Mistake #1: Focusing on a Skill You Don't Have
Although you may feel insecure and want to compensate for something you feel is missing, you don't want to call that out in your cover letter. Including a statement like "Although I don't have 5+ years of work experience in the field, my hard work will make up for it" or "I may not have my master's degree but I am still skilled and able to learn" will just point out the ways in which you don't meet the requirements of the job. Instead focus on the skills you do have and don't mention those that you might not. When you are called in for an interview, you will have the opportunity to share why you think you should be hired even without meeting those requirements.
Mistake #2: Badmouthing Your Current Job
You may be looking for a new position because you are desperately trying to get out of your current job. However, that information doesn't need to be included in your cover letter. It will reflect poorly on you if you indicate you dislike your current boss or don't get along with your co-workers. Leave that information off of your cover letter.
Mistake #3: Including Personal Accomplishments
People sometimes confuse personal success with professional accomplishments. Although you may be proud that you own a home or coached the youth soccer team to the championship, this information should not be included in your cover letter. It may be worthwhile to bring up in an interview should a question be asked for which sharing that information that makes sense but it doesn't need to be in your cover letter.
Mistake #4: Providing Your Life Story
A cover letter needs to be short and to the point. It really should be no longer than one page and only include a handful of paragraphs. Therefore, you don't have room to include your life story (and the person reading the cover letter doesn't need to know your life story anyway). Keep the cover letter concise, focusing on how you heard about the job, why you are qualified for the job and specific skills you have that align with the job requirements.
Mistake #5: Mentioning Your Desired Salary
The cover letter is not the place to mention your desired salary. If you provide a salary expectation that is too high, you will automatically be rejected. If you provide one that is lower than they anticipated, they may not think you are adequately skilled for the job and also reject you before calling you in for an interview. Unless the job posting clearly states that you should include a desired salary, it is best not to list it at all.
Mistake #6: Including Unrelated Aspirations
You may eventually want to be company CEO, but it is not a good idea to mention it in a cover letter for an entry level position. Instead, focus on the position you are currently applying for. Although we always recommend you look long-term when applying for a job, you don't need to state your long-term aspirations in the cover letter.
Mistake #7: Errors
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread! We may sound like a broken record on this but it really is that important. A cover letter with spelling or grammatical errors will be potentially cast aside. If you have typed the company name or address incorrectly, it will also likely be discarded. Hiring managers want you to put in the effort to provide a flawless cover letter because that indicates you will put in the effort to do a good job once you are hired. It is worthwhile to review, edit, and revise a few times to make sure your cover letter is error-free.
Mistake #8: Failing to Customize the Cover Letter for the Job
If you are applying for multiple jobs, it may be tempting to create one cover letter to submit for all. However, this is impersonal and will show that you haven't put the required time in. It gives the appearance that you really aren't that engaged in getting this particular job. Why should the hiring manager spend time focusing on you when you didn't spend the time focusing on creating a unique cover letter?
Each cover letter you create should be addressed to the appropriate hiring manager, not "To Whom It May Concern." You will also want to word the cover letter to show that you meet the required skills of the job. Include keywords in the cover letter as well as the resume, and write it in a way that shows how you are the perfect candidate for the particular position.
Avoiding the above 8 common cover letter mistakes will help prevent your resume from being cast on the discard pile. Revision Resume can help you craft a error-free, unique cover letter for each job you are applying for. We have experience writing cover letters that emphasize our clients' strengths and help demonstrate why they are the right candidate for the job opening! Don't hesitate to contact us for assistance!
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Additional cover letter information can be found here.