Your cover letter is one of the most important tools on the path to landing a job interview. However, even one mistake can land your application materials in the trash. If you've found yourself feeling mechanical when preparing your resume or letters to potential employers, it's time to revamp your technique and your strategies. Nix the common mistakes, and craft a letter that is engaging, informative and professional to land your dream job.
1. Botching the Opening
Employers are seeking candidates who pay close attention to detail, which is why your opening and initial address to a hiring manager must be accurate. Avoid addressing the cover letter to a department or "to whom it may concern." Instead, investigate the name of the person in charge of reviewing application materials by scouring the company's website, reading the job advertisement carefully or by calling the company to determine who the letter should be addressed to before mailing or emailing. It is also crucial to spell the recipient's name correctly. Do a quick company search on LinkedIn or social media sites to verify the name and position of the hiring manager.
2. The Offbeat Introduction
A clever opening line to your cover letter is necessary and prompts the reader to continue learning about your skills and experience. However, that clever line in your cover letter needs to be cut if it is unrelated to the theme of the letter, the industry or the position. Cater the opening line to the company or the actual position so it does not seem formulated or part of a generic template. Think outside the box, and avoid writing the standard "I am applying for the position of XX at XYZ company."
3. The Unfocused Letter
The purpose of a cover letter is to outline how your skills are in line with what the company is seeking. It is important to explain what you admire about the business and mention details you learned during your research. However, don't forget to focus heavily on your skills and experience. If you focus too much on the company and neglect to detail your skills, you are not providing the potential employer with a call to action to bring you in for a job interview. Instead, tie your skills and experience to the job description. Use keywords from the industry to highlight your skills with hardware or software the company utilizes. Provide examples of your accomplishments or strategies with recruiting or retaining customers in previous positions.
4. The Red Flag Letter
Job seekers often feel the need to over-explain gaps in employment or skills they do not possess. Resist the temptation to sell yourself short or bring up red flags that could alarm hiring managers. Briefly detail a simple explanation for any gaps with just one sentence. Instead of highlighting the skills you don't possess, focus more on the skills you do possess.
Close your cover letter with a specific call to action that is confident. Your primary goal is to obtain an interview and land the job. Show off your professional nature from start to finish to make this dream a reality.
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