Whether you're a recent graduate looking for your first job, an experienced professional, or a freelancer bidding on a project, a well-crafted cover letter is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the other applicants. A well-written, attention-grabbing cover letter highlights your qualifications and increases your chances of getting the job. However, a poorly written cover letter could just as easily make you appear unprofessional, and torpedo your chances of getting a call back.
To help you enhance your application and land more interviews, here are the top 5 costly mistakes to avoid when writing your cover letter:
top 5 cover letter mistakes
1. Don't rehash your resume
A good resume is meant to quickly lay out an overview of your relevant skills, work history, and accomplishments in succinct bullet points. Your cover letter should be used to expand on these accomplishments, and make a specific case for how your experience qualifies you for the position at hand.
However, many job seekers make the mistake of using their cover letter to simply reiterate the points made on their resume. Don’t make this mistake! Your cover letter and resume should be two unique documents with different intentions.
If you’re only using your cover letter to rehash your resume, it will lack the strong pitch needed to convince a hiring manager that you’re the right person for the job. Not only that, but rehashing your resume will work against you — causing the reviewer to consider you uncreative and unable to think critically.
2. don't use the same cover letter for every job
Every company has unique problems they’re trying to tackle through the hiring process. Even if you’re sending out numerous applications for a certain type of position, each cover letter you write should still be tailored to address the specific requirements and expectations laid out in each individual job description.
It’s important to fill your cover letter with information that’s relevant not only to your experience, but why your experience makes you uniquely qualified to tackle the specific challenges the company faces as well. As a result, recruiters will be drawn to your application because it demonstrates how your past experiences will help you succeed in the specific role.
Hiring managers see so many applications that they can always tell the difference between people sending out bulk copies of their resume and those who have taken the time to write a unique cover letter for their company.
However, if you’re having trouble coming up with information that’s relevant to the position you’re applying to, try looking up some of the many industry-specific cover letter examples available online for inspiration. Seeing what other professionals included in their cover letters to attract employers can help you identify your own strengths.
3. don't ramble
If your cover letter starts with an introduction to your life story, chances are it’s not focused enough. Hiring managers receive hundreds of applications for each job posting — if your cover letter isn’t focused on your special qualifications, you’re losing their attention.
To ensure you make a good first impression, keep your cover letter clear, relevant, and concise. Remember, your cover letter should highlight your qualifications and prove that you’re worth interviewing. You can introduce yourself and showcase your personality when you're actually speaking with the recruiter.
4. don't make it just about you
Employers want employees who are excited to join their organization. Take some time to research the company and write a sentence or two that proves you know what they do and why you want to join the team.
Engaging your reader will make your cover letter stand out from all the rambling introductions that others submit. Cut down on sentences that begin with "I…" and reword them to make the reader or company the subject.
For example, here’s a sample sentence where the candidate focuses too much on themselves: “I’m looking for a job that allows me to put my customer service skills to the test.”
Now, here’s that same sentence reworded to put the focus on the needs of the company, instead: “I understand that ABC Corp is seeking to improve their customer satisfaction ratings. I’m confident my proven record of excellent customer service skills can help your team achieve its goals.”
By prioritizing the interests of the company in your cover letter, you can draw in the hiring manager and demonstrate how you’re able to put your skills to work for the benefit of the company.
5. don't forget to spell check
Nothing ruins a cover letter like an obvious spelling or grammar mistake. While it should be obvious, you’d be surprised how many candidates submit cover letters with mistakes that could have been easily caught if they had just run spell check or proofread their writing.
Before submitting a cover letter, always check for spelling and grammar errors by reading through your cover letter a minimum of three times. It's also a good idea to have someone else review your cover letter. If you know an English major or professional writer, get them to do it. With multiple eyes on your paper, it's less likely any small mistakes will slip through the cracks.
Remember that the job search process is filled with highs and lows. It's normal to experience rejection. Just remember that there are ways to stay motivated even after failure. Finding a great job takes a lot of hard work, and it's easy to feel like you're not making any progress. But remember each failure is a learning opportunity. Keep working towards your goals and eventually, you'll find an opportunity to land your dream job.
About the Author: Conrad Benz is a Digital Media Specialist & Resume Expert at Resume Genius, where he helps countless job-seekers craft standout resumes and launch their careers.