Like a resume, a cover letter is a single page that can make or break your chances of landing a job. In an effort to get hired fast, new job seekers might rush through the process of writing and submitting their application materials, and often make some common cover letter mistakes.
Here are some of the common cover letter mistakes new job seekers may make — and how to avoid them:
Putting education first
Sure, you’re proud of the degree you earned from that fancy schmancy school you graduated from. But employers are far more interested in your work experience rather than where you graduated. So unless it’s absolutely relevant to the job you’re applying for (i.e., the job listing is from your old alma mater), it’s best to include your education on your resume, not your cover letter.
If you find yourself writing, “Although I don’t have much experience … ” stop! You never want to tell a potential employer that you’re not completely qualified for the job. Instead, you’ll want to use this document to prove that you are a strong contender for the position. So don’t write anything in your cover letter that might cast a negative light on you. Focus instead on the experience you do have, how you can add value to the company, and erase that line (or anything similar to it) from your cover letter.
And also, if you’re truly not qualified, you may want to reconsider whether it’s even a good idea to apply.
Saying too much
In an effort to hide the fact that you might not have all the necessary requirements for the position, you might go on and on … and on … in your cover letter. But rambling does not a good cover letter make, so you still need to stick to keeping it to one page.
Write as much as you want in your first draft, and then keep editing yourself until all of your schooling, work experience, and skills are neatly highlighted in well-written paragraphs on a single page. If you can’t decide what info should stay and what should be deleted, ask a friend or family member to help you edit it.
Sure, writing a cover letter for each individual company that you apply to is definitely time-consuming. It’s almost the only way, though, to have a solid chance of getting a job interview.
Keep in mind that hiring managers read dozens of cover letters each day, and they can tell almost instantly if you’ve crafted a cover letter specifically for their company, or simply copy and pasted the company’s name on a generic cover letter. Take the time to write a meaningful cover letter for each company that you apply for, ensuring that you spell the company name and the contact’s name correctly. Tie in your skills with what the job listing requires and, above all, make it meaningful.
Whether you’re a recent college grad or an older worker trying to on-ramp back into the workforce after taking some years off, you might be afraid that your inexperience/lack of skills/employment gap/etc. will be very evident to an employer. That’s why your cover letter is skimpy, lacking personality, or void of examples of work that tie into the job you’re applying for.
Thing is, being shy isn’t going to get you hired. It’s important to be confident when applying for any job. Recruiters and hiring managers alike want to feel that you’re passionate about the position you’re applying for, and even more so to work for their company. So let your excitement shine through when you’re writing your cover letter. After all, your enthusiasm can be contagious and might set you apart from other job candidates!
Excluding relevant experience
As a new job seeker, you might think that you don’t really have any relevant experience to report. Well, think again. Job experience doesn’t always have to come from previous positions. It can come from volunteer efforts, transferable skills you’ve garnered working in other industries earlier in your career, your education, and so on. Don’t be so quick to dismiss the marketing you did for your husband’s startup or the fundraising you did at your child’s school. All of that counts as experience, and if the position requires it, it’s your responsibility to report it!
Not promising to follow up
You might have written a killer cover letter, but if you don’t know how to sign off, you could risk losing out on a job interview. In your concluding paragraph, reiterate how much you would like the position and offer real reasons why (like a great company culture or how the job is the next logical step in your career). Then, write how you’ll follow up to see if the hiring manager has any questions. That way, you show your interest and end your cover letter on a professional and positive note.
More from Ladders
- 6 cover letter mistakes that might be ruining your career
- How to change careers with no experience in your new field
- Can you wait till the application deadline to apply? Don’t be so sure
- 6 phrases (and 6 words) you should never include in a cover letter
- The best and worst things to put in your cover letter, according to 9 HR experts