We’ve outlined nine common mistakes people make. Read and learn.
Brevity is good. But don’t skimp on key details that will help to differentiate you and compel a potential employer to look at your resume.
You may have a lot to say, but focus on what’s most important. You should be able to deliver a killer-good cover letter in three to five paragraphs.
Trust me, a real person is going to read your letter. Not a computer scanning for key words. Write like a real person. Speak to the reader. Make him or her feel connected to you, your story and your reasons for wanting this job. Show who you are, what makes you tick, and why it should be YOU and not someone else to get the gig. Go personal, go deep while staying professional.
Sure, in most business settings, suits and ties, and Mr. and Ms. have gone the way of the fax machine. But, a degree of formality in a cover letter (and interview) are still very important. You’re not texting your buddy. You’re writing a letter to help sell that you’re a mature, smart, driven and capable candidate that someone should trust in the workplace.
If you’re in or have recently graduated college, having five PR classes and/or two internships under your belt do not make you an expert. I’m 20+ years into this and am still working on getting better at the craft – not to mention my writing. Every day. So, share your relevant experience and express confidence, but know you have a ton to learn. Highlight your relevant strengths and experiences, and express your strong interested in building on your knowledge and experience. But, don’t say you’re “looking forward to putting my well-developed skills to use.” It won’t fly / be believable. Your reader knows you’re new. Own your station, knowing you’ll be climbing the ladder soon enough.
Generic / didn’t read our website:
Folks who make this mistake end up with their emails deleted first and fast. It takes five minutes to review a website, get our company name right and know what we do. Work something about us into your cover letter – but make it relevant, not clumsy. “Dear sir” is inexcusable when you can easily find a name of a person – especially if you’re already sending your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org! The shotgun approach to job hunting usually leaves the job seeker shooting him or herself in the foot. Take five minutes. It’s worth it!
Too many typos (btw: none are acceptable):
You should never hit send until you are sure your writing is clean. Practice these four simple proofreading tricks to greatly improve your writing: 1. Print and read it out loud (you’ll be surprised what you catch); 2. Read it from bottom to top (this throws off your inherent assumptions & familiarity that can cause you to breeze over mistakes); 3. Read it three times, at least two hours apart from each reading (fresh eyes are better at catching typos); and 4. Have at least two other people proofread your cover letter and resume.
Didn’t address a real person:
Again, take the time to look at our (and any prospective employer’s) website. My name is all over the place…and for other companies you may apply to, it’s very likely you can find a name on the website or call and ask for the best person to whom you should send your resume.
You should summarize and highlight your strengths and experience, but don’t list it all again in the cover letter. That wastes an opportunity for you to be creative and compelling. It also wastes your reader’s time.