Once you have updated your professional CV, it is time to prepare your job applications for submission to recruiters. This generally involves making some small tweaks to your CV and creating a cover letter to accompany your job application. While around 74% of hiring managers do not find the cover letter to be an essential factor when evaluating candidates, the remaining percentage do.
Since you have no way of knowing which type of hiring manager will receive your application, it is best to include a cover letter with all your job applications. As an additional bonus, around 53% of employers admit that they prefer candidates to send a cover letter when they are applying for a job.
Although, not just any cover letter will do. If you are going to take the time to craft a cover letter, ensure it helps and does not hurt your candidacy. In this article, we will discuss the most common cover letter mistakes that you should avoid when writing your next cover letter.
- Lack of Research
There is very little excuse not to tailor your cover letters thanks to the Internet. Whenever possible, you should research the name of the recruiter or hiring manager and the company you are applying for a job with. Then, use this information to customise your cover letter. If you skip this step, you are sending the message to the reader that you don’t care enough about the position to take the time to research them. In a world where employers are inundated with job applications, any excuse to remove candidates along the application process will do.
Do not allow this cover letter mistake to give them a reason to cut you from the pile. There are some exceptions to this rule however. For example, if you are responding to an anonymous job posting, you will not be expected to include the name of the hiring manager or company in your cover letter. When a company goes out of its way to keep its name and the names of its employees confidential, you can presume the hiring manager will not take off points if you use a generic opener.
- Casual or Overly Formal Greetings
Whenever you are applying for a job or prepping for an interview, you should take the company’s culture into account. You can get a greater sense of the employer’s brand by checking out their Careers section online, searching for their profile on LinkedIn, reading reviews on Glassdoor, talking to your network connections who worked for the organisation and following the social media accounts the company has set up for recruitment purposes.
This will help you decide whether a casual type of greeting suits over a formal greeting. If you cannot address your cover letter to a specific person, try avoid incredibly formal introductions such as ‘To Whom It May Concern’ because they are off-putting and not conversational. Play it safe with a gender-neutral greeting such as ‘Dear Recruiter’ or ‘Dear Hiring Manager’.
- Me, Me, Me, Me
Consider your cover letter as your sales pitch to the recruiter or hiring manager. Instead of spending the entire time speaking about yourself and your needs and wants, think about the needs of the prospective employer. Your potential boss is the one who will read your cover letter at the end of the day.
Review the job description again and find out the latest news on the company. Ask yourself why the company is hiring for the role. In other words, what pain point will this job position solve? When you can relate to the hiring manager’s concerns and position your skills as the solution to her or his needs, you have a greater chance of avoiding cover letter mistakes and capturing the attention of the reader.
- Repeating Your Entire CV
Remember, the hiring manager already has your CV so there is no need to simply rehash your entire job history when writing your cover letter. In fact, this could be why so many employers disregard your cover letter; they have read so many poor cover letters that merely summarise their candidates’ CVs, that they see no need to read through them.
One cover letter tip is to surprise the recruiter by using your opening to demonstrate your understanding of the company’s position within the marketplace and its needs and then highlight your accomplishments and work experience that speak of these requirements.
When you are competing against a large number of candidates for one role, the smallest cover letter mistakes could be used to remove you from the pile. These days, we have grown all too reliant on autocorrect and spell-check to edit our communication.
It is easy to overlook the small mistakes, such as using ‘higher’ when you meant to write ‘hire’. Don’t allow these silly details to derail your job application. Ensure you reread your cover letter after writing it. Then, read it again and also have a trusted friend read it. An extra pair of eyes can prove to be incredibly helpful.
- Writing a Novel
If hiring managers spend around six seconds scanning your CV before deciding if you are the right fit for the role, how long do you think they will spend reading through your cover letter? Your cover letter should not be any longer than it needs to be to get the points across. It generally should not exceed two pages. Keep in mind its readability too and try to create white space and avoid dense blocks of text.
- Going off Brand
Whether you are looking for a new job or managing your career path, it is vital to pay close attention to how you present your professional brand to others – on paper. Face to face and online. To that end, another cover letter tip is to give it the same look and feel as your CV. If you are uploading your cover letter as a separate document to an online application, make sure it uses the same header as your CV. In addition, ensure the colour, size and font, the name you use on both documents and the contact information you provide remains consistent.
Although you can use a cover letter to explain your interest in relocating to a new city or an employment gap, do not overshare your personal details with a prospective employer. The hiring manager does not need to know how you had your heart broken and need to find a new city to call home or the gory details of your back surgery. These extraneous details cannot be used as selling points and will only detract from your candidacy and qualifications.
Your cover letter is essentially your sales pitch to a company and hiring manager that you are the right person for the role. Therefore, you need to ensure it is tailored to that specific company. A lot of people write poor cover letters and unfortunately, these tend to be cut from the pile. To avoid being cut from the pile, try to avoid the most common cover letter mistakes that we have mentioned in this article.