The cover letter is still an integral part of the application process. Attaching a cover letter makes a difference to 49% of recruiters whether it is read or not.
The cover letter is used to fill in the gaps and add specificity to the resume. It must be easily scannable to let your new potential employer know who you are, why you’re interested in a position with their company specifically, and how you are the right person for the job.
Many job hunters make fatal cover letter mistakes. Some of the biggest mistakes include typos, being too generic, failing to include a list of skills pertinent to the job, and miss-matched information between the cover letter and resume. (Hint: this usually has to do with employment dates.)
Some of the other fatal cover letter mistakes are not so obvious. Here is my list of the top 5 cover letter mistakes that won’t get you a call for an interview.
Mistake #1: Failing to customize your cover letter for the employer.
Never send a cover letter addressed to Sir or Madame or, worse yet, to whom it may concern. Take the time to find out who to address your cover letter to at the company. You can read my blog about How to Find Who to Address Cover Letter To for insider tips.
Customizing your cover letter doesn’t end with the salutation. Let the employer know that you’ve done some research. Tell them something about their company that interests you. Bonus points if you can tie that into the job description.
Mistake #2: It’s all about me!
Use the cover letter to give a short bio specific to the position only! Then use bulleted lists to highlight your relevant experience – again tying it back to the position. This is a slippery slope. You don’t want to come off arrogant, but you do need to let the employer know you can do the job. Make it easy for employers to see how you will fit into their team and that you can hold up your end of the job.
Mistake #3: Failing to show the employer why you are the person for the job.
Your cover letter is your 30-second elevator speech condensed down to 7 seconds. Yep, 5 to 7 seconds is the average amount of time recruiters will spend scanning your cover letter and resume. Cut to the chase. Make it really easy for the recruiter to see that you’ve read the job posting and are qualified for the job. Condense this to three-quarters of a page and you’re set. No one wants to read an over-done cover letter – or resume, for that matter.
Mistake #4: Failing to back up your claims.
Being a self-starter is great. I would bet that being a self-started and attention to detail are among the two most referenced skills in cover letters. So, if everyone is a self-starter, how are you different? Do you have backup to substantiate your claim? That is what you need to include. For example:
During a recent conference call with one of our more prominent clients, our firm was asked to detail the last 10 projects completed for them. Immediately after the call, I took initiative to begin this list. Not only did I include details about the last 10 projects, but I also included metrics to help the client assess their ROI with our company.
Mistake #5: Regurgitating your resume.
The cover letter is separate from your resume. Use the cover letter to fill in the gaps of your resume and highlight why you’re the woman for the job. The cover letter is where you pick just those skills pertinent to the position and highlight them. You want to show the employer you are the person to get the job done.
Taking the time to polish your cover letter that likely will not even be read seems like a waste. But if your cover letter is read, it will be what either moves you up the pile or to the bottom of the stack.
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