The cover letter is the first thing a prospective employer sees. Before the resume, before ever putting your face to your name, hiring teams will see your cover letter. It’s important to write as good a cover letter as possible to avoid getting passed over. The following are seven common cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them:
1. Using a generic format.
Yes, cover letters can be tricky to write. No, that doesn’t mean you can use the same one for multiple job listings. Chances are, most employers can tell when a cover letter hasn’t been specifically written for their company, and as soon as they realize that, your cover letter is getting tossed out. Take extra time to tailor your cover letter to each specific job. It shows you’re attentive to detail and are serious about pursuing the opportunity. Use specific examples from the job description and the company itself to show you mean business.
2. Ignoring job listing instructions.
Some job listings will include some of the things the hiring team would like to see on a cover letter. One of the worst things you can do is ignore those instructions. Doing so shows you don’t care or simply did not pay attention to the job listing. Make sure you read over the listing very carefully and include anything they ask for. Make sure to include those things first, and then go back and add extra information if you have room.
3. Rewriting your resume.
Employers don’t need to see your resume rewritten in your cover letter. After all, that’s what your resume is for. Only include points which are relevant to the job description and go into detail. Don’t include something that isn’t important to this particular job, and only choose things you feel best demonstrate your abilities. If you’ve worked on several projects that are very similar to each other, don’t include all of them in your cover letter. It’s a waste of space and will leave the prospective employer feeling bored.
4. Addressing it “to whom it may concern.”
Always, always, always include a name. Most job listings will include the name of the person to whom the cover letter should be addressed. If you’re in the unfortunate situation of not being given a name, research the company. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to simply email someone at the company and ask who to address the cover letter to. A last ditch effort of simply picking the name of someone from the company at random is better than no name at all. It’s a little detail that makes a big difference.
5. Not proofreading.
There is nothing worse than a cover letter with typos and grammar mistakes. It’s incredibly unprofessional. Run spell check on your computer, read it several times, have someone else take a look at it. You need to make sure there is nothing structurally wrong with your cover letter.
6. Going over one page.
If the employer wants to learn more about your experience, he or she will give you an interview. Your cover letter should show off your skills and background without going into too much detail. Keep it to one page. After all, there could be countless applicants to sort through, and it’s likely a second page wouldn’t be read at all.
So maybe you’re the best person who has ever existed in your particular field. Even then, you shouldn’t brag on your cover letter. Let your past experience speak for itself. You should absolutely be confident in your qualifications, but simply stating the facts will do just fine. You should keep the same thing in mind for an interview. If you’ve got the experience, you won’t need to brag.
Featured photo credit: Lucius Beebe Memorial Library via flickr.com