My mom and I had an argument this week. I was complaining that I just wish someone would know how wonderfully qualified I am and give me a job. I told her that it feels like people get interviews based on these silly documents such as cover letters and resumes rather than the skills and qualifications they possess. “It just sucks knowing that I am a qualified candidate. Shouldn’t potential employers just know that?” My mom told me I was being dramatic and ridiculous. She’s probably right.
Let me provide some context. The day before my mom scolded me for my immaturity, I had applied to 5 different jobs. I think this puts my tally somewhere near 12. I was particularly excited about one job opportunity so I made sure my cover letter was perfect. I read, reread, re-re-read and re-re-re-read until I felt completely secure with what I had written. “I totally got this,” I confidently told myself. So, I attached the documents to my e-cover letter, clicked send and felt a sense of accomplishment.
Just to make sure everything was right, I re-opened my sent cover letter once more…
I started at the top of the cover letter this time. I read over my name and address. Then, I saw it. March 5, 2009. Two thousand nine. It’s not like it’s January when that type of mistake might be acceptable. It’s March. March 5, 2010.
I spent so much time looking at the body of my cover letter that I neglected to double-check the standard formalities at the top. When I realized this, my standard defense mechanism kicked in. “I bet it’s not even a big deal that I made those errors. Are cover letters necessary? What’s the purpose? Aren’t they going to choose a candidate based on his/her qualifications? I’m never going to get a job. Etc. etc. etc.”
That’s when my mom yelled at me. And, I defended myself. I think I cried, too. Then, I thought about it. So, it was one application that I made a mistake on. And yes, they are probably going to notice that mistake, realize that this person does not give enough attention to detail and might not call me in for an interview. But again, it was one application, and there will probably be 100 more where that came from. Donald Asher, in his book, How to Get Any Job: Life Launch and Re-launch for Everyone Under 30, says “you need one hundred [job] leads so you can make mistakes. You need so many job leads so you don’t have to worry about totally blowing an interview. So you don’t freak out when you realize you’ve sent them a letter with a typo in it.”
At least, I learned an important lesson. Triple-check your cover letters and then take a step away and check them again later. If you can get a friend or colleague to read them over–even better. Be open to advice from others, even if it stings at first. Don’t stress too much if you make a silly mistake on a cover letter. Just make sure you correct it for the next application you send out.
Sara is graduating from the University of Delaware with a Master of Arts in College Counseling in Higher Education this May. She has worked in many functional areas of higher education including career services, admissions, orientation and development. Her ultimate goal would be to work in career services or admissions at a college or university. Connect with Sara on Twitter or Linkedin.