Pet Peeve – Your Resume and Cover Letter

Screaming at Job Seekers for the mistakes they make in responding to job postings

I’m very frustrated today. I’m ready to explode at the candidates responding to my job postings.

On the outside I’d like to call candidates on the phone and invite them in for an interview – one the inside I’d like to call candidates and scream at them for their stupidity in the way they responded to my job postings.

Here’s a real-life current case study in how NOT to apply for a job. It’s one of my greatest pet peeves as a Retained Executive Recruiter:

Throwing out a resume without a custom cover letter and customizing the resume to fit the job spec described in the job posting.

There – that’s simply it – Finally, I got it off my chest!

I just put 3 new job postings up on LinkedIn. I posted the job on LinkedIn’s Paid Job Board Service and in the FREE Job Boards within various discussion groups (the results were no different for either approach). The jobs I posted were HR Manager, Construction Project Executive, and Senior Sales Executive.

I have received just through LinkedIn (referrals, recommendations, ad responses) over 1000 resumes so far. Approximately 90% did not have a cover letter. Less than 10 customized their resume for the specific job posting. Every one of these jobs is $100K and above. You’d think folks with that expensive parchment called a college diploma would know better.

Some of you may be familiar with a few of my earlier blog postings on this syndrome which I titled “The Hot Potato Method of Responding to a Job Posting”.

I don’t get it.

I’m confused.

I’m almost stunned past the point of words.

More than 75% of the candidates who replied to these jobs have been out of work for over 6 months. Over 50% have been out of work for over 9 months. Why would you RUIN your chances of being interviewed by tossing out your resume as if you don’t give a darn what I do with it?

The responses went something like:

“Here’s my resume”

“Please review my resume”

Some just emailed the resume as an attachment WITHOUT a single comment – as if the resume “spoke for itself”. It’s sad to the point of making me want to cry – or laugh hysterically.

I’d be very interested to hear from your perspective as a candidate why you don’t care enough to write a cover letter describing how your background and accomplishments fit the job spec posted? I’d be interested to hear why you would submit a resume that doesn’t specifically and precisely address the expectations listed in the job posting?

As a recruiter (and I’m sure I’m speaking on behalf of the vast majority of recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers), why should I bother to open your resume or consider you as a viable candidate, when it’s obvious you could care less whether you are granted an interview.




What motivates candidates to respond to job postings with the “Hot Potato Method”? Are they burnt out on their job search? Have they reached a point of apathy and indifference in their job search?

Do they (YOU) care if you get a job next month or in 18 months?

If you would like to STOP THIS JOB RESPONSE Posting NONSENSE right now, I’d like to recommend you join me for our upcoming webinar on

Get Interviews with

Effective Resumes and Cover Letters

We’ve DEEPLY DISCOUNTED THE WEBINAR FOR THOSE JOB SEEKERS WITHIN OUR JOB SEARCH COMMUNITY – loyal followers on Twitter, readers of our blog, members of our LinkedIn Job Search Discussion Group.

In a lively one-hour presentation, I’ll show you the inside secrets (from a Retained Executive Recruiter perspective) of how to get your resume reviewed every single time and boost your resume acceptance rate (number of times you get called for an interview from submitting your resume) from a dismal level of less than 10% well into the 50% PLUS RANGE.80-90%. If you’re reading this blog, when you sign up for the Webinar use the coupon code of IMPROVEMYRESUME.

If the small, inconsequential, almost non-existent fee for the webinar is too much to bear to boost your resume acceptance rate and cut your job search time dramatically, please feel free to download our many FREE resources for job seekers, including our radio show broadcasts, cover letter sample, and other tools.

Don’t forget about our LinkedIn Job Search Discussion Group, one of the most vibrant and rapidly growing groups on LinkedIn. You can learn about best practices in writing resumes and cover letters.

I’m stunned that most candidates will not take advantage of great content, webinars, workshops, tools, audio programs, Youtube videos, blog posting advice, and other tools that range in price from small investments to FREE.

Don’t be the one to conduct a job search that takes 6-9-18 months when you could have done it in half the time by improving your resume and cover letter to raise your resume acceptance rate.

Thanks for letting my rank about one of my greatest pet peeves in job search.

