30 July 2019

Five mistakes to avoid in your cover letter

Do you break out into a cold sweat when it’s time to write a cover letter? Are you uncertain about what to include – and what to leave out? Do you sometimes wonder if you should include a cover letter at all?

Few people enjoy writing cover letters – yet they’re a very important part of every job application. According to Ashley Stahl in her Forbes article titled “8 Common Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid,” 53 percent of organisations prefer candidates who include a cover letter along with their application. And if you want your cover letter to stand out for all the right reasons, you’re best advised to avoid the following mistakes:

  1. Starting with your name. As Lily Zhang explains in her article “7 Cover Letter Mistakes That Make Hiring Managers Cringe” for The Muse, you should only include your name below your signature on your cover letter and on your résumé. A better way to start your cover letter is, “Please consider this letter an application for the position of _______.”
  2. Making it all about yourself. A cover letter isn’t a document about your qualities or life story – it serves to indicate how much value you can bring to an organization. You can briefly highlight your strongest selling points – i.e. relevant skills and experience – to explain why you’re a match for the position, but you should present them from the potential employer’s point of view.
  3. Failing to customize the cover letter. In her Monster article “Cover letter mistakes you should avoid,” Kim Isaacs points out that it’s perfectly fine to use the same cover letter for multiple applications – so long as you update the job title, hiring manager’s name, and company name. Do not forget to do this, as getting someone’s name wrong is likely to land your application on the “reject” pile right away.
  4. Summarizing your résumé. There’s a reason your résumé and cover letter are two different documents. Your résumé is a list of your skills, experience, and accomplishments, while your cover letter should highlight how they apply to the position – nothing more and nothing less.
  5. Going over one page. A cover letter should be one page – maximum. You can always elaborate on the most important points if you’re called in for an interview.

Now that you know what not to do in a cover letter, you’re better equipped to write one that represents you as a capable professional worthy of consideration. And that can be invaluable to help you land the job you want.