I’m often asked if cover letters are really that important. After all, the resume has all the relevant information that prospective employers need.
I always respond with a definitive ‘yes’! Your cover is a vital part of your career marketing package and should always partner with a resume. They go hand in hand. In fact, I like to call it the resume’s jacket-cover introduction.
A Cover Letter’s Purpose:
It’s the first thing a potential employer will read about you and its main purpose is to entice them to read your resume and be compelled enough to call you for an interview. So yes, it’s imperative that this part of your career marketing package be written with extreme care.
Here are 10 mistakes that I see all the time:
1) Not addressing it to a specific name
You should never begin with ‘to whom it may concern’. Take the time to find out exactly who is responsible for hiring. In this day and age of massive information, it’s relatively easy to call a company and find out who the contact person is for this job posting or even check online. Take a few minutes to do your homework, it works!
2) Sending Generic cover letters
This is such a big turn off! You don’t have to be an expert to spot a generic cover letter. You don’t even have to read through the whole thing. Use the job description to pick out what is important to this job and expand on that in your cover letter. If you apply for 15 jobs today, you have to take the time to personalize each one of them, it may be time consuming but it can easily be difference between getting called for an interview today and having to send another 15 the next day with no response.
3) Boring the employer
The employer will probably read hundreds of cover letters for this position. Don’t waste your first impression and sound exactly like the other applicants. Use something interesting to grab their attention. Never say things like ‘as you can see from my resume’ because they might not even read it! So take the time to summarize your experience in a short and precise fashion and then tell them why you are the right person for the job.
4) Enough with the meme’s
I’ve received countless cover letters where the candidate goes on and on about what the company can do for their career aspirations instead of indicating what the candidate can do for the company. Employers hire you based on the value you can, expand on this.
5) Restating everything in your resume
This one can be tough. You can highlight specific points from your resume that are relevant to the position, but don’t just repeat everything that’s in there. A cover letter is there to introduce your resume and make them want to read it.
6) Using Weak language
Writing things like ‘I think’ or ‘I feel that I’m right for the job’ is incredibly frail language. A cover letter has to be packed with powerful language that give off confidence. It has to show that you are absolutely convinced that you’re the right person for the job and it’s your turn to convince the employer.
7) Leaving the ball in their court
Almost every cover letter I’ve received ends with ‘I look forward to hearing from you’. Remember that this is a sales letter. Successful sales people never leave the ball in someone else’s’ court and that’s why they close deals. Instead, end with:
‘I would like to be considered for this Accounting Manager position and feel confident that my extensive experience and designations will certainly allow me to make an immediate contribution. I will contact you at the end of the week to arrange for an interview. Should you require any additional information, please feel free to contact me at the phone number listed above.’
8) Too long/short
If you’re precise about what you want to say, there is absolutely no reason to ramble on and on. Keep it to about 3 paragraphs, but if your paragraphs are too long, people will stop reading. Using bullet points to break up the text is helpful. By the same token, don’t make it too short either. I hate getting a 5 line cover letter telling me to look at their resume for details or ‘here’s my resume’.
9) Improper Business Format
Use acceptable business format margins (.75” left and to 1.0” right) and know when to indent and double space as well as when to use bullet points. Consistency is important so make sure you use the same margins, header, font type and size as your resume.
10) Forgetting to enclose/attach your resume
We’ve all been guilty of forgetting to attach a document before firing off an email. If you’re including several documents (portfolio, transcriptions, etc.), it’s best to have a checklist before you send anything. It’s very easy to forget.