Your cover letter is one of the most important steps of the hiring process, so you can’t afford to make any mistakes.
Your cover letter is one of the most important factors in determining whether or not you will be offered the chance to interview for a job. Don’t skip this step or take it lightly.
This is your opportunity to introduce yourself to an employer and make yourself stand out among a competitive applicant pool. Your cover letter lets the employer know you are a good match for both the company and the position — or not.
Avoid the following mistakes to get your application noticed — in a good way!
1. You didn’t follow instructions
What were the instructions in the job listing? Many employers will request a specific subject line, salary requirements or additional documents, such as a writing sample.
Not following instructions will immediately eliminate you from the applicant pool. Double check your cover letter against the job listing, and have a friend proofread before you submit.
This is your chance to show off your written communication skills, so avoid making costly mistakes. You shouldn’t have to explain in your letter that you’re detail-oriented; a good cover letter that follows the instructions will demonstrate that.
2. You used a canned message
You won’t get an interview if you submit the same generic cover letter with every application. Tailor your cover letter to the job you’re applying for to prove you’re not only a qualified candidate, but also serious about this job in particular.
A great cover letter will express enthusiasm for the company and demonstrate you have the relevant skills and experience the position requires. Your cover letter should directly relate to the role and industry you’re applying for; don’t discuss unrelated career goals or experiences.
Cheryl E. Palmer, M.Ed., CECC, CPRW and Career Development Expert, warns against using form letters: “Recruiters can spot a form letter a mile away. Form letters send the message to employers that the job seeker is not interested in the specific position that the employer has available, but rather that the job seeker is sending out resumes to everyone without giving any thought to what the employer is looking for.”
3. You regurgitated your resume
Your cover letter should enhance your resume, not repeat or summarize it. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Instead of rehashing the skills and experience listed in your resume, expand on why that experience makes you a great candidate for the job you want.
Keep your cover letter short (one page or less), but include details that aren’t provided in your resume. Offer specific, relevant examples from your previous experience to make your application shine.
4. You weren’t professional
Don’t include personal details unless the information directly relates to the position you are applying for. You need to keep your tone professional. Though most applications are submitted online, this isn’t an excuse to be casual. Use a formal greeting and signature. Use professional stationery if you mail in your application.
When in doubt, it’s best to use a standard cover letter format. Sandy Malone, a professional wedding planner and the star of TLC’s Wedding Island, confirms that most hiring managers aren’t impressed by gimmicks: “Just stop with the ridiculous-looking and colorful resumes. Unless you’re a graphic designer, keep it simple and follow a standard format. I don’t want to hunt for your credentials. That just annoys me.”
5. You didn’t proofread
This is one of the most important steps: Proofread, proofread, proofread!
In addition to correcting any spelling or grammatical mistakes, you have to get the details right. You don’t want to start your cover letter with “Dear Sir” if the hiring manager is a woman.
Also, double check the company name and position title so you don’t send the wrong template from a previous cover letter. Lastly, be sure to back up your skills and experience. If you claim to be extremely organized and have strong writing skills, your cover letter should reflect that.
What else would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Whitney Eidman is the Community Manager at Doostang, a community of over one million elite professionals with inside access to thousands of top jobs. Connect with Doostang on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.