Many people spend days polishing their resume, only to make huge mistakes in dashing off a cover letter. Don’t be one of those people! Take your time and carefully customize each letter, and you’ll see more responses straight away.
Surprisingly, many killer errors occur in addressing, which often receives only a quick scan for street name and number.
Mistake #1. Misspelling the company’s name. Many departments receive boatloads of applications, and overworked staff are often looking for any excuse to toss your application into the don’t-have-to-think-about-it-anymore pile.
Mistake #2. Addressing your resume cover letter to “Dear Sir” or “To whom it may concern.” Likewise, don’t use just a job title like “Director of Human Resources.” Use the name of the person given in the job posting. If it isn’t given, do some research to find the name of a suitable individual. If necessary, call the company and get the name of the hiring manager or recruiter for the particular job opening. And get the spelling correct.
Next, be sure and identify the purpose of the letter right up front.
Mistake #3. Neglecting to explain why you’re contacting the company. Do this in the very first sentence of your letter. State the title of the job, and include any codes or department details mentioned in the offering notice.
This is as far as many people go. “There’s my cover letter. I’m done.” But don’t stop here.
Mistake #4. Forgetting to discuss how your qualifications make you an ideal candidate. Relate the skills and experiences in your resume to the job’s requirements. As always be truthful, but try to express enthusiasm and generate interest in reading the rest of your cover letter and your resume.
Mistake #5. Failing to cover any gaps or worries regarding your resume. This might be a gap in your employment history, an employment change that might be considered a demotion, or any sudden change in the type of duties you performed.
There are things that you should not include in your resume cover letter.
Mistake #6. Describing what the company can do for your career. That’s not what they’re interested in. Instead, explain how your qualifications and career goals can benefit their company. This is a bit of selling yourself, but do so in a factual and modest way.
Mistake #7. Repeating or even summarizing information already included in your resume. The reviewer’s time is usually quite limited so this can be a bit irritating. Plus you’re missing an opportunity to present yourself as a person, perhaps the one most qualified for the position.
Mistake #8. Starting most sentences with “I.” Show some communication skills by using alternative wording and sentence structures.
Mistake #9. Leaving it up to the recipient to get back to you is yet another common but significant mistake. Don’t close by saying something like “call me at your earliest convenience.” That’s generic, and doesn’t move your application along. Instead, close by saying when and how you’ll get back in touch for the next step. This demonstrates enthusiasm for the position and a proactive attitude.
Finally, double-check everything before sending out your cover letter and resume.
Mistake #10. Anything less than paranoid proofreading can hurt your chances. Reasonably or not, many potential employers see every typing, spelling, or grammatical error as an indication of sloppiness, laziness, or lack of ability. Proof read your letter (and resume), then set it aside for a while. Clear your head, do something else for a bit. Then check it again. I find I often catch mistakes on a hard-copy printout that I never spotted on the PC screen. Use your word processor’s spellchecker, but don’t trust it completely nor use it carelessly. They often make embarrassing word substitutions.