A well-written cover letter is an essential job hunting tool that can make a powerful first impression on potential employers. It serves as an introduction, summarizes your qualifications and explains how the open position can benefit from your talents and expertise. When properly written, a cover letter gets interviews and wins jobs, but there are certain things that automatically turn off a typical hiring manager and should always be avoided.
Generic or Incorrect Names
Letters accompanying resumes should be personalized to each unique job application and should always address the hiring contact by name. Avoid generic headings, such as "Dear Madam or Sir," and always make sure the name is spelled correctly.
Irrelevant Details and Personal Information
A good cover letter is short, concise and never longer than a page. Don't waste space with information that is not directly related to the position in question and why you are qualified to fill it. Keep a professional focus throughout the letter, and don't include any personal reasons you may have for taking the job.
Clichés and Unsupported Claims
Resume cover letters are like sales pitches. Both are most effective when they demonstrate the real benefits of a particular option, not when they make empty claims with overused phrases. Avoid typical cover letter clichés, such as "detail-oriented" and "team player." Instead, provide examples of previous experiences that help show how you can excel in the specified position.
Weaknesses and Downfalls
Focus on creating a positive image for a potential employer, highlighting your strengths and talents. Don't draw attention to flaws or a lack of skills, especially when it isn't relevant to the open position. Find a balance between bragging and self-criticizing that illustrates your abilities in the work place.
Personal Needs or Requirements
The cover letter is not a negotiating tool. Save discussions regarding salary requirements, schedule demands and similar concerns for the interview. This space is an opportunity to tell a potential employer what you can do to help him and his company so that you have a position to negotiate.
Misspelled Words and Poor Grammar
Spelling mistakes, typos and misplaced punctuation give a cover letter a less-than-professional appearance. Employers want candidates with an eye for detail, so even small errors can send your application to the rejection pile. Take the time to proofread the letter multiple times before a hiring manager reads it.
The letter that introduces a resume has a tremendous impact on the rest of the hiring process. An unimpressive introduction may mean the hiring manager never makes it to the resume, but overly exaggerated descriptions can be just as detrimental. When you're job hunting, take the time to craft an original, personalized cover letter that lets a potential employer know what you can do for the company to increase your chance of getting the position.
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