In the eight years it took Nasty Galfounder and former CEO Sophia Amoruso to grow her online vintage retail store into a $US100-million business, she hired more than 350 employees.
So it goes without saying she’s seen her fair share of bad cover letters.
“Although playing hard to get might be cute in the dating world, it won’t fly with potential employers,” Amoruso writes in her 2014 book “#GIRLBOSS.” “They don’t have time to court you, so you had better romance the hell out of them.”
To help make your cover letter “sing,” here are four mistakes Amoruso warns you should avoid at all costs:
1. The cover letter is all about what you want.
Too many candidates focus purely on what the company and job can do for them, Amoruso says.
When she receives a cover letter from a candidate who says she has a “passion for fashion” and details how working at Nasty Gal could help her “pursue her interests, gain more experience, and explore new avenues,” Amoruso says she clicks “delete” almost immediately.
“I have a business that is growing by the day, so I want to know what you can do for me,” she writes.
2. Your cover letter doesn’t connect the dots.
One of Amoruso’s biggest pet peeves is when job applicants don’t connect the dots between their past, present, and future in their cover letters.
Amoruso says she couldn’t believe when an applicant for a copy editor position at Nasty Gal neglected to mention in her cover letter that she graduated with an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, one of the most prestigious writing institutions in the US.
“Unless you spell out [where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re trying to go] in your cover letter, your potential employer may never know,” Amoruso writes.
If you did not participate in many extracurriculars in school because you worked 30 hours a week to pay your way through school, she says you should explain that in the cover letter because it demonstrates “financial responsibility” and “work ethic.”
3. You give so-called constructive criticism without being asked.
While Amoruso appreciates constructive criticism and even asks for it during in-person interviews, she says that the cover letter is absolutely not the place for it.
Giving constructive criticism in a cover letter “is like meeting someone for the first time and telling her that you think she’d be so much cuter if she lost just five pounds,” Amoruso writes. “It’s distasteful.”
Rather than taking the applicant’s advice to heart, Amoruso says that it makes her want to reply with a sassy email about unsolicited opinions, but she doesn’t because she likes to keep things “professional-ish.”
4. Either you didn’t take the time to read it over, or you just really, really can’t write.
If your cover letter has mistakes or doesn’t flow well, Amoruso says she will assume you rushed through it just like you will rush through your future work assignments if you are hired at Nasty Gal.
She recommends using spell check but not relying on it, knowing the difference between “there,” their,” and “they’re” and asking someone else to read your letter for clarity and overlooked mistakes.
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