If you’re wondering what is going through an employer’s mind when you apply, read no further than Giraffe Resume founder Eric Olavson’s post detailing the top ten qualities of a perfect applicant.
Yes, interviewing well is required (#5 and #6), as is sending a thank-you note (#10). But the top quality is having a good cover letter.
Olavson writes (emphasis mine):
I think an ideal job candidate would write me a cover letter that really shows excitement in the company that I created from scratch. We’ve got some great information on our website about the company. (I spent a lot of time and money putting that stupid website together, so please use it.)
At least I would like to see that the candidate read through the website and understand what we do. Unfortunately, most candidates just turn in a generic cover letter or don’t bother to write one at all. If they won’t go to the trouble of writing one, then I won’t go to the trouble of hiring them.
Generic cover letters or no cover letter = career fail.