After spending a considerable amount of time perfecting your resume and crafting a cover letter, the last thing you need is to submit application materials that are incorrectly formatted or riddled with errors. The cover letter is one of the most important documents to prepare during your job search, so it is imperative to avoid mistakes that can land your hard work at the bottom of the pile. Avoid these errors when writing a cover letter to improve your career opportunities and put you one step ahead of the rest of the candidates.
1. Failing to Proofread
A cover letter that contains even one spelling or grammar error increases the chances of hiring managers tossing it in the trash. The presence of sentence structure or punctuation errors also leaves a negative impression and indicates that you may produce sloppy work on the job. Take the time to spell check and proofread your letter multiple times. Ask people in your professional network to review the document or make an appointment with a career counselor to review the structure and proofread for errors you may have missed.
2. Rehashing Your Resume
It is likely that you are submitting your resume with your cover letter, so the two documents need to be unique and distinctive. Avoid just repeating your experience and the duties of each position in your cover letter. Instead, focus on a few examples of your work that highlight your skills, talents and accomplishments in previous positions. Expand upon how you have worked successfully with teams, met important deadlines and interacted with customers to enhance the company's image, productivity and profitability. Your cover letter should focus more on information that cannot be found in the resume versus repeating the same details.
3. Including a General Greeting
Applicants who begin their cover letters with "to whom it may concern" may be limiting their opportunities to obtain interviews. This general greeting shows that you have not taken the time to research the company and identify a hiring manager. Generalized language also leads potential employers to believe that you are using a template for all positions versus personalizing the cover letter. Focus your preliminary research on determining who is handling the hiring process. Call the company to identify a department head or supervisor who will be reviewing application materials and appropriately address the letter with this information.
4. Using a Template
Hiring managers can easily detect a template. This general document allows you to insert the position and the company name while keeping your information the same for each position. Avoid this practice at all costs. The impersonal nature of a template communicates that you are taking short cuts during the job search. Instead, personalize your cover letter for each job opening. Include details about the company you have uncovered while researching, and tailor your skills to the desired qualifications listed in the job description.
5. Violating the One-Page Guideline
Even if you have decades of experience and accomplishments you want to highlight in the letter, resist the urge to write more than one page. Cover letters need to be concise and clear. Candidates who go on and on about their qualifications and use wordy phrases run the risk of boring the hiring manager. Stay focused on the most relevant experience and skills to keep the document to one page.
6. Inserting a Photo
You may have the most attractive smile, but it is never appropriate to include a picture in your cover letter. This practice can be viewed as egotistical and may even lead hiring managers to discriminate against you based on perceived age, gender or race. Save the smile for the interview instead.
7. Sharing Personal Information
All information included in a cover letter should be closely related to your professional life. While it is acceptable to mention volunteer experiences and community involvement, avoid revealing personal information. Candidates who reveal family obligations and the existence of children open themselves up to potentially unfair assumptions by hiring managers who may question their ability to juggle home and work life.
8. Incorporating a Casual Tone
Cover letters need to be written in a serious and formal tone. Even if the company's image boasts a casual, laid-back style, resist the temptation to write casually and informally. Represent yourself professionally with language that is related to the industry.
9. Focusing Solely on Training
Your education and professional development is important to include on your resume, but potential employers want to see how you have used this knowledge. Instead of boasting about the number of degrees you have earned in your cover letter, show how you have used this knowledge to revamp policies, procedures and productivity in previous positions. Note how your leadership training has aided you in the past.
10. Missing Hyperlinks
The digital era has transformed how job seekers craft their application materials. It is necessary to include links to your online portfolio or sample work. Instead of just mentioning that you have published professional work or run a successful blog focused on the industry, include hyperlinks so the hiring manager can see it for himself.
It takes time and effort to craft a cover letter that is engaging and compels the hiring manager to seek out your skills. Avoid these mistakes to increase your career opportunities and land the job of your dreams.
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