A well-written, customized cover letter can move your resume to the top of the pile but common errors on your cover letter can result in a quick trip to the “no pile.” To avoid the dreaded “no pile”, avoid these common cover letter mistakes.
- Overuse of “I” and “my”— Resist the temptation to start every sentence with “I” or “My”. Your focus should be on meeting the employer’s need to address a business issue. Vary your sentence structure and keep the focus on them. Too many “I”s comes across as self-centered and cocky and demonstrates sub-standard communication skills. Your cover letter is considered an example of your business writing so put your best foot forward.
- Typos and Grammatical errors – Proofread your letter and least twice and have someone else read it for you as well. Do not rely on spell check to identify all the errors. Hiring managers expect your cover letter to be error free and will often immediately move a candidate to the “no pile” if there are errors in the letter. The worst is a sentence highlighting your attention to detail which contains errors.
- Form Letters – To be effective, a cover letter must always be customized to the specific position and company. Hiring managers who read cover letters often can spot form letters very quickly. Phrases such as “this position” and “your company” scream form letter. Candidates often
- Tentative Language – In your cover letter you want to be confident but not cocky. Avoid tentative language such as “I think”, “I feel”, “seems like” or “I had to.” Be honest but always project confidence when sharing your experience.
- Inconsistent Bullets—It is acceptable to use bullet points in your cover letter to highlight the experience you bring to the job. Ensure that bullets are consistent in format. Don’t start some with verbs and others with nouns or mix tenses. Consistency is important. Also, don’t use the same bullet points as on your resume.
- Arrogance—Avoid phrases such as “best candidate” and “perfect fit” when describing your capabilities. You are really not in a position to make that assessment and it comes across to the reader as arrogant. You want to be positive and confident but cocky is a turn off. It is best to demonstrate your capabilities with examples.
- Lack of Professional Format—A cover letter is a formal business letter. It should have your contact information on the top with the same heading as your resume. It should then have a date, an address block and a salutation. “Dear Mary Jones” is not appropriate for a salutation. It should read “Dear Ms. Jones”. Failure to follow official business letter format gives the letter an inappropriate air of casualness. Demonstrate that you are taking this seriously and that you can compose a proper business letter. This is also a sample of your written communication skills for the hiring manager.
- Failure to Connect the Dots—Hiring managers know what they are looking and for and you know what you have done. Don’t assume they will take the time to connect the dots. Use your cover letter to clearly identify how your experience and skills meets their needs.
- Limited Language – Do not use the same words repeatedly in your cover letter. Use a thesaurus if necessary. Using the same words and phrases implies that you don’t know other words and that your communication skills are limited.
- Use of Acronyms – The hiring manager does not know your hiring company. They will not have a clue what the XYZ project is for the ABC system. Explain your responsibilities in clear language that anyone could understand. Don’t let your accomplishments be lost in the acronyms that only insiders understand.
A carefully crafted, customized cover letter can move your resume to the top of the pile for consideration. Avoid these common mistakes to stay out of the “no pile”.