Common cover letter mistakes
Contrary to what you’ve heard, cover letters are still important when submitting your resumé. They’re not necessarily essential or required in every industry or for every career, but savvy job seekers always have one ready to go.
“A lot of companies still ask candidates for a cover letter when they apply, especially if they’re doing so through an online application system,” explains Tina Nicolai, executive career coach and founder of Résumé Writers’ Ink. “And while it might seem annoying to have to write one, it’s actually beneficial to you, the candidate, to provide one — as long as it’s well-written and free of errors.”
Unfortunately, the number of mistakes regarding cover letters are far too easy to see. Here are some of the most common problems:
Typos and grammatical errors
Having a lot of typos or having poor grammar is a sure way for your resumé to land in the ‘no‘ pile. You shouldn’t only rely on spell check – ask a friend or family member to look it over before you submit it.
Not personalizing the letter
If you’re applying to a job and are still addressing your cover letters with “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern,” you may as well stop sending your letters. If you don’t personalize your cover letter it shows you didn’t bother spending a couple minutes to look up who the hiring manager was on LinkedIn or the company website.
Okay, it’s not always easy to identify who the hiring manager is. If you’re not sure after doing a thorough search on LinkedIn and Google you can always email the company and ask. If you really can’t find a name, be sure to mention that in your letter –a generic letter raises red flags with the hiring manager who’ll wonder if you know how to use the Internet.
Reusing cover letters
I know that job hunting is exhausting and it is just easier to send the same letter out, swapping the company and hiring manager’s name. But putting in the time and research to craft a unique cover letter is well worth it. If when you’re changing up these names you forget to replace the company name or job title, it will be a huge turn off to the employer you send it to.
Be sure to go beyond just using the company’s name once or twice. Generic sentences like “I could be a great addition to Company ABC” will not fool anyone into thinking you spent more than five minutes on your application.
What will make your cover letter stand out? Spend some time on the company’s website, look through their press releases, their blog posts and other recent news. Try to get a sense of what they’re about and speak to that.
Not tailoring the cover letter to the job you’re applying to
Not all jobs are created equal. What one designer does at Company X is likely very different than what a designer does at Company Y.
“Customize each cover letter targeting the specified job description,” advises Nicolai. “A master cover letter is fine to use as a template or outline, but always remember to tailor it.”
Speak to your skills and experience and don’t just talk about how organized you are and what a great multitasker you are. Read the job posting carefully – you can gain some valuable insights about what the company is looking for and use that to write about how you can help.
This is pretty obvious — but don’t lie on your cover letter or resumé ever. It won’t help you or the company you’re applying to if you can’t do the job. Besides, they’ll find out eventually.
Not including a cover letter
It’s still surprising when someone applies to a job with only their resume. Not telling an employer that why you think you should be considered for a job position indicates a lack of effort put into the application. Sure, there are some employers that don’t read them or place much importance on them. But since you don’t know whether they read them or not, you should include a letter.
Even though it can be tedious and take up a lot of your time, you simply can’t ignore your cover letter. This is your opportunity to make a good first impression and entice someone to actually read your resume. Remember, the cover letter is your foot in the door, so don’t try to take short-cuts or you’ll get a door in the face.
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