Your cover letter is a golden opportunity to sell yourself to recruiters and hiring managers, but many candidates treat it as an afterthought. Without a strongly worded, well-formed cover letter to complement your resume, you may be selling yourself short. Consider the following five common cover letter mistakes to avoid.
1. Generic Opening
Start off on a strong foot to catch the reader's attention and compel him to read further. Forget standard greetings such as "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam"; using this verbiage just shows the reader that you didn't care enough to do your research and find out the hiring manager's name. Once you've greeted the specific person you're writing to, dive right into a strong opening sentence that hits on one of your relevant strengths.
2. All About You
Many candidates mistakenly think their cover letter is supposed to paint them in some sort of glorious golden light. While you should definitely mention your greatest accomplishments and strengths, your cover letter's true purpose is to show prospective employers? that you are a perfect fit for their needs. Just as your resume should cater to the employer, so should your cover letter. Try to only focus on the parts of your experience that directly relate to the job description.
3. Too Long
Many hiring managers will only give your cover letter a passing glance, so it needs to get to the point quickly. A strong introduction, a few key selling points, and a quick conclusion can be achieved in three or four short paragraphs. Remember, your cover letter should entice the reader to want to know more or get in contact with you, not lay out your entire professional story. Respect the reader's time and keep it under one page.
4. Grammar and Spelling Errors
This should go without saying, but if the reader discovers even one simple mistake in your cover letter, it can mean automatic disqualification. This is because errors in your final draft indicate that either you don't proofread properly or don't care; either conclusion is damaging to your chances of getting the job. After you've completed your cover letter, print it out and read over it a few times, both to yourself and out loud. Sometimes grammatical errors or awkward sentences don't become apparent until you actually hear them. Once you've thoroughly proofread and edited where necessary, have a friend read it over and provide constructive feedback.
5. No Call to Action
Your cover letter's ultimate objective is to compel the hiring manager to grant you an interview, so don't be afraid to ask for what you want. End the letter by thanking the reader for his time and consideration, and mention how you're looking forward to hearing from him soon to schedule an interview. Provide updated contact information, and then close the letter. Now you're ready to send it in!
Your cover letter is often the first point of contact between you and the hiring manager, so it needs to be compelling enough to garner a callback. Avoid the most common cover letter mistakes by opening strong, hitting key points that are relevant to the company, keeping it short and flawless, and ending with a strong and confident call to action.
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