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10 Cover Letter Mistakes You Can Fix Right Now

10 Cover Letter Mistakes You Can Fix Right Now

As someone who has had the horrible task privilege of screening and hiring countless employees, I’ve seen cover letters and resumes of all different flavors fall across my desk. Some have been spectacular, while most have been tepid at best, and there have also been many that were so appalling that I wanted to set them on fire rather than besmirching the bin with their presence.

When you’re applying to work at a company, your cover letter is the first thing that the HR folks or hiring committee will see, so don’t screw it up. Below are ten egregious errors that potential applicants should avoid, plus a bit of advice on how to amend them.

1. “I Would Love to Work for Goggle.”

You would not believe how often people misspell the name of the company they’re applying to work for, and no, it isn’t a minor issue that will be overlooked. If you can’t put forth the effort to spell that correctly—or double-check your work, for that matter—how diligent would you be at the job itself?

2. “To Whom It May Concern.”

That would be the person doing the hiring. They have a name, they have a position in the company, and if they’ve placed an ad for a job opening with our company, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ve included their name along with the contact information. If they haven’t, this is a perfect opportunity for you to take some initiative and show them that you’re actually interested in working for them.

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On the rare occasions when a person’s name isn’t listed with the email address, do a quick search for the company’s phone number, and use your texting device for its alternate purpose: calling someone. Ask to speak to someone in HR, if possible, but if it’s a small organization and everyone knows everyone else, ask the receptionist who’s doing the hiring and how to spell that person’s name. It’s a personal touch, but shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile to do something the right way.

3. Too Long/Too Short

Your cover letter should be an introduction about yourself, including a few notes about specialized skills, and have enough of your personality to give them a sense of who you are. This is not an opportunity for you to spew forth your life story wherein you mention the prize you got for best science fair project in the fourth grade, or how poor you are right now and are thus desperate for work with anyone who’ll tolerate your presence.

Consider this letter to be a summation of who you are, and what you can offer. A couple of short paragraphs is more than sufficient to do this, and will do wonders for keeping you in the recruiter’s good books. No-one wants to plod through a page-long intro before every resume.

On a similar note, not saying enough in a cover letter is also the kiss of death. Writing something as simple as “My name is __. Here is my resume.” is just not enough. At all. Aim for around 200 words, and you should be golden.

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4. Spelling Errors

We’ve already covered the possibility of misspelling the company name, but you should be just as diligent about your spelling and grammar throughout your cover letter, resume, and any follow-up communiques. Your application will be placed in the shredder almost immediately if you misspell the recruiter’s name or the position you’re applying for.

Additionally, pay close attention to your own contact information: if you make a typo in your own email address, you won’t hear back from anyone, will you?

barely-speak-english

    5. Arrogance

    No-one likes a person who suffers from insufferable know-it-all-ism, nor do they want to work with someone who considers themselves superior to anyone else. It’s great to be confident about your abilities, but claiming to be the best in your field won’t win you any points. Writing things like, “I’m the best applicant out there,” or “You won’t find a superstar like me anywhere else,” will earn you nothing but contempt.

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    6. Banality

    It really is important to customize your cover letter to suit every company you apply to. You can put together a general template and then tweak it a bit for every application, but make sure that it’s tailored accordingly.

    Let’s say that you have an English degree and are applying to a number of different jobs. If you’re aiming for work as an ESL teacher, make mention of any additional languages you speak, and where you may have traveled. Are you applying for writing work? Make mention of any media you’ve been published in. Don’t repeat what’s in your resume, but take the opportunity to toss in a few gems that will make you stand out from other applicants.

    7. Poor Taste in Typefaces

    This one might not seem important, but it actually makes a world of difference.

    If your cover letter is being emailed, ensure that you’re using a clean sans serif font in plain black for easy readability. Although you want to put forth a bit of your individuality in your cover letter, this isn’t the opportunity for you to break out the twirly script fonts in turquoise or purple.

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    If you’re sending in a printed cover letter and resume, you have a bit more leeway. This rings especially true if you’re applying for a creative position (graphic designer, copywriter, etc.) as you now have the chance to express your personality with font pairings that you like, and that give a sense of who you are. If you choose Papyrus or Comic Sans, however, you will not make it to the interview room.

    8. Not Following Instructions

    Many job postings will have specific instructions for applicants to follow, and failure to do so is grounds for immediate resume incineration. If the listing says that you shouldn’t call to follow up, don’t call. If you’re instructed to attach a cover letter, resume, and relevant links to your work, then do so. The inability to follow basic instructions is not an appealing trait.

    9. Sending From an Unprofessional Email Address

    You may have thought that a cheeky email address was terribly clever when you were in high school, but it will not do you any favors when you’re applying for a job. It only takes a couple of minutes to create a Gmail account that has some permutation of your first name and last name, and you won’t have your letter pitched out because it came from moron@assbutt.com.

    10. Forgetting to Attach Your Resume

    Yes, it happens more often than you might imagine: people who send out fifty resumes a day seem to forget to attach files every so often, but that just helps to weed out the less diligent applicants.

    Be polite and respectful, end your cover letter by thanking the reviewer for their time, and good luck!

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    Catherine Winter

    Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

    Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

    Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

    Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

    How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

    The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

    You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

    Physical Signs

    Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

    It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

    In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

    Mental Signs

    One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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    I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

    Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

    • The tension in your neck
    • Difficulties with sleeping
    • Unable to concentrate
    • High anxiety
    • Depression

    If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

    Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

    Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

    The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

    Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

    Desire for an Increase of Salary

    The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

    At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

    Overnight Decision

    Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

    Rejected for a Promotion

    I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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    Bored at Work

    Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

    A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

    • How long have you worked in your career?
    • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
    • Do you receive recognition?
    • Can you consider working in a new department?

    If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

    How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

    I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

    One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

    It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

    A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

    You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

    • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
    • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
    • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

    How to Make a Career Change Successfully

    The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

    1. Write a Career Plan

    A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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    You can learn how to set your career plan here.

    2. Weigh Your Options

    If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

    You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

    3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

    It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

    A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

    • Economic factors
    • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
    • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
    • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
    • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

      A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

      4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

      A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

      • What is required to be successful in the role?
      • What certification or educational development is needed?
      • What are the challenges of the role?
      • Is there potential for career advancement?

      A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

      Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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      5. Research Salary

      Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

      It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

      6. Be Realistic

      If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

      For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

      Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

      7. Volunteer First

      A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

      Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

      Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

      8. Prepare Your Career Tools

      I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

      • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
      • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
      • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
      • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

      Bottom Line

      It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

      Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

      More About Career Change

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

      [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
      [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
      [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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