I look forward to seeing you at the webinar on January 29th and transforming your ability to write effective resumes and cover letters to immediately boost your resume acceptance rate.

Barry Deutsch

About the Author

Barry Deutsch is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Barry is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By JimR, January 23, 2010 @ 4:21 pm

    I have a custom cover letter for every submission, although some job positions are so poorly written or have such outlandish requirements that I just submit a standard resume out of disgust. I have multiple versions of resumes in each job function I may apply for, which I fine tune for each submission. I only submit for positions I am clearly qualified for.

    The fact is, it makes no difference. Because the first 15 seconds don’t consider what you have in the cover letter or in the details of your resume. Screeners look at:

    1) inference of your age by looking at education dates or job dates (even removing early jobs doesn’t help. They know your first job wasn’t as a VP somewhere.)
    2) whether your last title is an exact match for what they think is the title they want. Doesn’t matter if for 20 years prior you did exactly what they are looking for, or that titles in big versus small companies don’t mean the same thing
    3) If your most recent experience is in their exact industry
    4) any indication that you may or may not be in the right salary range
    5) your nationality based on your name and use of english
    6) misc of their choice. Like if you are local, and even if you are local would it be “too long a commute.”

    That takes 15 seconds and puts you in the maybe or no pile. Once in the maybe pile a good cover letter and resume will help. But chances are so slim of getting into that pile based on things that have no connection to whether you are a qualified candidate, spending an hour really customizing things is a low payoff pursuit.

    So don’t get mad at the candidates. Get mad at the process. We sure are.

  • By Liz, January 23, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

    Perhaps, after writing over 500 individual cover letters, customizing resumes, writing individual business plans, going through multiple inerviews both individual and panel, and being flown around the country for interviews, yet to find out the companies searching decided to freeze the position. Watch the news for a change.

  • By mh, January 24, 2010 @ 3:29 am

    I have not witnessed your advertisement to conclude for myself that it was specific and revealing or whether it required the candidate to guess your priorities. I can only accept your bias.

    If it is helpful to you….

    Every high level corporate recruiter and retained search recruiter with whom I’ve spoken during the past two years is explicit in their instructions – “Do not waste my time with your cover letter. I do not read it. I throw it away. I want to perform my own due diligence within your resume. I will determine whether your accomplishments link to my requirements.”

    The audience for their instructions has been specifically – director, vp and “c” level.

  • By Wick Workman, January 24, 2010 @ 10:46 am

    You’re frustrated? Try putting yourself in the position of one of us who does exactly what you suggest and doesn’t hear from “you.”

    I have had the opposite experience over the past sixteen months when I have spent countless hours crafting detailed cover letters comparing my qualifications and experience with the posted requirements and modificating my resume to highlight my twenty + years of experience which is applicable to the specific position only to not get any response 98% of the time.

    Oddly enough when I have sent my “stock” resume sans cover letter out of sheer frustration I have sometimes gotten calls and interviews for good positions.

    I understand your logic as it is pure and reasonable but has not aligned with mine. It is curious to say the least.

  • By Tom Antoine, January 24, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

    Well, I guess I’m in that 10% who writes a cover letter and puts job specific info on my resume. I will state that I’m equally frustrated. I’ve been looking for a job for two months, sent 200 resumes, and only had 5 responses. That is a 2 1/2% response rate, no interviews.

    My credentials are outstanding, executive level experience, 15 years in Real Estate Construction Development, a licensed attorney, undergrad in construction, masters in real estate, plus a law degree. My credentials represent less than 2% of candidates out there, yet no one replies.

    This market has everyone frustrated but we all must keep moving on. Fight the good fight, all bad things pass with time and all good things come to those who work for it.


  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, January 24, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

    You are prehaps 90% correct about most recruiters don’t even look at cover letters. The 10% your are missing and could be the kiss of death are:
    1) I have spoken to many CEO’s, VPHRs and recruiters that say they won’t consider someone so impolite as to not include a cover letter. From a candidates perspective why take the chance. Including one has no downside. Not including one does.
    2) Recruiters don’t read them because most are so worthless why would we. The 1% that have a good cover that aligns with the job do create in interest to at least take a longer look at the resume.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, January 24, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

    Tom 2 months isn’t long in this economy. On the positive note if you are getting a 2 1/2% response rate that is enviable. The average for any ad or posting is less the 1%.
    Your resume and cover letter must be working so it is probably a question of time.

