Your cover letter is an essential component of your job application and is every bit as important as your resume, references, and work samples. It is the first impression you'll make with your prospective employer—so avoid these seven common mistakes to make sure it isn't the last.
Mistake #1: Not following the proper format
Hiring managers and prospective employers typically expect cover letters to follow the format of a professional business letter and to include a return address, date, and contact information. In the letter, you should also include the official company name—spelled correctly!—and the position you’re applying to as well as how you learned about it.
Mistake #2: Opening with a default greeting
Whenever possible, address the hiring manager by name—again, spelled correctly! Only resort to “Dear Hiring Manager” if this information isn't available. Dig deep to find the information you need. Almost everything is on Google these days.
Mistake #3: Making it all about you
You want your cover letter to stand out, but you don't want to overdo it with irrelevant information about your hobbies or life story. Ideally, your cover letter should tell your employer why you're interested in the company and how you're the best candidate for the position. The information you write about yourself should be relevant and balanced with information that shows you've done your research about the position. If you need help striking the right balance between writing about yourself and demonstrating custom research about the job, we can help.
Mistake #4: Summarizing your resume
Simply summarizing what you've already explained in your resume inadvertently implies you have nothing else to talk about. Instead, focus on a couple of key work successes from your past experiences that reveal what you could bring to the role. Though this might sound challenging, talking with someone about what you've accomplished can help you see how those accomplishments are relevant to the job at hand.
Mistake #5: Relying on clichés
If you litter your cover letter with buzzwords and clichés like “team player” and “highly motivated,” you aren't revealing much about your experience. You'll be wasting the hiring manager's time and your own, as your cover letter will likely be thrown out. Every word in your cover letter counts and should be chosen carefully. Writing a great cover letter is 50% what to include and 50% what to strip out. If you need help, please let us know. Every day, we help people write cover letters that land interviews.
Mistake #6: Going too long
With rare exceptions, your cover letter should not exceed a page. Write concisely, sticking to relevant information that will excite and intrigue the hiring manager. Protip: You can always Google the hiring manager's name to find detailed information about her. For instance, does she volunteer with rescued dogs? If so, can you fit something in your cover letter (assuming it's true) about what you learned while working with animals?
Mistake #7: Neglecting to proofread
In some cases, recruiters reconsider hiring decisions when they notice a candidate's social media profiles are littered with spelling and grammar errors—so you can imagine how they'll feel if your cover letter has typos and other mistakes. Proofread your cover letter carefully.
Bonus tip: Don't do it all on your own
Whenever possible, seek guidance from a professional resume and cover letter writer. Not only will a professional be able to review your cover letter for typos and spelling mistakes, he or she will spot other common mistakes in tone, style, and format and provide you with other critical cover letter tips. To talk with a professional job coach who can help you craft a winning resume and cover letter, click here.