Your cover letter is your introduction to your entire purpose of applying for a certain job post.
When there’s an opening for your dream job but you’re not qualified for it yet, what should you do? A lot of people will look at the qualifications specified for the job and think of ways to embellish their actual skills and experiences to make it seem like they’re a good fit. But where’s the line between embellishment and fraud and how do you know when you’ve gone too far?
Embellishing the qualifications on resume:
I know what you’re thinking: “I will work so hard and be so enthusiastic and grow into the job so quickly that they won’t even notice I’m not qualified for it.” If you do manage to fool the hiring manager and actually get your foot in the door, what’s more likely to happen is that instead of growing into the job, you’ll become overwhelmed with the daily demands that you don’t have the ability to meet.
Instead of catapulting yourself to the top, you’ll only manage to ruin your reputation and waste everyone’s time. You could’ve spent that amount of time building your skillset and gaining the experience that would make you qualified for the dream job that has now turned into a nightmare.
When crafting your cover letter, you should undoubtedly demonstrate your confidence and abilities. There are likely many milestones you’ve achieved throughout your career that you can be proud to display. But blatantly embellishing important skills required to fulfill a specific role is not only unprofessional, but it’s also unethical. Here’s a list of some commonly required qualifications that job-seekers lie about:
If a job requires foreign language skills – as many international business companies require these days – and you don’t have those, be aware that learning a new language is not something you can easily pick up on the side while performing your job. It takes months and even years of study and dedication to reach business level fluency.
By attempting to fake this, you’ll put yourself in a very embarrassing position when the time comes for you to actually speak Intermediate Japanese you claimed to know. Instead of lying, enroll in a class, and let them know that you’re currently studying Japanese in your cover letter.
Also as Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) market has boomed, many companies are looking for native speakers, usually from the UK, Canada or the US to fill their ranks. Trying to pass yourself off as a native English speaker when you aren’t just isn’t realistic.
The same goes for technological skills. If you aren’t tech-savvy and the job you’re looking at requires you to know how to write code when you’re barely able to operate the latest version of Microsoft Office, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Not only that but your incompetence in this area will quickly become obvious.
Acquire the skills before applying. Take some classes and get certified. Or enroll in a class and let the employer know in your cover letter that you’re working on acquiring that skill. Maybe they’ll hire you or at least keep your resume on file for future openings.
Many people embellish their job titles from previous jobs. But, there’s a huge gap between being an employee and a manager. If you’re applying for a job as a manager and have limited to no managing or leadership skills, be prepared for a lot of frustration. Managing people requires diplomacy, patience and often difficult decision-making skills. If you’re not up to the task, you won’t be able to earn the respect of your employees.
Other lies that often show up on resumes and cover letters are education level, dates of employment, and salary. Today there are a number of services that perform professional background checks and your lies will likely be discovered. Best to tell the truth- at least then you’ll know the reason you didn’t get the job was that you weren’t qualified rather than having been caught in a lie.
The other side of the coin is making yourself sound too desperate in your cover letter. If you’ve been out of work for a while or were recently fired, you may be vulnerable to accepting any job out there, no matter what the conditions or pay. Do you really want your workweek to include Saturdays? What about no medical insurance and unpaid vacations? Or a job that requires you to move to another state? Or a job that will start as an unpaid internship with the “possibility” of promotion to a paid position?
Being flexible is a strength. But bending over backward for a company that doesn’t reward you adequately for your work is abuse. Display confidence in your skills in your cover letter and stick it out until the right job comes along rather than making yourself miserable in the wrong job.
Cover letter do’s and don’ts:
- Do highlight skills and experiences that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Don’t lie about skills you don’t possess or responsibilities you didn’t perform.
- Do enroll in classes to acquire the skills required for the job and communicate that in your cover letter. Don’t say you already have a required level of skill that you don’t.
- Do display confidence and positivity about career milestones and accomplishments. Don’t inflate job titles, salaries, or education levels.
- Do indicate that you are flexible and interested in building a new career. Don’t settle for a job that you’re overqualified for or that doesn’t offer what you need