People often give a short shrift to cover letters, or they spend time writing one and don't update it, and asset management professionals are no exception. However, together with your resume, cover letters create a hiring manager's first impression of a candidate, so it needs to be as close to perfect as possible.
One slip-up – or submitting a clean yet bland cover letter that makes hiring managers say "meh" – could cost you a chance at landing an interview. Here are the mistakes that asset management professionals should avoid when crafting a cover letter, as well as tips for success.
1. Don’t use a template
Why? Because cover letters written using a template feel stale and impersonal. Feel free to use a template as a checklist to make sure you aren't missing a key element, but don't be afraid to freshen up the format and make it your own.
“If you send a template-based cover letter email, it feels like a template,” says Stacy Havener, CEO of Havener Capital Partners. “People know that this is what you’re sending out to every single job you’re applying to. How many resumes and cover letters do you think they’re getting?
"It doesn’t feel good,” she said.
A cookie-cutter cover letter may cause hiring managers to assume that this job wasn’t even important enough for you to take the time to write a personalized note.
2. Solve a problem
It's pretty simple: People want to hire and work with problem-solvers.
“I have a problem, and if you can tell me how you can help me solve it, that’s a very good cover letter,” says Havener.
In asset management, in many cases it’s mostly about your numbers, but candidates’ command of the English language is important too, regardless of which role you’re applying for. Tell a story about yourself and how you can help the firm that's recruiting.
3. Show some personality
A cover letter is asset management professionals’ best chance to give decision-makers colour about who they are and how they are going to help the hiring firm.
If you put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s receiving the cover letter, assume they’re getting a lot of them. You can imagine that reading one after the other gets old pretty quickly. You don’t want to be unprofessional, but show some personality and don’t write a boring cover letter.
“Each firm has a vibe or a personality, so if you write a cover letter without anything cool or funny, people reading it don’t really know if you’re a robot or a human, and it doesn’t stand out,” Havener says.
If you read about a job or a firm and something resonates with you personally, share that. You can even include a short anecdote to give the hiring manager or recruiter a feel for who you are as a person.
4. Keep it short
Always remember, your cover letter is most likely going to be read by a busy person with a very short attention span. Therefore, keep it short and specific.
“People in the asset management space are time compressed, so writing an overly-lengthy cover letter can actually disqualify you,” says Reshma Ketkar, director and head of the long-only investment professionals recruiting practice at Glocap Search.
In the asset management industry, if a cover letter has been requested, keep it to two paragraphs, mentioning why you’re interested in the role, why you think you're qualified and what qualities and experience you have that are unique.
When it comes to cover letters, some hiring managers and recruiters see being verbose or boasting as a bad thing.
As an extreme example, Ketkar once worked with an asset management professional who, in lieu of a cover letter, created a 45-page PowerPoint presentation all about himself.
“He thought ‘Wow, this is awesome,’ but it really was not,” she said. “I had to beg the candidate not to send it.”
Including a 25-page stock pitch or research reports that have not been requested is also a no-no.
Instead, think about the hiring manager or recruiter and what they want to see given time constraints, and write a cover letter that is articulate, digestible and useful without being onerous for the hiring manager to read.
Be concise and include only the most relevant details about your background that specifically relate to the job in question.
5. Never share proprietary details
Sharing proprietary details about a previous firm to make yourself look good demonstrates a lack of good judgement, and it could get you in hot water if you signed a non-disclosure agreement, says to Roy Cohen, career counselor, executive coach and the author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.
6. Don’t apologise for anything on your resume
Especially if you’ve moved around a lot, never use the cover letter to explain why you’ve made all of the moves or to apologise, because the underlying message is that you did something wrong.
“That’s not the impression you want to make,” Cohen says. “Don’t include any justification for leaving a former employer in the cover letter – leave that for the interview.
“If you’ve moved around, focus on either the most recent position, or summarize your collective experience,” he said.
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