Do first impressions mean everything? They sure do.

As many of us are nearing graduation from the Walter Cronkite j-school, we are already starting to apply for jobs. In this tough job market, we need to find anything (and I mean, any little thing) that can set us apart from the other thousands of resumes that a company receives.

When I say first impression, this could mean anything; our resume, social skills, appropriate outfit and even how firm of a handshake we can give our employer.  But aside from all this, our cover letter will be the first impression of us made by our potential employer.

This is a first impression on paper.

In the blog Ragan.com, I found an interesting post called Is this the worst cover letter ever? This post uses a bad cover letter to teach the readers what “not to do.”  David Murray said his company was emailed a cover letter from a student inquiring about a job.  He said this cover letter was so bad they always knew they’d post it.  So let’s take advice from this one cover letter so we don’t make the same mistakes.

Some main points Murray teaches us are:

  • Don’t use the words “I”, “me”, and “my” too many times.  Even though a cover letter is an introduction of ourselves, it needs to be about our employer as well. In other words, we can’t get too full of ourselves.
  • Do not misspell the name of the company you are applying for.  This is a big no no and an automatic “next applicant, please.”
  • Don’t use the word “prominent undergrad.” Murray says, “Look, we cover PR here; don’t try to kid a bunch of kidders, okay kiddo?”
  • Tailor your resume to the company.  In this case, the applicant wrote that his writing skills will apply to speech writing and public relations.  Well, that is great, but Ragan doesn’t do speech writing or PR.

These are just a few of the comments Murray made about what is said to be the worst cover letter ever.  As we continue to apply for jobs, take a few extra minutes to edit your cover letter and make sure it fits the positioning and image and work of your potential employer.  We want to make the best first impression and it all starts with our cover letter.

Do you all agree that first impressions could start with a cover letter? What are some other things the job applicants can do to make sure their cover letter makes the best first impression?

This entry was posted in Spotlight Public Relations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Do first impressions mean everything? They sure do.

  1. wwillis says:

    Wow, great topic! As I am graduating next month (AHH!) I do think that first impressions are SO important to remember. I always try to tailor my skills on my resume to each company I’m applying for. It may take a little extra time, but I know from experience that it can really help you to stand out.

  2. bgansar says:

    I am a huge believer in first impressions (and I wish I could re-make some of them)! It is important to remember that if we are emailing a resume and cover letter-THAT is the first impression our hopeful-future employer will get, it’s not the interview. As far as cover letters go, I don’t like them because I feel like some employers want them, others will toss your resume if they are attached. I never know if it is important to have completely different cover letters or if using a general one that you fill in names, dates, etc is okay-that seems so artificial. Taking time to tailor the cover letter to the company seems like the perfect way around the fakeness and around having to write new ones every time.

  3. astrazza says:

    I am glad you brought this up Stephanie as first impressions are important. I actually came across this blog post from Twitter last week, and after reading it I was astonished that a “prominent undergraduate” wrote this. There is a fine line between acknowledging your accomplishments and bragging. A cover letter isn’t a letter for shameless personal promotion, but it should focus on what you can bring to the company. How can you make the company more successful?

    If our journalism classes should have taught us anything, it’s to fact check. She spelt the company’s name wrong, that’s the ultimate cardinal mistake. How can you expect a company to hire you when you don’t even put enough time and consideration into doing background research on the company? A cover letter is often our first impression, and we all want to be painted in a positive light, so have your classmates, teachers or even friends edit it before pushing that send button.

  4. ncano says:

    I was just talking to Dr. Gilpin about cover letters and resumes and honestly the thing that scares me the most is a good cover letter. I have learned now with just one session with Dr. Gilpin to not include everything in your resume. If a company wants to see all your work experience they will ask for it, but you’re right you need to tailor it to fit the company. I’ve never been a good cover letter writer, but now that you posted this, I will take it into consideration. I always explain why I am interested, followed by explaining a little more about my job descriptions, and how my experience can be helpful to the company, but also what I hope to get out of working for this certain company so they see I have taken some time to research what the company has to offer.