  • By Jean Radeztsky, January 24, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    Thank you for this article. Part of my practice is Career Transition coaching. I also teach Career Development. I hear so often, people/companies really don ‘t read cover letters. My response – you’re right, but you don’t know which one’s do and do not, so it’s a good idea to alway send one.

  • By Grod, January 24, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

    I too have heard that cover letters are often ignored. It also seems impersonal when done on-line and not on one’s personal stationairy.

    I must admit, however, that I do provide one for the jobs I really want. So that must be what is perceived on “the other side.”

  • By Evelyn Scott, January 25, 2010 @ 10:04 am

    I get responses to my resume and cover letters.

    However, my pet peeve is with recruiters who do not do their homework on their client. I am the perfect example of a job seeker called by a recruiter who did an excellent job of checking all my references, calling my past employers, etc. I went through a 4 part, in person, interview process. Got the job, only to find out the company was having serious cash flow problems.
    This caused me the loss of 6 weeks of job hunting and I had to leave this unfortunate incident off my resume because it was too short a period.

  • By Arleen, January 25, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

    In response to your question why people don’t send a cover letter or are very casual about the process. I think the answer lies in the fact that in order to receive unemployment benefits, one must perform a number of job search efforts every week. The resumes they send out without much thought are not going to positions they want but merely to fulfill an obligation.

    If it was a job they really want, I am sure they would put more thought and effort into the process and also look for acquaintances to plead their case.

  • By Arleen, January 25, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

    I think the reason people do not take care when sending out their resumes with a cover letter or other sloppy methods is because they are merely fulfilling a job search activity in order to receive their unemployment benefit.

    If they really wanted the position, they would be sending out excellent cover letters, resumes that are perfect and looking for anyone that can plead their case.

    This us just my opinion.

  • By Mary Villalba, January 27, 2010 @ 10:54 am

    JimR summed it up perfectly!

  • By steveh, January 27, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    I also agree with JimR and will add:
    7) resumes are often scanned by HR staff or, worse, by text scanning software that looks for “key word” jargon specific to a given profession. This approach disregards synonyms or verbose descriptions because neither understands the meaning of the profession-specific key word in the first place. The trick still remains to get a cover letter and resume in front of the hiring manager! But there are more hurdles & filters than ever placed in front of that manager.
    8) In the software engineering profession, job descriptions increasingly require knowing specific combinations of tools or methods, as if creativity & experience in related areas are somehow irrelevant. Imo, it’s because of the “need for speed” mantra that disregards developing long-term value.

    I’m among those who think a customized cover letter is worthwhile–for one, it filters out employers (and recruiters) who are unwilling or unable to take the time to read, understand and think–the type I don’t want to work for or with.

    Once it’s passed the “employer can read, understand and think test”, it helps that poor soul inundated with 100’s of resumes to quickly figure out whether I’m a “maybe” candidate.

  • By steveh, January 27, 2010 @ 9:11 pm

    Personally, I find it impractical to customize my resume for every job application. So here’s what I do:

    1) I’ve written a single concise resume identifying my strengths, experience and benefits to hiring me.
    2) I mouse-click and highlight the list of requirements in the ad; then copy.
    3) Open a blank Word doc. Write 1-3 sentences about why I should be interviewed… then paste the copied list, select all, and then click on “B”–now the entire list is in bold, effectively creating a bold header for each requirement.
    4) For each requirement in the list, I write a very brief description of how well (or not) I meet that requirement (descriptions are not bold). Sometimes, it’s as brief as “yes”, “mo” or years of experience.
    5) Sign Regards, w/ phone number.
    5) Insert a new section break–then append the concise resume. Save and e-mail.

    Imo, if the recruiter or employer wants more detail than the cover letter and concise resume offer, they’ll ask for it.

  • By RG Ackerman, January 27, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

    I agree and disagree with most of what has been discussed here.

    My reason is that of survival.

    Since I was RIF’d in Sept. 2008 from a national company, and was unable to gamefully employ myself in my chosen career (radio and tv broadcast operations-20+ years) after a year long search.

