PR jobseekers beware. Make one of these mistakes and your CV will go straight to the recycle bin!
At TopLine, as a London B2B PR agency, we get hundreds of CVs and cover letters from prospective employees, but as we’ve blogged about before, the standard is often disappointing. So here are some real life examples of how not to write a cover letter taken from our overflowing recruitment inbox.
NB: the following peculiarities of grammar, punctuation and style are taken straight from the originals. We would write "(sic)" next to them, but there are just too many.
We say: Congratulations on basic human decency! Thanks for pointing that one out because it’s not, like, something we take for granted in potential employees...oh wait. If you think that the ability to be non-racist and non-homophobic is one of your best features, so much so that you use it to sell yourself on your CV, we’re going to assume you’re scraping the barrel. Bonus points for the lower case "i" and misspelling of "sociable".
We say: Yes, cover letters should be fairly brief, but this letter – the whole cover letter - gives us absolutely nothing. You have the relevant skills and knowledge to be a good candidate? Which skills exactly? I’m sure they’re outlined in your CV but give us a reason to actually pay attention to it in the first place. A covering email like this just screams laziness and of a CV that’s been fired off to a million other PR companies in London.
We say: Cool story, bro. Props for putting your own individual spin on a cover letter, but, honestly, in a role where KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is probably the most valuable thing you can keep in mind when writing press releases and pitches, a waffling and over-complicated paragraph isn’t going to convince us of your self-proclaimed "talent for presenting and articulating the complex" (another example from the same letter). Also, what’s a hi-profile contact? Is it someone that greets you a lot? And finally, pouncing on people is frowned upon at our company.
We say: Well, aren’t you a special snowflake? Some examples of exactly what you’ve succeeded in and situations where your behaviour made you proud wouldn’t go amiss. We’d hate to have a first impression of you as arrogant or something (like unable to proof your copy before you send it!).
We say: Nothing guarantees a facepalm moment more than having two glaring spelling errors catch you right off the bat. You’re applying for a role where detail is everything, and you couldn’t even be bothered to proofread your own letter? Or worse, maybe you did proofread it. To add insult to injury, ‘a two month paid internship at an independent PR agency’ translates to ‘I’m blanket-applying to a bunch of PR agencies and not only was I too lazy to check for basic spelling errors, but I’m also too lazy to make it personal’.
We said: We would stress that the many, many mistakes and bad structure of your covering letter sadly don't give us much of a reason to evaluate you face to face. But hey, don’t take it personally.
Don’t waste your time applying to PR agencies with shoddy covering letters. Read our series on working in PR on the B2B PR Blog for advice from pros.
Are you interested in reading more posts like this one? Sign up here for our fortnightly updates on the B2B PR Blog's top posts, competitions and opportunities to contribute.
The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.
Enter your email address to receive our blog feed: