I have read probably hundreds, if not thousands, of cover letters.  Up until a day or so ago, the worst I had received were a blank cover letter (the resume was sent without the sender writing a word!)  and one that said, and I quote, “Here’s my resume. Call me.  123-456-7890.” Then I received the following cover letter. (The underlined phrases are hyperlinks.  I have removed any identifying references.)

Dear Bruce Hurwitz

It’s been awhile since we’ve touched bases so I’m following up. If you recall I’m for looking Internet Marketing opportunities.  Attached a copy of my resume which details my 35 years of my on-line (SEO,SEM,PPC & Social Media) marketing experience in word format as well as a PDF of my LinkedIn profile such you may have quick access to my credentials. I upgrade my LinkedIn profile constantly. My references are there too. Click on the LinkedIn icon below to see the latest updates and references.

Should you come across an opportunity that matches my skill sets I would love to hear from you! I can be easily be found by searching the term “Director of XYZ” on any internet platform (Google, Bing, AOL, MSN) in the world usually #1 in the returned search results. Very familiar with Google local search with many top listings here’s more.  Google Local Search. I do LinkedIn profiles as well. Want to be listed first in your vertical? Achieve LinkedIn Top Listings  I can help.

Search is losing traction to Social Media. I have experience with SM as well. My list of social media services I built for clients over the years.  My Social Media Services.  If you want to know more about Social Media here’s a good presentation that cover’s the basics Social Media Presentation with Nielsen Data  

I’m just a click away, looking forward to hearing from you. If you have questions I have answers.

 Best regards

“Mary”

Let’s play a game. How many typos and grammatical errors can you find?  I found 12.

So why is this one so egregious?

The purpose of a cover letter is to get the recipient to read the resume.  Both the cover letter and resume represent the sender.  I don’t know this woman.  She lives thousands of miles away and it is doubtful we would ever meet.  So all I have to gauge her professionalism by is her e-mail and its attachments.

General rule of thumb; if the cover letter is sloppy the person’s work will be sloppy.  Guess what?  Executive recruiters do not submit sloppy people to their clients.  So the cover letter failed to accomplish its goal.  I did not bother to even open the attached resume, let alone read it.  (I also was not comfortable clicking on the hyperlinks.)

But forget about the errors and look at the content.  It is 2011.  I readily admit that I am not very good at math, but 2011 minus 35 is 1976.  There is no way that this person has 35 years “on-line marketing experience.”  While she may have computer experience dating back to the late 70s, there was no “on-line marketing” until well into the 80s.

So added to sloppy is inaccuracy regarding experience.

Note the claim of a first place Google rating.  Guess what.  Not true.  “Mary” came up second!  Very impressive, except that it is her website which happens to be the search phrase.  It would be pretty difficult not to come up on top.

Moreover, a high Google listing is not necessarily a good thing.  All it means is that the person, company, product, what-have-you, has the most references on the Web.  For example, a year or so ago a woman here in New York purchased eye glasses from a company she found on the Web.  Problem was, the company was run by a crook.  The reason for the high ranking was that there were many on-line complaints about the owner.  The victim admitted that she did not bother to do anything more than simply click on the first link that appeared.  She assumed that a high ranking of Google was a positive reflection on the company.  It wasn’t.

So, if “Mary” had said that she had a top Google ranking if “Internet Marketing Specialist” or “SEO Consultant” was the search term, that would be impressive.  Having her website come up on top means very little.  Guess what?  If you Google “hsstaffing,” my website, it comes up Number One!  Big deal.

It’s a similar story about the implications of appearing at the top of a LinkedIn search.  “Mary” has about 2,600 first degree contacts.  When she does a search, the basis is those 2,600 individuals.  Since the search phrase “Director of XYZ” is rather special, she will most certainly come up at the top, or near the top, of a search.  However, my network has over 25,500 first degree contacts.  A search of my network shows that I have 17 first degree contacts with the term “Director of XYZ” in it; 877 second degree contacts; 189 Group contacts; and 966 third degree and all others.  Since she is now a second degree contact, the highest rank she could be is eighteenth.   But the term is so rare that it only appears in eight percent of my network’s profiles.  In a search of the term “Internet Marketing Specialist” or “SEO Consultant,” which are more likely to be the terms used by someone searching for someone who can help them with their Internet presence, “Mary” does not come up in the first 100 responses on my network.

In other words, if you use a rare phrase for a Google of LinkedIn search, you will come up at or near the top of the results.  But if the phrase is so rare that no one will be likely to use it – and no one is likely to use the phrase she suggests – it means nothing.  So her claims of professional success are meaningless.

Remember, recruiters work for their clients, not their candidates.  It’s not my job to find a job for this woman.  It’s my job to find the best candidates for my clients.  I would not be doing my job if I did not read cover letters and resumes with a critical eye.  Granted, I usually will make a few corrections.  After all, we all make mistakes.  But when it is this bad, it cannot be ignored.

To reiterate:   When you apply for a job, you are not standing in front of the recipient of the cover letter and resume.  You do not physically represent yourself.  The cover letter and resume are your representatives.  If they are sloppy the only conclusion a recruiter can draw is that you are sloppy.  And recruiters do not submit sloppy candidates to their clients.  Period.

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