Cover Letter Mistakes

John Krautzel
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In a job search, a cover letter rarely remains neutral — it either helps you or hurts you. A poorly written letter can put off the employer and damage your professional reputation, causing you to lose out on an interview. Avoiding these common mistakes can help you create a powerful and persuasive letter that helps you get to the next step of the hiring process.

Not Starting Strong

A cover letter is a sales tool that reels the reviewer in and convinces him to look at the rest of your job application. When it starts off weakly, the employer is likely to lose interest and move on to the next application. Avoid at all costs sentences such as, "I am writing to apply for X position." Instead, front-load the letter with your most compelling content to capture the reader's interest.

Not Showing Personality

The cover letter is often your only opportunity to set yourself apart from other candidates. Many applicants make the mistake of sending dry letters filled with boilerplate text pulled from sample letters on the Internet. A boring, impersonal letter wastes the chance to show the employer who you are as a person and a professional. Stand out from the crowd by using the text to show your personality. Tell a memorable anecdote, explain your passion for the company or show off your insider knowledge of the industry.

Focusing on Your Needs

An employer has one major goal during the hiring process: to find a person who can fill the current company needs. He does not care how the job will help you develop your skills or provide a stepping stone to your next position. A cover letter that focuses on your personal goals is useless to an employer, and is unlikely to get you far in the hiring process. A better approach is to explain how your experience and skills will add value to the company.

Filling the Page

A cover letter that fills more than one page is an instant turnoff for busy hiring managers. At the least, it will annoy the reviewer; at the worst, it can get your application thrown out immediately. The ideal letter covers between 1/2 and 3/4 of the page and contains three or four paragraphs. Avoid wordy blocks of text in favor of short, concise paragraphs that are easy to scan.

Failing to Proofread

A cover letter is more than a part of the job application; it is an example of how you communicate in a professional setting. Typos, misspelled words and grammatical errors indicate one of two things: that you don't care enough about the company to spend time proofreading the letter or that you don't recognize poor writing when you see it. Either way, the employer is unlikely to hire you.

A well-written cover letter is one of the most powerful tools in a jobseeker's arsenal. By investing time to perfect your letter and avoiding common mistakes, you can create a positive and lasting impression on potential employers.


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