cover letter mistakes

Cover Letter Mistakes You Should Avoid

It’s the first thing your employer will see and the perfect opportunity to showcase your talent, and yet cover letter mistakes are very common.

An effective cover letter can prove that you write well, think clearly and possess the qualities you need to succeed in the job.

To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together some of the most common cover letter mistakes that you should always try to avoid when applying for a new job.

Starting with Your Name

‘My name is John Smith and I want this job because…’ – this is a big no in the job world.

You should write your cover letter as if it was a real letter, the sign off will tell them your name, plus it should be on the top of your resume anyway.

What you Should do:  Always start with a relevant qualification that sells your talents to your potential employer.

So, maybe you’re a recent graduate with a passion for computer programming, tell them. Or, perhaps you’re a marketing professional with over 5 years’ experience in the industry, introduce yourself that way and tell them how it relates to the job you’re applying for.

Lack of Attention to Detail

This is probably one of the most important cover letter mistakes you should avoid.

Submitting a letter with grammar and/or spelling errors is a sure way to get screened out straight away. It shows you don’t have attention to detail and have probably rushed the application process.

You should always check facts such as the employers name, the exact job title and if you refer to the company, make sure you spell it correctly.

What You Should Do: Always use the spelling and grammar checking tools on your computer to identify some of the mistakes, but never just rely on that. Check back through and read it out loud to yourself, to make sure it flows well.

Lastly, always get someone else to proof it for you before submitting your application, a fresh pair of eyes will always pick up on mistakes you’ve missed.

Rehashing Your Resume

Your cover letter should never contain exactly the same information as your resume. It’s the first thing your potential employer will see, therefore you need to really sell your best attributes in a short and concise way.

What you Should do: Focus on two or three examples of your previous work or experience. By giving a bigger picture about how you achieved the skills you have, it will help your employer to understand more about you and how you would fit in their team.

Too Short or too Long

There are sometimes exceptions to the rule, but in general, cover letters shouldn’t go over a page and should usually fill that page. Employers won’t have time to read pages and pages, so you need to make it easy for them to pick out the main attributes and skills you possess.

What You Should Do: Always keep a cover letter concise and wrap it up after around 3 paragraphs. Remember, you don’t need to tell them everything you’ve ever done, just the best snippets to convince them to invite you to an interview.

Highlighting Inexperience

It’s easy to feel vulnerable when applying for a job, especially if you feel that your skills don’t exactly match the specifications. However, starting off a cover letter by underselling yourself or drawing attention to the skills or knowledge you are lacking is never the way to go.

What You Should Do: Be confident and always emphasise the skills you do have, rather than highlighting things you don’t know. You need to impress your employer, not show them your weaknesses.

Sending a Generic Letter

One of the most common cover letter mistakes is to send a generic copy to a range of different job titles. Employers can tell a mile of if you’ve just written one letter and sent it to everyone.

What you Should Do: A good cover letter will be tailored to the specific job you are applying for. Carefully read the job specification and try to refer to most of the points and how your skills will help you to excel in that particular job.

Over Sharing or Over Explaining

There is some information that you don’t need to include in your cover letter. You never need to explain why you want to leave your current job, or why you were let go from a previous employer. There is also no need to include personal details, such as relationship or illness, the recruiter doesn’t need to know this information.

What you Should Do: Your potential employer is looking for details about what you can offer them and how you will fit into their company, so always explain this rather than looking back to the past. Always steer clear of negativity towards a previous employer or job.

Going off Brand

Think of your cover letter as your sales pitch to your future employer. It’s the introduction to your resume, so make sure your cover letter matches up with it in terms of font, design and colour palette. Probably more important for creative jobs, but doing this still shows potential bosses that you’re consistent and have a creative side.

What you Should Do: Make sure your cover letter and resume match up, in terms of design and presentation. It should have the same header as your resume, the same font and size, plus always check the contact information is consistent.

Not Providing Concrete Examples

Expressing empty opinions about your strengths will generally not convince employers about your suitability for the job. You need to back up your skills with clear examples from previous jobs or training.

What you Should Do: Back up your statements by referencing a job or role where you successfully employed that strength. For example, instead of simply stating ‘I possess strong writing skills and an outstanding work ethic.’  Use an example – ‘Strong writing skills enabled me to revise a proposal and secure £10,000 in additional funding from the Jones Foundation.’

Don’t Skip It

Last but not least, if your employer asks for a cover letter, or even if they don’t, never skip it. The only reason you shouldn’t provide a cover letter is if they explicably ask you not to provide one.

A cover letter doesn’t have to be complicated, but you must include one.

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