Cover letters are a blessing and a curse. They can either make or break you. And you probably know how. Well, if you don’t, you better find out.
Cover letters give you room to discuss your qualifications. That is a relief from the crunched bullet point of a resume. With a cover letter, you can put forward your personal brand exactly the way you want.
However, that same freedom and that intimidating blank page to fill, it’s easy to veer off in the wrong direction. Consequently, we end up making cover letters that pretty much cost us our dream job.
You know it helps if you know the usual blunders people commit with their cover letters. Knowing where we could go wrong helps us not to walk down the path towards those shortcomings. So, here are some of the most common mistakes people make when writing cover letters.
Oh, Dear Sir
This is a rookie mistake, even for the experienced job seeker. If, for example, you address the cover letter “Dear Sir” when the hiring manager is a woman, you fill three entire pages with your every achievement since kindergarten, or you forget to proofread and let the opening line read: “I absolutely love you’re company!”—it’ll go straight into the trash can.
So, next time: Keep your cover letter to a single page, pay attention to details (e.g., address the letter specifically to the hiring manager by name), and most importantly—proofread, proofread, proofread. And then, proofread again.
Just a regurgitated resume.
Your cover letter is meant to complement your resume—not reiterate it. If the resume and the cover letter are replicas of each other, then why bother submitting two documents in the first place? Does that appeal to logic? Yes.
Use your cover letter and your resume to convey a variety of information but do not repeat yourself in both documents. Use your cover letter to describe additional details that you weren’t able to squeeze onto the single page of your resume.
Resume: In-charge of reviewing invoice disputes
Cover letter: By resolving invoice disputes, I gained a deep analytical knowledge—but more importantly, I learned how to interact calmly and diplomatically with angry customers.
The freedom a cover letter gives you – the freedom to use full sentences – gives you enough chance to tell the hiring manager why you are the perfect fit for the job. Remember that the ultimate purpose of your cover letter is to make you stand out as the other candidates applying for the job are similarly qualified individuals just like you are.
“Dear Hiring Manager,
I am so excited to apply for the open position at your company, where I hope to utilize my skills to progress in my career.”
Do you think the recruiter or the hiring manager won’t notice that this is a stock cover letter you have mass-distributed to every place in town? Oh, yes they’ll know.
And when they do, do you think this will fly with a company that wants employees who are truly riveted about its unique mission and vision? You got that right, NO.
So, next time, don’t be lazy about writing a cover letter that is specific to the job and company you’re applying to.
If you take the time to write something thoughtful (“I’m a daily reader of your company’s blog. Your post about personal branding actually inspired me to start my own blog—and that has given me the perfect experience for the open role of Marketing Content Specialist”), you’ll instantly convey that you are genuinely interested in that particular company. That’s a great way to begin a relationship with a company you wish to work for.
I don’t actually know this blah, blah, blah.
So, you don’t meet the basic requirements of the job. And, you want to be honest about it. But, you know you are qualified (no, more than qualified… you are the perfect fit and you can give so much more). What do you do?
For starters, if you don’t meet the basic requirements of the job, your resume will clearly indicate that. If you want to be honest, well, your resume will show you don’t meet the basic criteria. But what role should your cover letter do?
There is no need to begin your cover letter with, “I know I don’t actually have any coding experience or know much about computers, but…”
Because upon reading that line, the recruiter probably won’t make it to the part of the letter where you try to convince them that they should hire you anyway.
Use your cover letter to explain how your past experience—regardless of how irrelevant it may seem at first—will translate to this new role. Again this is the beauty of cover letters: Resumes barely allow enough room for a few bullet points of duties and accomplishments—but cover letters let you more thoroughly explain how those experiences will make you a perfect fit for any position.
Previous Position: Manager (at some bakery in Manila)
Position Applying to: Content Writer
If you are to look at this through a resume, the two positions are misaligned. It seems the career shift is irrelevant with each other. But in fact, while you were manager, you were the one who wrote, edited, and published your company’s training modules, handbooks, and other contents. But you can’t say that in a resume, can you? The beauty of cover letters is that they allow us to explain the “why” and “how” – a feature your resume does not have.
So, in your cover letter, highlight the fact that you composed, edited, and published your previous company’s training materials and employee handbook, you suddenly do, in fact, have that required experience.
What can you do for me?
We already talked about cover letters that rock. And we know that cover letter that gets you hired talks about your possible value to the company. They also talk about how passionate you feel about the company and how you love their products and services.
But don’t get us wrong there. While it is fine to convey that you are excited about the position, do not package it as though you are the only party who will be happy about the employment (because of what the job would do for you). They also want to be happy about hiring you. So, they want to know your unique skills and expertise that can help them.
Package it that way. You can you say you’ve been following the company since its start-up phase. You’ve been reading their blog and you’ve grown to love their products and services. As such, tell them how much you love to help them out with their marketing efforts. Build your bid by saying that your love for the company, and your knowledge about the company’s background, mission, , vision, and target customers makes you able to jump right in, and help their marketing efforts. That’s a sample.
Now you’ve shown that the relationship will be mutually beneficial: You’ll have a great job with a company you love—and the company will have a valuable, skilled, and enthusiastic new employee (who, coincidentally, is also an amazing cover letter writer).