    I began to look at all of my experiences throughout my career and find glimpses of hope in my lifelong work experiences that did not pertain to my chosen career path. Since I spent many years as a photographer (both paid professional and hobbyist), and had once been a licensed real estate agent; I began to look for a new career path that would allow me to utilize those assets to their fullest. Since I did not meet the requirements of most job postings, I decided to go into business for myself.

    Now my resume seems so disjointed, and to many HR folks looks like I am unpredictable and unreliable. I have gone into business for myself as a course of survival to keep my head above water and the wolf from my door. Though I am not at the income level I would like to be at this time, I am my own marketing manager. I spend all of my time marketing myself and my re-freshed talents to those companies that have a need for my special talents.

    I am no longer searching daily for the normal job via a disjointed resume, I have re-created my resume pertaining to my current talents which also include all my years of logistics, operations, scheduling, customer service, photography and real estate combined. Slowly, ever so slowly; new doors are opening and I am building a reputaion and forging new relationships via networking each contact to develop new networking opportunities.

    I know it seems like I am starting all over, and in many ways I am. But, now I have more control over my career destiny. Instead of being one of a 100 or a 1000 with a red flag working against me on my resume; I am the one in 1000 that fits the niche need for my specialized new clientele.

    I thought I was too old to start over again, but working for myself gives me new life and excitement every day. I occasionally post my resume, with a customized cover letter and re-worked resume to fit the specific job posting. But, with the track record I had in the past, put little faith in getting a return call.

    I only wish the HR folks who are looking to fill a position would take the time to actually read the submissions. I know this is an impossibility due to the large number of applications they receive for one position; relative to the percentage of qualified and unemployed workers seeking employment.

    Currently, instead of sending off 100 resumes with custom cover letters in hopes of getting one acknowledgement; I am able to have one-on-one, face to face contact with companies that require my services. I have had much help from many who post on these boards, and thank them all for guidance and honest feedback. I hope that in the future I may help someone as others have helped me develop new opportunities, network with new ideas and take what they have in career assets and employ them to the fullest.

  • By Gary, February 1, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    I echo many of the responses here that I have read. I have applied for literally hundreds of positons, all of which asked for specific education and/or experience that I have and several dozen that I became excited about because the add looked like it was written precisley with my resume in mind. I wrote very good and professionally reviewed cover leters. Virtually no response other than an autoreply saying my submission was received. When I did get a response, as with one or two other posters,and went through multiple phone and personal interviews as well as personality and intelligence testing I was told in several instances that a hiring freeze was implemented or the position is being reconsidered or some other silly response that shows acute management ineptitude. In one case I was interviewed by, among other c-level exectutives, the individual who had the position for the past 7 years and he stated that I was far better qualified than he. Recuriters have no idea how much time effort and money it takes to properly respond to job postings only to be treated like riff-raff and ignored with out the most basic business ethics or courtesy. So I would say to you, get your own house in order and treat condidates that spend their time and money to respond to YOUR needs with the respect and consideration they deserve and stop fishing for who might be out there “just in case”. Stop the word scanning and read the resumes then HIRE good people if you post an add.

  • By Dave B, February 18, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

    I would really appreciate seeing a response to JimR’s comments. I think they really hit the nail on the head, and would like to know the recruiter’s response to those comments whether they are real or percieved.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, February 18, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    Who is JimR? I don’t see that username?

  • By Adane, February 24, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

    I love the posting by Tom Antoine; I too have a very impressive background and have a MBA degree. Just who made up the rules that we as job applicants have to customized every single resume we send only to be deemed as over qualified or even better receive no response at all.

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, February 24, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

    You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I’m simply letting you know how it works. You can fight them or join them. Your choice. When there are 1000 resumes sitting on your desk you too will have to find a way to get them to a manageable number. Interview 1000 people is not practical.
    You can use whatever system you choose.

  • By Peter Monson, March 24, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    As an MBA, I concur with JimR. Anything other than a basic introduction and a few tweaks to your standard resume is a “low payoff pursuit”. In these days of automated screening, databases, key word searches, etc. by recruiters – the amount of time required to customize an application for a single job simply is not efficient. In my experience, I get just as many responses without the high-level customization. Actual far more if you consider that I can apply to 10 times the number of postings without the customization.

    I do believe that you should be qualified for the jobs that you apply for, and that you should have 90-95% of the required skills/experience – otherwise you are just wasting even more time.

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