3 worst cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them

There are tons of information both online and offline about how to write a great cover letter which sparks your reader’s interest and encourages him to look attentively through your CV.


There are as well thousands of cover letter examples on the web. Most of which are complete rubbish that is not able to spark or impress anybody. They are plain, boring and if you compose your cover letter based on those samples, it will go directly to the trash together with your CV.


So what are those major deadly cover letter mistakes that lead a lot of job seekers anywhere, but definitely not towards getting their dream job?



1. Impersonal salutation


“Dear Sir/ Madam, Dear Hiring Manager”


About 98% of all letters start this way, so if yours does as well, there is no much chance that you will get into the 1-2% of candidates being invited to the next step.


How can you find out the name of the person responsible for recruitment for the position you apply for?


Before writing your application pick up the phone and call either the recruitment agency advertising the position or directly company reception, in case you are aware who the employer is. Introduce yourself, say that you would like to apply for a certain position and have several question to ask in before. Ask to be transferred to the person responsible for this particular position. It could be a recruiter in the agency, HR specialist or you might be lucky to get directly to hiring manager.


When connected, ask couple question about the position and the company and then enquiry to whom you should address your application. Make sure you got the name and also try to take personal contact number and email. Like this you won’t just address your letter to a specific person, but will be able to easily follow up on the status of your application.


So if your letter that starts in the following way:


“Dear Mr. Black,


I really enjoyed our conversation yesterday and would like to thank you for taking your time to answer my questions regarding the product designer position.”


It will be really hard to ignore, and you can be guaranteed that both your cover letter and CV will be looked at and carefully analysed.



2. Rehashing your CV


Lots of candidates after expressing their desire to apply for a particular position just take the facts from the CV, summarise them in the report format and send this as cover letter. After which they are very surprised when receiving a rejection or no answer at all.


What’s wrong with this approach? Well who likes to read reports with facts and figures? Tens or hundreds of them per day? It is especially annoying when report repeats everything written in your CV, so you just made recruiter spent twice more time to look at 2 parts of your application that are identical in content. I assure you that it won’t impress the reader.


Cover letter is in its essence first of all a letter-a writing piece, an essay that should be easy and interesting to read.


To do that, the cover letter should tell an exciting story explaining why you are interested in the position you apply for (in the specific field and specific company) and why the company should choose you for this position.


Basically tell them your personal story about why you decided to pursue certain career, then tell a story about what attracts you in the particular company and department. After, present couple of great examples from your past work/life experiences that demonstrate your relevance to the requirements of the position.


In most cases your cover letter is an introduction to your employer and your first self-marketing piece meant to thrill him about you as a person and professional. When writing it, always remember that customised story cover letter sells way better than rewritten report from your CV.



3. Being arrogant and overusing “I”& “my”


Lots of job seekers who would like to sound confident in their capabilities and experience overdo it and instead come across as arrogant in their cover letters.


Using such phrases as “best candidate”, “perfect fit” or “I’m sure to increase your company profit by 20% in the following year” make recruiters laugh and directly switch to another application. These are completely false claims as you can’t have an idea about who are the other candidates applying to the job, you can’t be 100% sure that you fit in a specific team and obviously can’t predict the financial future of an organisation as it depends on myriad of various factors.


To sound confident but not arrogant you can only provide examples from your past experiences rather than trying to predict future events and assuming your immediate success in the new position.


Using a lot of “I”& “my”, especially in the beginning of the sentences also makes you come across as cocky and self-centred. I don’t know many people who like that, so avoid it.


Stressing how the new position can benefit you and your career development is wrong as well. It can be mentioned briefly that you are, for example, excited about experiencing new challenges in the new job. However, always remember that first of all you are being hired to bring value and benefits to the organisation, and not the opposite.


Of course it is unavoidable to use “I” and “my” when telling your story and providing examples. To make you sound even more credible it is a good idea to mention in your letter what your colleagues and managers have to say about your personality and professional expertise too.


To sum up: it indeed takes more time to write a good personal  “story-telling” cover letter, but fear not as return on investment of your time will  soon pay off  in a job offer


Image: Courtesy of etech road