Does Your Cover Letter Come Across as Pompous?

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An article in an E-Newsletter from NRWA (one of the professional associations I belong to as an executive resume writer) really struck a chord with me today. The fact that many job seekers compose cover letters (and resumes, for that matter) that come across as pretentious and verbose is something that I witness every single day.

Certainly a cover letter for an executive will have a more sophisticated tone than one for an entry level worker, but neither should be flowery or seem to be obviously trying to impress the reader with multi-syllable words where simple ones will do just fine. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve read letters and resumes that use formal HR or government-ese, with such phrases as “Responsible for such and such, to include: …”

Good wordsmithing strives to move from the complex to the simple, rather than the reverse. Don’t use 5 words where 2 will do the job. This has the added benefits of making your letter or resume a quicker read and reducing the length.

The recruiter or hiring executive reading your executive resume or cover letter will react to their overall tone. Keep it conversational and appropriately cordial, rather than stilted, pretentious, or wordy and you will likely see an immediate improvement in response. Read it aloud to see how it sounds and ensure you have not created a tongue-twisting exercise! Do you come across as an attorney droning on to make a case in court, or as a consummate salesperson enthusing your audience about the features and benefits of your product (you)?