Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid

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Cover letter mistakes can be costly. In a tight job market, you need to strive for perfection when crafting your cover letter. A cover letter is an excellent opportunity to showcase your communication skills and this could help you stand out from a pool of similarly qualified candidates.

A good cover letter can entice a potential employer to read your CV or resume. A bad cover letter on the other hand, can damage your personal brand and scupper any chances of you ever working for that company.

Mistakes to Avoid in Your Cover Letter

You need to ensure that your cover letter is concise and business-like, and effective for you. Here is a detailed list of mistakes that you should avoid making when writing your cover letter.

No cover letter.

The cover letter is a staple in the job hunting process. It is a key part of marketing your personal brand, and the number one thing you need to get your resume read. Yet, far too many job seekers underestimate the importance of a well-written cover letter, choosing to focus all of their energy on the resume, and ignoring the cover letter altogether.

No matter how in-depth or powerful CV or resume is, it’s simply not enough to tell your whole story to potential employers. A well-written cover letter allows you to sell yourself in your own words, showcase your communications skills and work ethic. It allows you to demonstrate just how passionate you are about the position you are applying for, and why your background, skills and experience are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

In addition, a cover letter allows you to engage the potential employer and provide glimpses into your personality in a way that a resume simply cannot do.

Not sending a cover letter is a sign of laziness and speaks volumes. It will have a negative impact on your candidacy. In fact, when applying for a job, if you are not willing to take the time to draft a cover letter, you really shouldn’t bother applying, because your resume may not even be considered.

Submitting a badly written cover letter.

The only thing worse than not sending a cover letter, is sending a badly-written cover letter. A badly written cover letter stands out for being just that, and it will kill your chances of getting that job. Your cover letter is a powerful brand marketing tool that should engage the reader and compel him or her to read your resume.

If your cover letter is generic, bland, poorly written or riddled with mistakes, this will tell the potential employer all he or she needs to know about your personality and work ethic, and there’ll be no incentive to move on to your resume. Your candidacy will end right there.

Your cover letter is a powerful marketing tool. It is designed to grab attention and entice the reader to learn more about you. You should aim to stand out from the pool of similarly qualified candidates. A boring letter has nothing to hook the reader to entice him or her to read on.

If your letter sucks, it will hurt you. If you cannot bother sending a great cover letter, don’t bother sending one at all. Make your cover letter memorable by injecting your personality into it.

Not addressing your cover letter to a named individual.

If you have taken the time to write a great cover letter, it would be a mistake to ruin your chances by addressing the letter to “Dear Sir or Madam”, “To Whom it May Concern”, etc. Not naming the recipient of the letter tells the reader that you were not concerned enough to make your cover letter shine.

Finding out the name of the specific hiring manager is easy enough, especially with LinkedIn. You can also use the phone, a Google search and the library to track down the name of the hiring manager. Unless the company has a no-names policy and you’ve been instructed to address the letter to the “hiring manager”, there’s simply no excuse for not getting a name.

Using clichés and platitudes.

Avoid clichés and platitudes in your cover letter like the plague. A cliché or platitude is a word or phrase that has been used so often by so many job seekers that potential employers find them completely meaningless. Using them in your cover letter or resume, will create a very poor first impression of you on your target audience.

Here are examples of some of the most common clichés you should definitely avoid:

  • “Dynamic team player with excellent interpersonal skills.”
  • “I am a people person”
  • “Excellent oral and written communication skills.”
  • “Your company is known as the crème de la crème of the digital marketing industry”
  • “Hardworking”, “reliable”, “creative problem solver”, “motivated”, “driven”, etc.

You can be sure that almost everyone who applies for a position describes themselves as one or more of the above. Rather than using any of these platitudes in your cover letter, a much more effective way to demonstrate that you have these attributes is to highlight a real-life example from your current or previous job that shows that you are motivated, hardworking or a dynamic team player.

For example, instead of describing yourself as driven or motivated, you could say that “While at _________, over a period of six months, I successfully met and exceeded my monthly sales target by 150-250%% on a consistent basis.” This will carry a lot more weight than clichés that practically anyone can make.

Not quantifying your accomplishments.

A cover letter is a powerful marketing tool and one of the most effective ways to make your cover letter stand out from the rest is by quantifying your accomplishments. The aim of your cover letter is to generate excitement in what you can do for your target audience.

To do so, focus your entire cover letter around results that you have generated for previous employers. Showing your results in the past in the form of hard-hitting numbers will not only give them an idea of your strengths and qualifications, it will generate excitement about what you are capable of doing for them and the value that you bring.

Using the wrong writing style.

Your cover letter demonstrates your writing style and shows your personality much more than your resume, which is usually more brief and factual. It is important to adopt a polite, formal style that is confident but is also respectful.

Don’t include any irrelevant information that you cannot relate to the job you are applying for. Focus on relating your background and personal accomplishments that are relevant to the job at hand. Above all, you want the tone of your letter to sound confident, polite and professional.

Being Negative.

Adding any negative information on your cover letter will only create the wrong impression and make you look bad. For example, bad mouthing a former employer is considered to be one of the absolute worst thing that a candidate can include in his or her cover letter.

No one will want to hire someone that bad mouths a previous employer because they know that if they hire you and things don’t work out, you’ll be bad mouthing them next. Your cover letter should be brimming with enthusiasm and positive energy. Furthermore, avoid sharing unnecessary details of your personal life.

Rehashing Your CV or Resume.

Your cover letter is not your resume, and is not the place to simply restate verbatim what is already on it. Your cover letter is a marketing tool designed to grab the attention of the reader and entice them to read your resume. If you simply cut and paste what is already on your resume, this will actually show that you don’t think strategically. It will also demonstrate that you lack strong communication skills. Keep the reader intrigued and kept in suspense as to what is in your resume.

Not proofreading your cover letter.

Your letter reflects your ability to write and communicate. It also demonstrates your attention to details. Typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes will create a very poor impression of your personal brand, and could scupper any chances of employment with that company.

Before you send it off, print out your cover letter and read it from start to finish to identify and get rid of any errors. It might also be a good idea to get it proofread by a highly rated proofreading service provider on sites like Fiverr or Upwork.

Failing to tailor your CV or resume to the job you’re applying for.

When applying for a job role, the specifics of your cover letter should be tied as closely as possible to the wording of the person specification. It is important to understand what potential employers are looking for in their candidates, and then match the needs of the employer with your skills and experience.

You need to present yourself as the ideal solution to the problem they are trying to solve, and you can only do this by tailoring your cover letter and resume to the job you are applying for.