10 Common Mistakes While Writing Cover Letters
A perfect cover letter, which accompanies a job application, has the potential to increase your chances of getting noticed and eventually bagging a job. However, it is not very easy to write a flawless cover letter and there is a certain approach towards it. Often job seekers tend to ignore this job of perfecting the cover letter. It is true that it needs some efforts to get it right, but once you get there, it gets easier and every time you do it, you perform better.
Many feel that cover letters a thing of the past. However, while many recruiters consider cover letter to be unimportant while evaluating potential candidates, others value it immensely. And since it is not possible to predict the type of recruiter receiving your application, it is best to include a cover letter with all your applications.
However, while drafting a cover letter, make sure it helps your candidature. Scroll down to find the 10 common mistakes applicants make while writing cover letters. Make sure to avoid these oft-repeated mistakes in your cover letter.
1. Lack of research
Employers are always looking for excuses to eliminate applicants. In this scenario sending a cover letter that is not customised is giving a set batsman a loose ball. Personalising your cover letter, by doing required research on the name of the hiring manager (if it’s not there on the job post) and about the organisation that’s filling the position, is a smart approach. As by not doing it you will be sending the message that you are reluctant to do your homework. Also try and avoid using generic template cover letters. Do re-read the job description cautiously to understand the dos and don’ts. Often employers ask for particular information to be included in the cover letter. Ignoring this is the most undesirable thing, as the hiring manager will presume you unable to follow the simplest of instructions.
However, this is not true while responding to an anonymous job posting where the right thing is not to name of company or the hiring manager.
2. Overly formal or casual greetings
Before deciding on whether you’re better off with a “Hello Jack” or a “Dear Mr. Smith” kind of greeting, consider the company’s culture by checking out the organisation’s Careers section in its website, going through the reviews on Glassdoor, and following the social media accounts of the company. You can also find out about it from your network.
If unable to address the cover letter to a definite individual, stay away from extremely formal addresses, like “To Whom It May Concern,” as these are not conversational and can be considered offensive. The same is true for too casual ones like “Hi!” as this cover letter address is a little too blasé for a first communication and may have the addressee question your professionalism. To play it safe go with a gender-neutral greeting like – “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiter.”
3. Regurgitating Your Resume
Often candidates are at a loss about what to write in the cover letter and resort to repeating their job history. This isn’t a great approach as the recruiter already has your CV. Better to highlight on your on your professional journey up till then and writing about why you think it is the right career move for you to apply for the job.
4. Talking all about me, me, me
Cover letters are actually sales pitches to hiring managers. The smart approach is to refrain from reiterating your achievements, wants and needs, focus on the needs of your potential employer, who is going to read the letter.
It is important to go through the job description repeatedly and be updated on the latest developments of the company. It is also critical to understand why the company is hiring for this position as this will help in identifying the pain point which the position will address. Relating with the recruiters’ concerns and placing your abilities as the answer to their requirements will help you have a better prospect of avoiding cover letter mistakes and capturing the hiring manager’s attention.
5. Only Talking Up Your Soft Skills
Candidates often add too many soft skills instead of highlighting the job-related skills. Many go on writing about their reliability, level of motivation and dependability. Being reliable, motivated and dependable are the basic requirements that a recruiter expects from a candidate.
As an alternative, take efforts to stand apart by explaining how your industry skills and experience will add value to the company. Speak of your achievements that have direct relation to the position.
Depending on the job role, draft a list of the 3-5 requirements critical for the position. This could be about your familiarity with a certain domain, your skill in a particular job, your educational qualifications or other credentials. Once done, come up with how you have each requirement, referring to specific contributions in the past or experiences from your past work – that exemplifies the qualifications. Summing up the information is a great technique to tailor your cover letter and grasp the recruiter’s attention.
Today, we are heavily dependent on spell-check and autocorrect to edit our content. This creates mistakes like writing “fire” when you wanted to write “hire.” – these silly mistake have the potential to derail your professional life.
Follow an easy cover letter tip: Go through your cover letter many times before sending it. If possible get it checked by a family member or a trusted friend.
7. Writing a novel
Hiring managers are known to spend an average of six seconds scrutinizing resumes before deciding if it is good enough. It is then anybody’s guess that they’ll spend even lesser time reading cover letters. A cover letter should never be any longer than is absolutely necessary to express your key points. And it should never be more than a page long.
Besides, it is extremely important to keep the readability right. Keep it simple and avoid using block letters.
8. Going off brand
It is also very critical to focus on how you present your professional brand— online, on paper or face to face. In case of writing your cover letter the right approach is to give it the same look as your resume. While uploading the cover letter as a separate file to the online application, make sure it has the same header as your resume. Also, make the font, color and size, contact information and spelling of your name consistent.
9. Not Easing Fears About Relocation
While applying for a position away from your current location or city take efforts to make the cover letter a tool to nullify the concerns the recruiter might have about your relocating.
Identify something you have in common with the new city or location in order to connect yourself to the area.
10. Not Referencing Next Steps
Try and place the prospect of an interview in the hiring manager’s head. End the cover letter by providing your availability for interview. Think of something like – Considering my passion for this job role, I strongly feel I could make for an ideal candidate. Can we speak on phone or in person on to discuss further about my candidature?
Author: Baishali Mukherjee
Profile- An independent writer and journalist for last nine years; presently working with Education World, Entrepreneur India, Scrabbl.com and Stoodnt.com. Worked as the content head for four books and have articles and features published in leading print and digital media spaces.
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