My cousin works for a university and part of her job involves going through piles and piles of resumes and sorting them into ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. She told me once that she is instructed to literally scan cover letters for keywords from the job advertisement– words like “detail-oriented” and “team player”. Any cover letters that don’t mention those words (as well as meet minimum criteria such as education, experience, and software expertise) and thrown in the trash.
Despite having heard this cautionary tale, I find it so silly that I still refuse to do it. My perspective is that anyone can say that they’re “detail-oriented” or a “team player” and it doesn’t really mean anything. If the experience described in my cover letter demonstrates that I’m a detail-oriented team player, shouldn’t that be enough?
Apparently not. I have applied for sixty-five jobs so far in this search and many of those cover letters were absolutely lovely– I could frame them. I could publish them. I could forward them to my grandma. However, I have had exactly two responses to my sixty-five job applications and both of them came in response to very silly cover letters in which I basically regurgitated the contents of the job ad.