The Mentorist


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You Have 30 Seconds to Catch That Fish: Writing Good Cover Letters

The 30-something lawyer sitting across from me in Starbucks wanted a new job. Let me revise that to read “…really, really wanted….”

Asking for my critique, he proudly handed over a copy of his resume. All well and good.

But when I offered to review a copy of his accompanying cover letter, he looked back blankly: A career adviser had once told him that cover letters should be limited to two or three terse and neutral sentences – just enough to explain that the sender’s resume was attached. According to this adviser, a cover letter can never enhance your chances of being hired; rather, it can only hurt them.

I’ve not heard of a career adviser being sued for malpractice, but this person would make a terrific test case.

Cover letters can make or break your chances of getting a job interview. Think of them as the equivalent of walking onto the Apollo Theater’s stage on Amateur Night: If your cover letter doesn’t pique the reader’s interest in the first 30 seconds, “The Executioner” is going to sweep it — and your resume — into the trash bin.

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