General Question

weeveeship's avatar

To what extent should I indicate my interest in a particular employer in an application?

Asked by weeveeship (4632points) January 8th, 2011

Career counselors say that one should tailor one’s cover letter to show interest in an employer you want to work for.

I agree with this in part. Of course, if a company, say Microsoft, is looking for someone with programming skills, it would probably help to mention somewhere in your cover letter or your resume that you have prior experience with programming.

However, some of my friends have taken this one step further and actually mention specific projects that they would like to work on. For instance, let’s say one of them apply for a job with Goldman Sachs. The local Goldman Sachs office is recruiting for a financial analyst, but gives little details as to what the analyst would be doing. My friend writes in his cover letter that he would like to join Goldman Sachs because he wants to be involved with deals like the merger between XYZ and ABC company last year. Or something like that.

To what extent would being so specific help one’s chances of getting a job? I feel that while it is good to show knowledge of a company’s operations, there might be other issues, such as:

1. What if the local branch of Goldman Sachs is shifting its focus away from mergers and more into personal investments for rich individuals? Then, the statement about wanting to work in mergers becomes irrelevant.

2. My friend could be pigeonholed (maybe that’s what he wants, but I don’t think so based on what he told me. He seems to be unsure of what area finance he wants to go into). That is, if you mention that you really want to do mergers, then the company might think twice before hiring if the financial analyst position they are hiring for does no work related to mergers but instead helps high net-worth individuals invest.

3. My friend risks getting the facts wrong. For example, maybe it was not the local branch, but rather the New York branch, of Goldman Sachs that actually made the deal.

So, my question is: How specific should one be when “tailoring” one’s cover letter for a position with a particular employer?

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6 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

The cover letter should be tailored to pitch your skill set to the role offered. It should work together with your resume to be a “commercial” for why you’re a good fit for the role.

Knowledge of having done your homework about the company is best saved for the interview. You’re correct; even if you do your homework, situations change with empolyers, and financial analyst roles and opportunities change. It would really be terrible to position yourself to look like you’re only good for one thing. The reality of employment is that you position yourself to do something, and end up doing what the person that hires you wants you to do. For example, what if it’s not clear that only financial analysts with 1–3 years experience get to do merger work?

You sell your skillset in the cover letter, highlight and call attention to resume features that are strong matches for the position. Really, it’s the resume that makes the rounds. The cover letter is often read by the admin opening the evelopes. When we are hiring, I never see the cover letter, only the resume. HR sends me several at a time, with comments as to why they think I might be interested in a particular candidate.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Leave any mention of specific employers totally out of your resume, but list the reasons why you are seriously considering a job with the specific company in your cover letter.

weeveeship's avatar

Thank you very much. I totally agree.

gorillapaws's avatar

I disagree somewhat. We’re a small company, so I end up reading the cover letters, resumes etc, but they are often so generic that anyone who has demonstrated the effort to have researched what we do and pitch me on some specifics of how they might improve our company is infinitely better than what 90% of what others do. It shows initiative, intelligence and a willingness to go above and beyond that makes me put their resume in the call for an interview pile.

While my perspective sounds a bit different than the one your friend is applying for (probably a much larger company), I can say that even if someone pitches me on being interested in working on x, and x isn’t really what we’re looking to fill, as long as they seem qualified for the position they are applying for, being interested in other areas means they might be able to fill multiple roles down the road.

PocketWatch's avatar

@gorillapaws Thank you for that advice. Last week I was going to quit school and just look for a job with the little training I had. I had just made a resume with only the little knowledge I had, never did I once ever try to research what the businesses actually do behind the curtains except for the service that most only know of. Example Geek squad and repairing computers, after looking into their site, I now know of other services they provide other then a quick repair

marinelife's avatar

I agree with gorillapaws.

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