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The 7 biggest mistakes people make in cover letters

It’s not unusual for an employer to ask you to send a cover letter with your job application or resume. If they do, good news! Because your cover letter is another opportunity to grab their attention and show how perfect you are for the job.

But a lot of people blow this opportunity by making one of the following common mistakes:

1.     Starting with a weak opening

A cover letter shouldn’t be more than a few paragraphs long so don’t waste time. Hiring Managers and HR staff faced with a pile of applications have a short attention span (they have to) so in your opening paragraph you need to get right to it and tell them what your job aspirations and key strengths are.

2.     Repeating what’s in the application/resume

Saying something twice over doesn’t get you the job. Your resume or application gives your future employer what they need to decide they want to interview you so don’t needlessly rehash it all in your cover letter. The cover letter’s job is to make a splash and persuade the hiring manager to give your resume or application their full attention. A good letter highlights the key areas of the resume but does so in the context of what you can offer the employer.

3.     Failing to demonstrate your communication skills

Pretty much any job involves some kind of communication – with customers, with colleagues, with suppliers – and while what you say in your cover letter is important, how you say it is too.

A bad cover letter doesn’t flow, it doesn’t interest or engage, and it doesn’t get your application or resume into that shortlist pile!

4.     Focusing on what’s in it for you

Yes, of course, there’s a lot in it for you if you land your dream job but that’s not what the employer wants to hear about. They want to know what’s in it for them to hire you and a cover letter that doesn’t remember that is just asking to be rejected. Think about what you’ll bring to the team. What makes you the best candidate for them and NOT what makes them the best job for you.

5.     Getting details wrong

This one’s obvious but also very easy to do. A sloppy or rushed cover letter can be recognised by the simple details it gets wrong: the employer’s name, their address, the job title… They’ll think, if you can’t be bothered to get the application right what will your work be like?

Unfair? Maybe but that’s what they’ll think.

6.     Too many generic phrases

A generic cover letter will not stand out and if you don’t stand out, there goes your chance at the job. Avoid phrases like “To whom it may concern,” and “Please contact me at your convenience,” etc.

7.     Failing to proofread

Another obvious one maybe but also very common. When you think it’s done, spellcheck it, read it through, read it again, ask someone else to read it. To a hiring manager with a tall pile of applications to check through, the details are important. They have to reject more than they keep and any signs that might indicate laziness are a reason to say, no. Details are important, check them.