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Cover letter format that generated a call from the VP

15 applications later, things are getting desperate. I will listen to dad.

Proven Cover Letter Format

Have you turned in 10 plus resumes with no response and heard less than crickets? It’s a wasteland. It’s a silent black hole. Not even a “Don’t call us, we will call you?” If you have experienced the application black hole, this post is for you. There is hope. It can be done.

I have a long time friend whose son just graduated from college. The son is in the process of trying to find a job and experiencing little luck. He has held some temporary jobs and is now willing to settle. The biggest part of his frustration is that he has submitted a string of letters/resumes in response to job postings and heard nothing. Sound familiar? In my work with candidates, I see a lot of this and I know why it happens.

Dad doesn’t know anything!

My buddy knows I work with candidates and shared his side of the story. The son is a typical recent graduate and doesn’t want to listen to dad. Now, dad may be over 55, but he is well versed in technology and makes a great living doing business development for tech companies. This is not your old school dad who hasn’t stayed in touch. He has a huge reach and is an expert at connecting online. Dad knows how to network.

Of course, dad has given feedback on the search to the millennial son. Heck, in my opinion, he has been doing the search for the kid, and really, who can blame him. The father wants to see his kid succeed and part of him wants him to STFU already. Unfortunately, the millennial son wants to do it his way and remains his own biggest obstacle. I don’t have kids for this exact reason.  

Dad finds a job ad the son is qualified for

Like most millennials who feel their dad is out of touch, the response was as follows:

  • “Dad, I am not qualified for this job. Out of the 10 bulleted requirements, I don’t have half of what they are looking for.”
    • But you do have half of what they are looking for!
  • “Dad, this isn’t the kind of job I want!”
    • Son, this job is in your field of study, it is a very hot brand you have heard about and frankly, at this point, we can’t afford to be choosy.
  • “This is never going to work”, heavy sigh

Maybe it was the 15 prior gut punches of silence that turned the son around. He started to listen to the father. 

Two old guys strategize

Dad comes to HRNasty for a collegial discussion on strategy, and frankly, I am flattered. I ask my standard questions trying to triangulate the problem/opportunity for improvement.

HRN:”How many resumes and cover letters do you think your son has sent in?”

Father: “15”

HRN: “Has your son had any interviews over the phone or face to face?”

Father: “He had one interview over the phone, but trust me, he is a really smart kid.”

HRN’s inside voice: “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, every parent’s kid is a special snowflake.”

How far in the process is the candidate progressing?

When I ask these questions, I am trying to figure out what the biggest hurdle is. If we are declined after the face to face interviews with the recruiter and the hiring manager, then it is probably HOW we are talking with the hiring manager. The recruiter and the hiring manager are looking for two completely different things.

If we are NOT getting very many responses for the very first phone interview, then it is probably our resume, cover letter format, or both.

Overwhelming cover letter format 

I asked to see a copy of the job description. I then asked to see a copy of the cover letter and sure enough, it was filled with text covering three-quarters of the page. The cover letter format screamed “overwhelming.” I didn’t need to see much more than this because I knew this type of document wasn’t going to be read. I knew I wouldn’t take the time to read it. (When I have 50 resumes to look at, 50 cover letters like this might as well be the Iliad.) When I did look at it, my suspicions were confirmed. There were a lot of qualitative statement vs. quantitative statements.  The cover letter included a lot of qualitative statements like:

  • I am a fast learner
  • You won’t find a harder worker
  • I get along with everyone

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

The above is the candidate’s opinion. The hiring manager feels their team members are AMAZING. After years of experience, it is hard to take a recent graduates word for “hard work” when they lack actual job experience.

The way to catch the recruiters attention is to capture the first few bullets of the job description. These are usually the most important skills/experience the hiring company is looking for. The father completely agreed and explained when he reaches out via email to do business development, he concentrates on what the potential partner is looking for and not what he “THINKS” HE brings to the table.

Winning Cover Letter Format

I provided the father with a cover letter format I like, which I blogged about here. We then discussed why it works and why it is effective. I also explained why qualitative statements about ourselves are generally ignored.

I won’t bore you with the next 24 hours of discussion with the father acting as a middleman between the son and HRNasty. Two days later the kid got a call from the VP of the department asking the son to come in for an in-person interview. The kid could not believe it. Mind Blown. The father tried to call me three times that evening to give me the good news, but in usual HRN style, I was giving him the Heisman. (I was out and had turned off my phone, but hey, he is in business development, he is persistent)

Who got the interview, the father or the son?

The next morning I saw the father in person. The father was so excited, you would have thought he was the one that got the interview. Dad had a couple of wins.

  • His son connected with the hiring company and had set the hook.
  • The son listened to the father and realized dad wasn’t such a stick in the mud
  • Father was right, Right, RIGHT!

The prodigal son was brought in and interviewed for not one, but TWO jobs! The guy was on fire because he was offered one of the positions after the interview. He needs to wait a few days before he hears about the second position.

Boom Biatches. Old Guys Rule!

If you have turned in multiple resumes with our without a cover letter, please check out the above link. This shit works!


See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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