A strong cover letter could be your ticket to moving a step further in getting a new job. This relatively concise piece of information has the ability to place you steps ahead of other candidates, highlight your achievements, and showcase your personality – but no one ever said creating one would be an easy task. Writing a knockout cover letter might even be one of the most challenging parts of the hiring process.
It’s hard to nail down just one challenge that accompanies writing cover letters. Unfortunately, many poor cover letters have allowed outstanding candidates to be passed over by hiring managers. While writing your cover letter might be a scary task, doing it successfully is essential to getting hired.
Don’t let your next cover letter be a flop; consider these 10 mistakes before you hit send:
1. It’s Riddled with Errors. There are many things the errors on your cover letter will express to a hiring manager: lack of attention to detail, carelessness, and even disinterest in the position. Your cover letter deserves to be triple checked for poor grammar, punctuation, and overall structure. Pass it along to your mentor or friends to ensure you haven’t missed anything.
2. It Lacks Focus. What are you attempting to convey to the hiring manager? Writing about your professional experiences can be challenging, and it often causes job seekers to create unfocused cover letters. To write a more direct cover letter, consider creating a layout encompassing your main points.
3. It’s Too Long. Respect the busy schedule of a hiring manager by utilizing brevity in every cover letter you create. Write short and succinct paragraphs to allow for a more easily read document. Sift through unnecessary details and only present the most beneficial information for the job at hand.
4. It Doesn’t Set You Apart. Your cover letter is your chance to leave your mark on a hiring manager. Rather than reiterating what they can read on your resume, use this as an opportunity to share why you’re better for the job than any other candidate. Use a strong, purposeful statement of what you can bring to the position, and how you can positively benefit the company as a whole.
5. It Fails to Highlight Your Skills. While you certainly don’t need to highlight every single job you’ve had during your career, your cover letter should talk about your skills and experiences most beneficial to the company. Your cover letter isn’t for sharing your personal life or specific needs.
6. It’s Missing Information. Job listings often require certain information from applicants. By failing to share the necessary information in your cover letter, you’re essentially removing yourself from the hiring process. Why would a hiring manager choose you over a candidate who went above and beyond to provide the correct details? Double check the qualifications needed for the position prior to sending it.
7. Your Tone is Off. While a cover letter is a professional document, it also gives your potential employer insight into your personality. Don’t rub a hiring manager the wrong way with long-winded bragging. Be sure to leave out arrogance, unprofessional information, and keep the company’s culture in mind.
8. It’s Generic. Customization is key in every part of the hiring process. Submitting a generic cover letter presents you as an average candidate. Your cover letter is an opportunity to stand out and truly speak to a hiring manager – don’t settle for generic.
9. You’re Not Qualified. No matter how you twist and stretch your skills and experiences, you might not be the right candidate for the position. Applying to a position you’re under qualified for is an all-too-common part of the job search. Keep in mind this not only wastes the time of the hiring manager, it also uses up the time and energy you could be spending on applying to position you’re more accurately matched.
10. You Don’t Have One. Just because a cover letter wasn’t mentioned in the job listing, doesn’t mean it’s OK to skip it – they’re never optional. Your cover letter is an important opportunity to convey points you can’t in your resume. Omitting this document leaves you at a fault.
Creating a strong cover letter may be a challenging, but it’s worth the time and energy. Leave a positive first impression on hiring managers by going out of your way to create a concise, focused, and customized document.
Heather R. Huhman is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.