Seven Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid
The student's resume was impressive. The formatting was impeccable, the content was excellent, and he did a great job of focusing on accomplishments instead of job duties. If I were an employer, I would have been impressed.
Then I looked at his cover letter and imagined the employer tossing that perfect resume into the trash bin.
Many college students and recent grads destroy their resumes by accompanying them with halfhearted or downright terrible cover letters. While some employers don't bother reading cover letters, most do. And they will quickly eliminate you if you make these cover letter mistakes:
Using the Wrong Cover Letter Format
The student's cover letter looked more like a cut-and-paste email than a business letter. It had no recipient information, no return address and no date. The letter screamed unprofessional.
Be sure your cover letter uses a standard business-letter format. It should include the date, the recipient's mailing address and your address.
Making It All About You
It may seem counterintuitive, but your cover letter, like your resume, should be about the employer as much as it's about you. Yes, you need to tell the employer about yourself, but do so in the context of the employer's needs and the specified job requirements.
Not Proofing for Typos and Grammatical Errors
Employers tend to view typos and grammatical errors as evidence of your carelessness and inability to write. Proofread every letter you send. Get additional cover letter help by asking a friend who knows good writing double-check your letter for you.
Making Unsupported Claims
Too many cover letters from college students and recent grads say the applicant has "strong written and verbal communication skills." Without evidence, it's an empty boast. Give some examples for each claim you make. Employers need proof.
Writing a Novel
A good cover letter should be no longer than one page. Employers are deluged with resumes and cover letters, and their time is scarce. Make sure your cover letter has three or four concise but convincing paragraphs that are easy to read. If your competitor's letter rambles on for two pages, guess which candidate the employer will prefer.
Using the Same Cover Letter for Every Job and Company
Employers see so many cover letters that it's easy for them to tell when you're using a one-size-fits-all approach. If you haven't addressed their company's specific concerns, they'll conclude you don't care about this particular job.
It's time-consuming but worthwhile to customize each cover letter for the specific job and company.
Not Sending a Real Cover Letter
Some job seekers -- college students, recent grads and even those with years of work experience -- don't bother sending a cover letter with their resume. Others type up a one or two-sentence "here's my resume" cover letter, while others attach handwritten letters or sticky notes.
There is no gray area here: You must include a well-written, neatly formatted cover letter with every resume you send. If you don't, you won't be considered for the job.
Let an expert write you a job-winning resume and cover letter.
What to Include in a Cover Letter for a Job
What to Include in Each Section of a Cover Letter
When writing a cover letter, specific information needs to be included: a contact section, a salutation, an introduction to the hiring manager, information on why you are qualified for the job, a closing, and your signature. The way the information is listed and the format depend on how you are sending your letter.
The goal of your cover letter is to make a case for getting selected for a job interview, so it's important to include all required information along with a compelling argument that you're a strong candidate for the position.
It can be time consuming to write a custom cover letter for each job you apply for, but it's important to take the time and effort to show the company why you are a good match. The more you and your skills match the job description, the higher your chances of getting picked for an interview.
Include information in your letter about how you have the requirements the employer is seeking. Don't simply repeat what's in your resume. Your resume lists your skills, but your cover letter should be an opportunity to highlight how you have put those skills to use.
Before you start writing, take the time to review cover letter examples, then make sure that your letter explains how your skills relate to the criteria listed in the job posting. Looking at examples of effective cover letters will give you a starting point for creating your own letter.
Here's what to include in a cover letter to send with a resume when you apply for a job.
01What to List in a Cover Letter Contact Section
When writing a cover letter to mail or to upload to a job board or company website, the first section of your cover letter should include information on how the employer can contact you.
When you send an email cover letter, include your contact information in your signature instead of listing your contact information at the top of the message.
02Choose a Cover Letter Salutation
It's important to include an appropriate salutation at the beginning of the cover letter or message. If you have a contact person for your letter, be sure to include that name in your letter. Consider salutation examples that are appropriate for cover letters and other employment-related correspondence.
03The Body Section of a Cover Letter
The body is the important part of a cover letter or an email message applying for employment. The body of a cover letter includes the paragraphs where you explain why you are interested in and qualified for the posted job. Be specific by referencing in this part of the letter the employer's job requirements as listed in the job posting.
04Include Keywords in Your Letter
Including keywords related to the jobs for which you are applying in your cover letters can help you get selected for a job interview. These are specific words hiring managers look for when considering applications. As hiring processes have become automated, online applicant tracking systems are programmed to search for keywords.
05Choose an Appropriate Closing
Make sure to close your letter in a professional manner.
06How to Add Your Signature to the Letter
What is included in a cover letter signature depends on whether you are sending or uploading a cover letter document or using an email message as your cover letter. Hard copies of letters should be signed by hand. Scanning your section to include on PDFs can be a nice touch, while emails should include a professional electronic signature that includes your contact information.
07What to Include in an Email Cover Letter
The body of an email cover letter should contain the same information as a document cover letter, but two big differences are the subject line and your contact information. Follow instructions for the subject line. Many employers ask that specific information be included in the subject line. Follow those instructions carefully. Contact information should be included with your electronic signature.