Mistakes to Avoid When Crafting Your Cover Letter

The cover letter is the first impression you give to a potential employer, so making certain that it represents you is crucial. Often cited as being a deciding factor when making a determination for an interview, you must be certain that the cover letter is not only grammatically correct, but that it is crafted in a way that convinces the employer to take positive action. In order to do that, you need to avoid making some of these common mistakes when crafting your next cover letter.

Do Not Make the Cover Letter Longer Than a Page

Remember, you are trying to intrigue and hint at your abilities as well as qualifications for the job. If you tell everything in the cover letter, where is the incentive to look over the resume? Resist the urge to insert graphics, icons or cute pictures on the cover letter as well. Not only does this add to the length of the cover letter, but it will look unprofessional. There are some exceptions to the rule, especially if you are a captain of industry with loads of information, but most resume builders are not in this subset. Keep the information tight, concise and relevant.

Do Not Resort to False Flattery

If you are impressed with the company and it is one of the reasons you are applying, then definitely say so, but flattery without substance can come across as insincere. The same applies for your attributes. There is a delicate balance between factually stating your skillset and motivation for applying for the job and simply bragging about your own exploits. A good rule of thumb is to read back through the cover letter and to make note of the word “I”. If there a large number of them, you are guilty of this mistake. The goal is to show how you can meet the company’s needs, not your life story.

Refrain from Repeating Resume Information

Simply summing up what is already on your resume wastes everyone’s time. Choose some of the highlights from the resume and discuss them briefly in the cover letter, perhaps adding in a short story or anecdote to accompany them. The best cover letters read like a short story with a beginning, middle and end.

Do Not Skip the Proofreading

Many employers will simply discard the cover letter and resume if there are spelling mistakes or grammatical issues in the cover letter. This indicates that you did not take the time to look it over and if you are this careless with a cover letter, what might you do with real job responsibilities or sensitive documents? Do not assume that spell check will catch everything. It will not.

Avoid Clichés

Overused phrases such as, “please find my resume enclosed” or “as my resume indicates,” waste precious space. Also, employers dislike wading through numerous cover letters that all use that same phrase. If you want to stand out, avoid using them.

Avoid Generic Salutations

“Dear Sir” or “To Whom it May Concern” are never well received by an employer, because it indicates that the candidate has not taken the time to find out the person to whom it should be addressed. If you cannot locate the name or it is a blind submission, then simply address it to the “Hiring Manager” or leave the salutation off.

Do Not Forget to Sign the Cover Letter

The only exception to this rule is if the cover letter is being sent electronically. However, hard copy cover letters should always be signed and most experts agree that black or blue ink is best, as they portray professionalism.

Resist the Urge to Template

Using one generic cover letter and sending it out to a dozen potential employers can be disastrous. The best cover letters are customized for each position, including the company’s name. Many excellent candidates for a job are passed over because the cover letter seemed too generic, was addressed to a different company or did not directly answer or address the qualifications that were listed in the job posting.

Do Not Forget to Ask for Action

The end of the cover letter should be anything but passive. Some of the most successful cover letters indicate a time or date that would be good for an interview or will promise a follow up call to answer preliminary questions that the employer may have. If you make this sort of a statement, then be prepared to follow through on it and give them a call.

Avoid Using the Wrong Tone

If you are applying for a bank position, then the tone is going to be more formal than it would be for a coffee house. When in doubt, use a more formal professional tone. However, if the job position or the company is well known for its humor and appreciation of a well-turned phrase, then it is acceptable to adopt that company’s tone. Still, aiming to be personable without being pushy, inappropriate or seeming disrespectful is a delicate balance and so you should be very certain before adopting a less formal tone.