Do you need to write a cover letter in order to apply for a job? In most cases, the answer is yes. Your cover letter may make the difference between landing a job interview or having your resume thrown away, so it’s important to steer clear of mistakes that a potential employer will notice right away. Here are the top ten cover letter mistakes that everyone should avoid.
1. Overusing “I”
Of course you can use the word “I” in your cover letter sparingly as it’s a document to brand yourself, but it’s not an autobiography. The focus should be on how you can meet an employer’s needs, not on your life. Keep the tone very conversational, as if you were talking to a hiring manager face-to-face. By doing so, you will prevent the dreaded robot-like cover letter that can’t stand out from the rest.
2. Making it too Long
If your cover letter exceeds one page, it’s too long. A cover letter should be concise but interesting, demonstrate how and why you’re a great fit for the job, and it should respect the reader’s time. If your letter does that, but it’s longer than a page, look for ways to edit it down without minimizing its essence.
3. Using a Weak Opening
You only have so long to catch your reader’s attention, so make sure it happens right away. The difficulty that comes with writing a strong opening paragraph often results in a weak introduction lacking a memorable tone. To counter this, be direct right away by letting the reader know the job you’re applying for. Try to state an accomplishment from your previous job, mention someone who referred you (if applicable) and express your excitement for the position you’re applying for. Always tailor your introduction to your personal circumstances and the job for which you are applying. The more you personalize your cover letter to show that you’re a good fit for the job, the better your chances of being called for an interview.
4. Omitting Your Top Selling Points
A cover letter should be considered a marketing tool that sells you as a candidate. Just like your resume, it should be intriguing and provide the reasons why you should be called for an interview. Top selling points should be explained in short sentences that really pack a punch; for example, instead of saying, “Good communication skills,” you can say, “Three years of public speaking experience and an extensive background in leading meetings.”
5. Repeating Your Resume
A cover letter and a resume are two very different documents that hold different purposes. Reword your cover letter statements to avoid dulling your resume’s impact. Consider using the letter to tell a positive work accomplishment that will trigger some sort of feel-good emotion from the hiring manager.
6. Forgetting to Customize
If you’re applying for several positions, be sure to tweak each cover letter. Don’t forget to update the company, job, contact information and anything in the body of the cover letter that doesn’t pertain to the particular job you’re applying for.
7. Being Vague
If you’re replying to an advertised opening, be sure to mention the specific job title in your cover letter. The person reading your letter may be reviewing letters for dozens of different jobs. Make sure all of the content in the body of your letter supports how you can and will meet the employer’s needs.
8. Ending on a Passive Note
The most important part of your closing is your “call to action” statement. When possible, put your future in your own hands by saying you will follow up with them. Instead of asking hiring managers to call you, try a statement like this: “I will call you next Monday to follow up on my application and arrange an interview.”
9. Not Being Thankful
Your cover letter should always thank the reader for their time and consideration.
10. Forgetting to Sign the Letter
Although it’s not imperative that you sign your cover letter, it can show attention to detail and initiative if you do. However, if you are sending an email cover letter and resume, a signature isn’t necessary.