Things NOT to say on your resume cover letter

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been collecting resumes for a Senior Accountant at Fairwinds. This person is going to handle a bunch of the accounting work that I used to do in my previous position, allowing me to free up some time to focus on higher level accounting tasks, supporting and directing the IT, and strategic planning and measure development. I'm really looking forward to getting someone on staff to help out, as I've done nothing but wrack up extra hours since September when I was promoted. There are a variety of reasons why we haven't brought someone on staff over the past few months, which I can't discuss, but we're now at the point were I have to get this done.

As is always the case when receiving resumes, I've picked up some doosies. This time around, I actually ended up with very few under-qualified candidates, (unusual that,) and about a half dozen who look like they actually might fit the bill.

Naturally, some stick out. And while I'm aware that this is important, some stick out for the wrong reasons. So for anyone who is job hunting, here's some tips based on cover letters that I really did receive:

  • Send your resume in a generally accepted format. (Hint, Microsoft Works is NOT a generally accepted format!) The most common I've seen are Word (.doc), PDF or just in the body of the email.
  • When I email you to say that your resume did not come through in a readable format, don't send it back with the (entire) message "Chow for now". First off, Ciao is not the action of eating. Secondly, when applying for an accounting position, (or any other position, IMO,) this is not acceptable use of language. Try being professional about this. I'd suggest: "I'm sorry the attachment didn't come through, and have attached a new copy for your review. I look forward to discussing it with you in more detail."
  • Don't tell me you have a hot wife. I really don't care.
  • Don't tell me that you have a swimming pool. I really don't care.
  • Don't tell me that you are in perfect physical condition. I really don't care, and I also don't believe you.
  • Don't tell me that you you want to work seven days per week. That's not healthy, and is actually suspicious. When auditing, we actually make sure that people actually take vacation time, as this means that someone else has to cover their job while they are gone. This can show where fraud is taking place, as the perpetrator is not there to continue covering it up.
  • Don't tell me you are a millionaire. I really don't care, and don't believe you. (I also make it a policy to hire people who actually need their job.)
  • Don't send me a cover letter that says your career aspiration is to work for another company. I want to hire someone who wants to be here, not someone who wants to be somewhere else.
  • Know how the online resume tools you use actually work. If you post your resume in a job search engine, give me your CAREER aspirations. It is quite possible that the company you want to work for won't pick up on your resume, and the agency may just email it to me. (Then see above.)
  • Don't tell me that you are a 10 out of 10 in any software application. You're not. And if you're careless enough to say it about Excel, I'll teach you that you're not when you're in the interview. (Nicely, but I will.)
  • Don't send me your resume unless you spell check your cover letter AND resume. If you can't be bothered to do this, I can't be bothered to hire you. (Accounting is about attention to detail... hello?!?)
  • Don't send me your resume from your work email address. If you'll do it to them, you'll do it to me.
  • Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and many other carriers offer free email accounts. Get one, and for crying out loud, make it professional! I don't want email from OhBebe@somedomain.com!

I also have a rule of 3 pages for an application.

  • Every resume MUST have a cover letter.
    • This is your only chance to actually tell me anything about yourself, and I like to know how you write.
    • By the same token, however, I'm busy, and don't have time for an essay. You get one page to "hook" me, and make me want to look at your resume.
  • I stop reading after 2 pages of your resume.
    • If your resume is more than two pages long, then start cutting the irrelevant work experience. I really don't care that you painted fences while in high school 15 years ago. If you preface it with "Relevant Experience", I'm happy, and I'll get you to fill in the gaps in the interview.
    • Consider creating a "skills resume" that highlights what you do, rather than where you did it. You need to be careful with this, however, as I'm very keen on knowing the where as well.

I'm curious... what things have you seen on a cover letter or resume that should just not have been there?

6 thoughts on “Things NOT to say on your resume cover letter

  1. HAHAHAAHA! This is great =)

    Ken, have you ever received any pictures of hot women with their resume? I've seen that before (I never hired or was in a position to hire anyone, but somebody showed me before).

    I'm glad I haven't done any of those things! I notice the more interviews I go on, the easier they are. And I agree to anyone who says to go on a job interview while you still have a job and your job isn't necessarily in jeopardy. I went to one today and it went great (it's for part-time summer co/op...but still).

  2. Pingback: The Ken Puls Blog » Blog Archive » When Applying for a job…

  3. Hi Ken,

    Just found your blog from J-Walk's spreadsheet page. I've been updating my resume constantly, so it's good to see some real advice. I'm already doing most of these things (just started w/ the cover letter thing not too long ago), and I definitely don't call or visit 🙂

    Thx,
    JP

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