At first glance, it seems unfair: no one would expect an editor to build a website in order to prove that she has the chops to catch stray commas, but woe betide the software developer who submits a resume with a typo in it. In this era of instantaneous results and 24/7 availability, is it really reasonable for hiring managers to expect perfection in terms of punctuation, spelling, and so on?
Cover letters have been with us for more than 500 years, since Leonardo da Vinci sent one to the Duke of Milan in 1482, enumerating his many talents. More surprising than the fact that we have Leonardo to thank for yet another invention? The realization that his letter, the first of its kind in history as far as we know, still has a lot to teach us about how to write this tricky document.
There are a lot of contenders for "worst part of the job search process," but writing cover letters has to be right up there at the top of the list. Trying to hook hiring managers' attention without sounding like a caricature of a used car salesman or just regurgitating your resume is a challenge worthy of early-Mad Men Don Draper. So how can you get their attention, without feeling cheesy or wasting everyone's time?
No one would advise a job applicant to share the personal details or his or her life when angling for a job. But there's one area in which getting personal really makes a difference in terms of your odds of getting hired, and that's the cover letter. In short, you better seem like you know something about the company, or your resume is probably going to get tossed in the trash.