A cover letter is the initial introduction between you and your employer. It would be wrong to say that your resume is the all in all, Holy Grail for you to snatch up that dream job you are applying for. The importance of a good cover letter should not be underestimated. Just like the opening of a novel, a cover letter should contain the most important information about you. It should be seen as a short, precise document containing your skills and qualities which make you suitable for the job. Even before your hiring manager can see your resume, it is your cover letter that will create the first impression in his mind about you. That being said, the last thing you would want is for your cover letter to be full of mistakes that could keep you away from getting the job.
13 Cover Letter Mistakes – How to Fix Them:
1. It’s too long:
A cover letter should be kept to the bare minimum, only containing relevant details about you, which you have not already mentioned in your resume. A full page cover letter would not only get rejected, rather, your recruiter might not even bother going through it. The ideal length of a cover letter should be 250 words, which is half a page. Divide the letter into four short paragraphs- the first paragraph should be used to introduce yourself and the position you are applying for, the second paragraph can be utilized to mention your skills and achievements which would be applicable for the job, the third paragraph can be used to explain your suitability for the job or any other information you cannot add in your resume, for example, if you are changing jobs, and why, and the last paragraph should be a short signing off.
2. Spelling the company’s name wrong:
You might not believe of this point, but this is possible, in fact, an extremely common mistake made by job hunters. In their quest for sending out the most resumes in the least amount of time, sometimes, people don’t pay close attention to the company’s name or spelling. Submitting a cover letter where you have spelt the company’s name wrong is a spell for instant disaster. Your recruiter would not think twice before tossing your resume into the bin. The only way to fix this mistake is to pay close attention to detail, and always proofread your cover letter before sending it out. Other spelling mistakes still might be forgiven, but to spell the company’s name wrong would give the recruiter the impression that you are not really interested in the company, or that you are callous in your approach.
3. Using a generic cover letter:
The web offers you many options now where you can choose from free templates online for your resumes and cover letters. As it is recommended not to get too artsy with your cover letter, most job hunters seek readymade online templates for building their cover letters around it. This can be a huge mistake. Firstly, because it gives off the perception that you are too lazy to add your own touches to your cover letter. The company wants to see your active interest, and since they are dealing with hundreds of resumes and cover letters, their eyes are used to catching the personalized ones from the readymade online templates. Secondly, since most people resort to choose online readymade templates, all the cover letters ending up on the recruiters desk end up looking almost the same. The hiring manager himself would feel disinterested to go through the same, clichéd cover letter hundreds of times. The easy fix to this problem is to personalize your own template for your cover letter. It does not have to be very creative or colourful; it just should not look like the rest of the cover letters on his table. Give your cover letter your own personalized touch, so that it stands out amongst the rest.
4. Forgetting to include contact information:
While we have advised you to keep your cover letter as short and crisp as possible, there is some vital information that you cannot afford to miss out on. One such information is your name and contact information. These details should be duplicate on both your cover letter and your resume. It is easy for you to assume that since your resume contains this information, you need not add it again on your cover letter, but this is a common misconception.
5. Including personal details:
Your cover letter is a strictly professional document, and must not contain any irrelevant personal details, such as your age, marital status, your religion, nationality, your hobbies, etc. Unless it has specifically been asked, do not share this information on your own, as it is not required for the job.
6. Submitting a sloppy cover letter:
Make sure you proofread your cover letter before sending it out to your recruiters. The worst impression you can create for yourself is to submit a cover letter full of grammatical errors, typographical errors, and one which lacks proper formatting. Ask help from your friends or family; get someone to read over your cover letter before sending it out. Since you have been working on your cover letter for so long, it is possible that you have become desensitized to it, and cannot find small errors. Getting a third party view will help finding out errors you might have missed.
In case you want to proofread your cover letter yourself, try and read it in reverse order; from the bottom upwards. This will help you find errors you might have made as your brain is already used to reading the article in a certain manner. Changing the order will allow you to read it differently and find the errors.