    I think it’s a tie between a cover letter and a resume for being a first impression. We all want that job and we know we are competing for it, but let’s face it, everything looks good on paper, it’s the next step with the interview that really can make it or break it. It’s just a matter of going over your cover letter and not applying for a position last minute. I’ve learned from mistakes of cover letters, however, always know about the company too and include that so that the company sees that you have taken the time to research what the company is about, what they do, etc. I think it’s okay at times to talk about you and explain your positions that you have held and learned from and how those skills are something you can bring to the table.

  5. bjohnson says:

    Yes, I do believe a cover letter can say a lot about someone and it serves as the first impression for many companies. I have spent much time editing, changing and updating my cover letters as they change for every position and every employer. As a PR student that will soon graduate I can’t help but associate a cover letter to personal pitching. We have been trained and taught how to pitch to a client regarding communication strategies or campaigns and we have had experience pitching stories to media. I believe we should utilize those strategies to pitch ourselves. The competition is definitely intense so setting ourselves apart from the masses is key. Utilizing the skills we have been given may even be more important.

    In regard to learning how to format a cover letter, I will tell you that I had to learn on my own. I drafted my first few cover letters with the help of mentors and teachers. After that, I practiced writing more and soon found my own formula. I would have appreciated some prior knowledge in how to do it the ‘right’ way first, however.

  6. sclarke says:

    wwillis- I agree with you on tailoring your resume. It would be crazy to put in your resume that you were seeking a…let’s say…a career in entertainment and you apply for a job in the telecommunications industry. This is just an example but it applies to the concept of tailoring your resume.

    bgansar- Your question about whether you attach a cover letter or not is very valid. What have you been doing so far? Lately, I have been applying for jobs and I don’t attach the cover letter unless they ask. Is this the proper thing to do? Also, your comment about having a cover letter that you just replace the name, date and company is also something to think about. That is the method I’ve used, however maybe it is better to have a different one for each? You bring up some good things to think about.

    astrazza- I’m so glad you came across this post before I decided to write about it. It was very interesting to read, right? I mean, how could someone make those mistakes? It seems so obvious but we could very well make the same mistakes. Having teachers, family members, etc. proof read your cover letter and resume before sending is extremely beneficial.

    ncano- I agree with you that we should be able to talk about ourselves in our cover letter. I guess the point is, where is that fine line of telling too much? Like you said, it is very important to do research on the company. The applicant in this post spelt the company name wrong. The company name is even a 5 letter name. I think we can manage that, right? However, like you said, what does the company do, what are their goals, and their mission? The job market is tough and anything we can add to make a good first impression is all we need.

    bjohnson- I never thought of it the way you just stated it. We have been taught all about strategic messages and personal pitching. With this said, we should be able to convince an employer of why we are best suited for the job. Also, your method of producing a cover letter is the same route I took. Wrote my first one years ago with the help of mentors and teachers. However, I think it would be helpful to receive a little more guidance on how to compose a resume and cover letter the “right” way.

  7. sdoyle says:

    First impressions can come from anywhere, especially if it’s through email like the career opportunities that Mike Wong sends to the entire j-school. The company’s first interaction with you is your resume and cover letter most times and if they don’t like the person you portray there they aren’t going to waste their time and call you in for an interview. There are just so many factors that can come into play and the job market is so slim right now that companies can afford to be picky. Hopefully by May, when I graduate, we will be in the beginnings of our economic recovery and it won’t be as cut throat as the market is now but until then you need to get every little thing right you can to get the opportunity for the job.

  8. ecain says:

    I absolutely agree that a first impression can start with a cover letter. A resume does not really have any tone of voice in it, however a cover letter is a great way for an employer to get to know you a little before actually meeting you in person. To make sure your cover letter stands apart from the rest you can approach it differently then the majority by perhaps writing it in a different more creative format. Also, I think that an important part for nailing a great cover letter is having it edited by more than one person so that you can get a few different perspectives on it before you send it out to employers. Overall, a cover letter should best reflect your personality, so I think that being the best version of yourself is the best way to make a good first impression.

Comments are closed.