Your cover letter is typically the first contact a prospective employer has with you and is your best opportunity to make a strong first impression. Unfortunately, far too many job applicants leave the employer shaking his head thanks to the easily preventable mistakes. Here are some of the mistakes you should avoid to make sure you keep your resume at the top of the pile.
Spelling and Grammatical Errors
If you send out a cover letter filled with spelling and grammatical errors, you send the message that your work is sloppy and you don't bother to finish it. If you're applying for a job where writing or communications skills are crucial, these errors are even worse. Avoid these issues by first going over your cover letter word by word and then having someone else proofread as well, as a second pair of eyes might pick up something you've missed.
Opening by Stating Your Name
You don't need to start your cover letter with a sentence like "My name is Jane Doe." If you sent a hard copy, presumably it's already on letterhead which provides that information. If you sent it via email, the recipient will already have seen who the sender is. Don't waste your crucial first sentence on something the hiring manager already knows. Instead, craft a powerful introduction designed to catch a recruiter's eye and make him want to keep reading.
Sending It to Someone Without a Name
Sending a cover letter addressed to "Whom It May Concern" is almost the same as tossing it directly into the trash. It sends the message that you aren't interested enough in the position to find out who the hiring manager or human resources contact is. Do just a little research and track down the name of the person who will read your resume. Address your letter to that person to ensure it actually gets read.
Repeating Your Resume
Your cover letter is intended to introduce the reader to you and to your resume. Don't waste space repeating what's already in your resume. Instead, use your cover letter to mention the kind of information that doesn't typically appear on a resume. For instance, if you have a personal connection with the company you're applying to, mention it, whether it's a contact within the company or experience with the company's products or services.
Writing a Letter That's Too Long
The temptation in writing a cover letter is to tell everything you can about yourself hoping something will intrigue the hiring manager enough to call you in for an interview. Don't fall prey to this trap. Your letter should be a maximum of one page, preferably less. If it takes up only half a page, don't feel as if you have to pad it. You don't need to explain why you're looking for a new job or making a career transition. Just include enough interesting content to make the recruiter or manager want to meet you.
Your cover letter can open doors or slam them shut depending on how well it's written and edited. Take the time to customize it for every job you apply for and proofread it well to make the best possible first impression.
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