Is Your Cover Letter Hurting Your Job Search?

Nancy Anderson
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Finding the right job is not an easy process, but it's well worth the effort. One of your top priorities should be writing a cover letter that piques the interest of hiring managers and makes you look like a well-rounded candidate. Avoid making these common mistakes when writing and sending cover letters to potential employers.

1. No Cover Letter

Not sending a cover letter at all is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a job seeker. Most hiring managers expect to see at least a short cover letter outlining your qualifications. If you don't include one, you are at a disadvantage. Without a cover letter, it's difficult to persuade people to read your resume or give your job application more than a cursory glance.

2. Generic Cover Letters

Copying and pasting the same text into every cover letter is a good way to sabotage your job search. Smart hiring managers can spot a generic letter with one quick glance. Instead of using the same text and switching out the name of the hiring manager, customize every cover letter for the job opening. Include one or two lines of text that show you took the time to research the company before applying for the job. Instead of typing a laundry list of qualifications, focus on the skills most closely related to the position.

3. Lack of Polish

Poor writing can really hurt you at this stage of your job search. No one expects you to write a Pulitzer-worthy cover letter, but you need to demonstrate a basic grasp of grammar conventions and writing best practices. Before you send a letter to a hiring manager, proofread it multiple times to ensure there are no mistakes. If you graduated from a local college, visit career services to see if someone is willing to review your cover letter before you send it. Having someone else check your letter is a good way to identify and correct serious errors.

4. Personalization

Finally, make the hiring manager's job a little easier by approaching your cover letter as if you are writing a story. Instead of rehashing your resume, give the hiring manager a taste of your personality. Talk about past achievements, or explain how you used one of your skills to benefit a previous employer. Writing a letter this way makes it easier to hold the hiring manager's attention. As an added bonus, hiring managers are more likely to read your resume if you send in a well-written cover letter.

Hiring managers can easily receive hundreds of applications for a single job opening, making it easy for a candidate to get lost in the crowd. Make your application more memorable by writing an engaging cover letter that tells the story of who you are and what you have to offer an employer.

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  • Sean M.
    Sean M.

    You can usually find the HR contact via a LinkedIn search for the company.

  • Erica R.
    Erica R.

    over qualified for an entry-level position with out a college job force is not easy for divorced parents.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Donald so it sound like you are changing careers? That's a tough road I know. Have you tried finding others in your new career that you may know or could connect with? Sometimes it's good to have someone inside who will give your resume to the right person. Are you moving into a field where you could maybe try to volunteer at first? That might be the best way to break into a new career. Is your cover letter telling them that you are changing gears and moving into a new career? Some companies would welcome that because then they can teach you how to do things their way instead of you coming to them with bad habits from a previous company. Honestly, try connecting with others in the field and look for any networking opportunity that you can find. We wish you all the best.

  • Donald P.
    Donald P.

    Nancy, its not that I can't find jobs that I am qualified for, its that I don't want to work in that job anymore. In my last job that I had, they gave me the opportunity to interview. So I had the opportunity to convince them that if hired, I wouldn't leave. Those rejecting me, aren't even giving me a opportunity to interview.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Tomeze thanks for your comment. On the positive side, at least you got a response. We get comments all of the time from job seekers who go on interviews and then never receive any type of feedback. Did you ask why they were going with another candidate? That would have been valuable feedback. If you ask why, then you can fix the issue so that it doesn't occur on your next interview.

  • Tomeze W.
    Tomeze W.

    I have had serval interviews, I heat your have great experience you interviewed well however we are going with another candidate????

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Donald are you applying for jobs that you are overqualified for because you can't find ones that you ARE qualified for? Of course a company is going to be concerned and probably not consider you because they know that as soon as a good job opens up, you are going to leave. It's just like someone with a PhD working at McDonald's. They are working because they need the work but they know that they will bail as soon as a decent job comes along. That is why you are getting denied. You would need to offer assurances that you won't quit the moment a good job comes your way.

  • Donald P.
    Donald P.

    The Biggest problem I'm having is being denied because I'm over qualified.

  • Dena Morgan
    Dena Morgan

    I really feel that if you are qualified for the position that the fact that you have their name or Joe Blow won't make the call on the job.
    I would concentrate on looking for open positions that you are the very best qualified for.
    Worry about those people when they sign your check

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jill it certainly can be frustrating but not impossible. Try researching the company. Look at their website and see if they list any names. Try checking on LinkedIn for it. Try Glassdoor which offers ratings for companies by their employees. If you can't find their name elsewhere, you could always try to call the company and ask. If all else fails, then you would be left with Dear HR Manager.

  • Jill V.
    Jill V.

    Well, I don't see how the h--l I am supposed to address the HR manager by name when the name is not provided in the job ad. I have tried writing "Dear HR Manager:" and I may have mentioned that the name was not provided. Still, my cover letters are tailored to the job; it is the resume which remains in my e-mail to be pulled out and sent when necessary.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Catherine thanks for your comment. Probably the best way to find out is to simple call the company and ask. You can also used LinkedIn and other social media sites to find out. You might even be able to find out who it is by researching the company's site. You want to do this anyhow, before any interview, so that you know what you are walking into; what the company does and what would be expected of you. Between the company's website and LinkedIn or Facebook, you can typically find the answers you are seeking. Good luck.

  • catherine  s.
    catherine s.

    How do I know who to address the cover letter to if I'm filling out jobs on apps

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