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Smart is the New Rich: Money Guide for Millennials by Christine Romans

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Appendix B

Cover Letters: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Can you tell which of these cover letters landed an interview and which ended up in the reject pile? These are actual cover letters from job hunters, sent to career coach Brad Karsh of JobBound. We've changed the names to protect the identities of the clueless writers and the savvy job seekers who sent them. Here's a hint: The good letters have good writing, consist of short sentences, and feel like a quick conversation or introduction. The only way to make them better would be to have an actual connection to refer to somewhere in the letter: “Jonathan Smith told me to reach out to you.” (Spoiler alert: I am about to disclose the good ones and the bad ones. Skip ahead if you want to guess for yourself.)

Drum roll, please…

Joseph's and Maggie's letters are short, concise, and interesting. Maggie was asked by so many hiring managers why a stockbroker would switch careers that she decided to answer the question right off the bat in her cover letter. She did it eloquently. The second two letters are unreadable. Pay special attention to Jason's prolific use of the name of the company he is applying to—almost as if he was cutting and pasting it into a form letter. Don't just regurgitate the resume, but tell your story. As Brad Karsh says, make it like a movie trailer to draw the recruiting director in. Read the letters for yourself to decide which are best. And, keep in mind, there are many ways to formulate a cover letter. ...

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