One of the most important lessons I learned as a legal headhunter was taught to me just a few weeks into my career. I was meeting with the recruiting manager of a large firm and she was mentioning her firm's high number of applicants and the challenges posed in terms of ''weeding'' out candidates to a manageable number for interviews. Seems pretty normal, right? However, she then made a comment that really shocked and struck a chord with me. This comment was so powerful that it has directly influenced my recruiting practice and compelled me, years later, to write an article about it.

The Human Tendency to Infer the Worst: Why the Absence of a Proper Cover Letter Can Severely Damage Your Candidacy

1. What Can Actually Happen Behind Closed Doors When Your Submission Materials are Being Reviewed

Here's what the recruiting manager said to me:

"Dan, we get so many applicants and only have limited time for interviews. If there is any missing relevant information from a resume or cover letter, you'd be amazed at how the hiring committee automatically infers the worst possible explanation and before you know it, these inferences become fact."

She went on to share a story that had stuck with her, personally, for years:

[Upon reviewing a resume in a hiring committee meeting]

Partner 1: This candidate has a good resume, but why did he leave his last firm after only 10 months?"

Partner 2: "I heard through the grapevine that somebody in that practice group was fired. Maybe it was him?"

Partner 1: "Hmm. Does he mention in his cover letter why he left his firm after only 10 months?"