For many people, the cover letter is the most agonising part of the job application process. According to research, cover letters are typically read in just one minute - but can be the deciding factor in determining whether your application wins you an interview or ends up in the bin.
Research carried out by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that 14% of HR managers say they'll immediately reject an applicant when the cover letter is of poor quality, with only eight percent saying that it doesn't matter to them at all.
The most important aspects of a cover letter, it seems, are how the job candidate's work experience meets the job requirements, cited by 51% of HR managers; how the job candidate's skills meet the job requirements (48%); and why the candidate wants to work at the organisation (45%).
Your letter needs to be personalised to the specific job you're applying for, not too long and grammatically correct. And with so much competition for jobs, you also want it to be memorable - although maybe not too memorable.
Wee look at ten real-life examples of job applications that don't quite fit the bill...
The barking mad one
"Today is the first day of my life... Last year was a tremendous year for personal growth, insight and maturity. I courted that growth... This year I want to 'take the world by storm'. I want to make a film. I want to be the producer or the director, which ever will put me in the middle of all the creativity and decision-making... I am terrified of the all-out approach I sense in my spirit. However, I am not scared enough to let it stop me. I will go and push and strive until I have reached the finish line. I will sacrifice anything but my God (morals) and my family. Pride has no place in my new life. I will be striving for perfection."
What a delightful character to have on your team!
The bulk-mailed one
"I am submitting my resume for your consideration, because I feel that I would be very suitable, for the position, for which you are hiring, due to my experience, knowledge, education and skills. I am very willing and capable of learning any new skills, in order to fulfill the duties required to perform the job at hand. Thank you, for your time, and giving me the opportunity to speak with you, during an interview. I look very forward to working with you."
This one was left unsigned.
The insulting one
"You'll notice that I haven't talked about what skills I have yet. Do I honestly need to? I went to an elite institution, and we all know I'd figure out how to use whatever programs you'd like me to toil away with. Working at your company doesn't take a rocket scientist, and I think we both know that, but the type of person you hire will matter, especially for your size team."
It's never a good idea to tell your potential boss that his job isn't at all demanding...
The irritable one
"Hello. This is my second e-mail to you regarding the question that I had about the internship position at [your company]. I find it very unprofessional that you have gone an entire day without responding to me and it makes me question the type of office you work in and if I want to be an intern at [your company]. If you could please answer my question (I have attached yesterday's e-mail below in case you forgot) I would appreciate it and it will help me decide if I will apply for your internship position. Please remember that I will be taking into consideration the lack of professionalism you have demonstrated by not answering my question in a prompt manner. I'm sorry you have gotten us off on the wrong foot."
Well, that's telling them.
The garbled one
"Especially, I love always smile working environment, too short time I worked custom service but It is best work in my life and I want to feel again. By the way, I worked server and kitchen help in the Canada. I am always good when I am working, please feel me.
I have brave fight to wild bear.
I have strong arm lift to wild bear.
I am so fast more than train."
It's best not to rely too much on Google Translate...
The half-hearted one
"I guess the only reason I am applying is because I studied Journalism, originally am an Engineer and is right now studying in a Left leaning institution (Masters in Sociology xxxxx Univeristy, New Delhi, India) which studies markets just to criticize them. I don't read much of the magazine that you mentioned in your job-requirement article but yes I do have an analytical mind and I understand what one event in one country means to markets all over the world. I know I am not tailor made for the job and I have just 3 months after May 5th before I resume the semester here."
Wow. Must snap this chap up while we've got the chance.
"My skills consist of being great at multi-tasking, great with computers, patient, bilingualism (fluent Spanish), reliable and having very flexible hours. I am 24 years old which is why I think this position is a great fit for me."
Why? The job was on a business magazine, not 24-Year-Old Weekly.
The illiterate one
"I need real world experience and after reviewing your web site I get the impressing that your company believes in maintain a lax work environment while efficiently meeting the needs of it's customers (right?)."
Advertising company Killian replied to this one, pointing out that there were errors in every single sentence of the three-page letter. Came the reply:
"...you should be straight forward and...simply state that your company is seeking a grammar teacher who lacks creativity but knows how to properly write a letter and knows exactly where to place punctuation... I reread it before sending it and it states my point clearly and unless you lack the mental capacity to make out the meaning without having exact and precisise grammar maybe you should seek a new proffsion."
The complaining one
"I'm a writer and artist who recently relocated to New York to actually work in one of my fields, only to put a lot of time into cover letters and resumes that never get acknowledged. This really surprises me, because I have a variety of work experience behind me (including professional journalism), I have excellent references, and I clearly want to work and stay busy. Moreover, since I moved here purely for career purposes, don't really have any friends yet, and am very driven, I'm in a perfect position to make work my life. Business may not be my primary area of expertise, but I'm smart and easy to train."
Because it's always a good idea to point out that nobody else wants you.
The bragging one
"I am unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker I know, and I love self-improvement. I have always felt that my time should be spent wisely, so I continuously challenge myself; I left Villanova because the work was too easy. Once I realized I could achieve a perfect GPA while holding a part-time job at NYU, I decided to redouble my effort by placing out of two classes, taking two honors classes, and holding two part-time jobs. That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups... Please realize that I am not a braggart or conceited, I just want to outline my usefulness. Egos can be a huge liability, and I try not to have one."
We can tell you haven't got one, we can tell.
Read more about job applications on AOL Money:
How to write a cover letter that will get you noticed by employers
How to write a successful CV that will get you a job
Students warned that CV lies could land them in jail