You must also use a spell check before sending out the cover letter. Use a proper format- big, legible font. Also, justify your text, so that it gives a clean and neat appearance to the cover letter.
7. Summarizing your resume:
This is a common mistake made by many job hunters. If the idea of what a cover letter should be is not clear in your head, you are likely to make the same mistake. As mentioned before, a cover letter is a precise document containing important information about you and how you propose to be of value to the company you are applying to. Theoretically, a cover letter should contain all the information which is missing in your resume. Any additional information which you could not add in your resume can be put here. A cover letter must NOT be a summary of what you have already mentioned in your resume. Ideally, a cover letter should provide a more in depth knowledge on what the company should expect if they hire you, and this can be validated by giving points and examples of your past work skills and experiences. If your cover letter and resume look like copies of each other, it will give your recruiters the impression that you do not have enough to offer to the company.
8. Hand written cover letter:
While you might feel like personalizing your cover letter by hand writing it will give you the edge above others, this is a common misconception. Hand writing your cover letter will only give an impression of sloppiness and unprofessionalism. It is possible that your handwriting is illegible to the hiring manager, and this would be a wasted effort on your part.
But even if you think your handwriting skills are out of this world, it would still be unprofessional on your part to send in a hand written cover letter. A cover letter must always be typed, neatly and in good, legible font. Do not get too artistic on your cover letter; it is a strictly professional document.
9. Emphasize the company:
In most cover letters, recruiters find that applicants are more interested in self proclamation. They list down their skills and talents, but fail to emphasize on the company. The hiring manager is not interested in knowing what skills and talents you possess, but how you can utilize these skills and be of use to the company. Focus on sharing points on how you would be an asset to the company, and not plainly on what your skills and accomplishments are.
10. Failing to personalize:
At all costs, avoid starting your cover letter with the opening “To whom it may concern”. This again shows that you did not bother to take the extra step to find out the name of the company or the manager, or that you simply printed out a dozen generalized cover letters and sent them out. This will give your hiring manager a bad impression of you. After all, all it takes to find out the name of the company manager is a phone call or an internet search. Go the extra mile and personalize your cover letter. It shows that you have genuine interest in the company.
11. The thin line between formal and informal:
While you want to make sure you sound professional in your cover letter, you do not want to sound overly formal. The hiring manager must find you engaging and interesting when he goes through your cover letter. If you sound too formal and business like, it may just put him off. On the other hand, never use colloquial language or slangs, or any kind of short forms and abbreviations in your cover letter. It is still an official document, and a certain degree of professionalism must be maintained. A cover letter that is written in a ‘too casual’ manner might make the hiring manager feel that you are not serious about the job, and reject your resume.
You can find out yourself if your cover letter is sounding overly formal- re read the cover letter aloud. Listen to yourself and try to find if any of the words are sounding unnatural coming off the tongue. You can work on these and try and change the words using a thesaurus.
12. Underselling yourself:
You are the best judge of yourself. You know exactly what skills you possess and how much you can utilize them. When you are applying to a company for a job, you probably have an idea in your head about how suitable you are for the job. That being said, it is a complete no no for you to actually say this about yourself on paper. It is not that you are lying, or over selling yourself. But writing comments such as “I may not be the best person to hire for this job, but..” or “I know I am underqualified..” or even saying things like “If you give me a chance to prove myself..”.
These are lines you must avoid at any costs. After all, why would someone want to hire a person who is not fit for the job, or is underqualified. Your recruiter is obviously going to pick the best person out of the lot, and you have immediately made his list shorter by underselling yourself.
If you feel that you are under qualified for the job, instead of highlighting your weaknesses, try and play up your strengths on how you can use your skills to learn, and be right for the job. Talk about your past experiences in similar situations and how you have handled them in the past.
The last point being made, one of the most important things to avoid doing in your cover letter or resume is to lie about yourself. If you do not possess a certain skill, emit it from your resume. You don’t have to play it as your weakness, simply don’t talk about it. But if you lie now, when you have to actually prove your skill and you can’t, that would be even more embarrassing than the lie itself.