The 5 Biggest Cover Letter Mistakes

The 5 Biggest Cover Letter Mistakes

The employment market is tough. Anyone looking for a job will tell you that. Think about this: hiring managers sometimes receive thousands of applicants for the few jobs they post. Are you wondering why you’re not getting noticed?

It’s highly likely that you are shooting up a red flag somewhere in your resume and/or cover letter. Besides the obvious – which includes making sure there are no typos and that your cover letter is addressed to the right person – here are some other mistakes you do not want to make, but you probably are.

1. Do Not Go On and On

Some people have a lot of work history. However, that should be covered in your resume, not your cover letter. Your cover letter should be succinct and to the point. You do not want to talk on and on about things that are only interesting to you. That’s a perfect way to get human resources to toss both your cover letter, and your resume.

Most employment experts recommend having a cover letter that is no more than 500 words. Use your first paragraph to grab the attention of the person who is doing the reading. Use the following paragraphs to talk about why you are qualified for the position. Let the hiring manager know what you can do and how you will be an asset to the company.

2. Formulaic Writing

Spend time personalizing each cover letter you submit. One of the worst mistakes people make is sending out the same cover letter to ten different employers. Research the job you are applying for and use this knowledge to customize your letter. You might also want to briefly research the company history and use this knowledge as well.

Keep in mind that hiring managers spend many hours reading cover letters. Generic cover letters and their accompanying resumes often get tossed, simply as a way to reduce the number of applicants.

3. Who Needs Who?

Sometimes human resources personnel come across cover letters informing them how their company can benefit by hiring the applicant. This is often the case with recent college graduates, but older workers make this mistake as well. No matter what your qualifications are, remember that no one is indispensable.

Use your cover letter to give a brief outline of what you have to offer the company. That’s what hiring managers are looking for. They want to find the best fit for the job available, and they often hire the applicant that brings the most to the table.

4. Not Following Directions

Some job postings ask applicants to answer a question in their cover letter. They might also ask for specific information that isn’t normally available on a resume. Pay attention to what is being asked of you, and make sure you follow the directions.

No matter what kind of industry you are interested in, paying attention and being able to focus are important skills. Before you submit your cover letter, go over the job listing to make sure you are doing exactly what is being asked. Not following directions will definitely get your letter and resume tossed into the recycle bin.

5. Lack of Confidence

Include a call to action in your cover letter. Request that the hiring manager contact you and give them the necessary information. Let them know that you are confident in your skills and that you know you will benefit the company. This isn’t being arrogant; it’s being confident, and that’s something hiring managers like.

Don’t include phrases such as “I think I will be great fit for this role.” Tell them you know you will be a great fit for the role. You are trying to convince the hiring manager that you are the best candidate, and in order to successfully convince them, you must exhude confidence.

Letting human resources know you can do the job will make your cover letter stand out, and that’s exactly what you need if you want to get hired.

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Comments (4)

  • Reply

    With a great cover letter you communicate that you researched the position, the company, you visualized yourself in the role you’re applying for and you visualized the many ways in which you are a wonderful attribute to the employer.

    June 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm
  • Helen Johnstone Reply

    Can I suggest exude might be a better word for the second to last paragraph?

    July 31, 2013 at 5:10 am
  • PJM Reply

    HRIT systems ignore cover letters. Put your effort in the top 1/3 of your resume and focus on matching the job description’s key words as much as possible if you want to make the digital cut to get the chance to be visually scanned in 15 – 30 seconds by a recruiter.

    August 12, 2014 at 6:21 am
  • The4thStooge Reply

    Okay, this week you’re supposed to have a cover letter. Next week, they’ll be going the way of the dodo. The week after that, they’ll be the “in” thing to have…again. There’s no hard and fast rule of why one thing works FOR SOME PEOPLE and others fail, even though their cover letters are just as good and their resumes are just as correct as the person that gets the job. When I read resumes, I did NOT read cover letters. I zeroed in on the school and the applicant’s repertoire list or recordings (this was for the music department at a college). None of these things have changed, other than the fact that there are now computers doing the work. If anything, this makes it WORSE!
    I’ll repeat it, because it bears repeating. Sometimes we really don’t know why Person A clicked even though Person B had the better interview/resume/cover letter/suit/smelled better/whatever. There are a lot of little things that go into the hiring process that no one really mentions. No matter how much we want the paper/interview to be perfect, sometimes, we just don’t get hired.

    August 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm

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