Tricky cover letter mistakes to avoid
Nix these things and make sure your first impression isn’t the equivalent of a limp handshake.
Your cover letter is like a handshake—it’s how you introduce yourself to employers when you apply for a job. Like a good handshake, you want your cover letter to be sharp, concise, and make a great first impression.
Your cover letter isn’t a part of the job application process you want to skimp on, either. A cover letter allows you to go into more detail than your resume allows. It explains gaps in your employment history or your need for a career change. It can make a case as to why you would be an excellent fit for the position. And a great cover letter can open the door to scoring an interview and, ultimately, landing a job.
Make sure your first impression is a good and lasting one by avoiding these common mistakes below when writing your cover letter.
1. Overusing “I”
Your cover letter is not your autobiography. The focus should be on how you meet an employer’s needs, not on your life story. Avoid the perception of being self-centred by minimizing your use of the word “I,” which is especially important at the beginning of your sentences.
2. Using a weak opening
When writing a cover letter, job seekers frequently struggle with the cover letter’s opening. This difficulty often results in a feeble introduction lacking punch and failing to grab the reader’s interest. Consider this example:
Weak: Please consider me for your sales representative opening.
Better: Your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match for my three-year history as a top-ranked, multimillion-dollar producer.
3. Omitting your top-selling points
A cover letter is a sales letter that sells you as a candidate. Just like your resume, it should be compelling and give the main reasons they should call you for an interview. Winning cover letter tips include emphasizing your top accomplishments or creating subheadings culled from the job posting. For example:
- Your ad specifies: Communication skills
I offer: Five years of public speaking experience and an extensive background in executive-level report.
- Your ad specifies: The need for a strong computer background
I offer: Proficiency in all MS Office applications with additional expertise in website development and design.
4. Making it too long
If your cover letter exceeds one page, you may be putting readers to sleep. A great cover letter is concise but compelling and respects the reader’s time.
6. Being vague
If you’re replying to an advertised opening—as opposed to writing a cold cover letter—reference the specific job title in your cover letter. The person reading your letter may be reviewing hundreds of letters for dozens of different jobs. Make sure all of the content in your letter supports how you will meet the employer’s specific needs.
7. Forgetting to customize
If you’re applying to many similar positions, chances are you’re tweaking one letter and using it for multiple openings. That’s fine, as long as you customize each letter. Don’t forget to update the company, job and contact information—if you refer to Mr. Jones as Ms. Smith; he won’t be impressed.
8. Ending on a passive note
When possible, put your future in your own hands with a promise to follow up. Instead of asking readers to call you, try a statement like this: I will follow up with you in a few days to answer any preliminary questions you may have. In the meantime, you may reach me at (555) 555-5555.
9. Being rude
Your cover letter should thank the reader for his or her time and consideration.
10. Forgetting to sign the letter
It is proper business etiquette (and shows attention to detail) to sign your letter. Err on the side of formality, and if you need any help figuring out how to close your cover letter, consider these possible sign-offs. However, if you are sending an email cover letter and resume, a signature isn’t necessary.
Now, about your resume
Now that you know how to duck and dodge mistakes on your cover letter, it’s time to double-check that your resume is free of embarrassing (and damaging) errors and weaknesses. Need some help? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster’s Resume Writing Service. You’ll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume’s appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter’s first impression. It’s a quick and easy way to strengthen your selling points to a hiring manager and help you get the job.