Did I say just four cover letter mistakes? I meant four hundred! But four is a good place to start. Much of writing an effective cover letter is subjective. Though callous, the phrase is true: there’s more than one way to skin a cat. But the following four cover letter missteps should be avoided by everyone, in every case. Have a look:
- Do NOT write “As you can see on my resume…” Don’t give your target employer an assignment to cross-reference your career documents. If you want them to note something in the context of reading your cover letter, then figure out an effective way to include it there! For all you know, your reader only plans to look at your cover letter…or perhaps s/he has already passed your resume on to someone else to look at. Your cover letter needs to have legs of its own. In fact, if well-written, it should net you the interview on its own.
- Do NOT share the exact same content that’s on your resume! If I’m an employer reading your documents and I come across the precise language in your resume and cover letter, I’m going to feel cheated and/or disappointed—and I’m going to move on. A cover letter is your opportunity to elaborate on a specific accomplishment or accomplishments; to provide more “meat”; to give your reader the impression that you understand the nuances of the work you did and the industry in which you operate. Don’t waste this opportunity! Copying and pasting bullet points from your resume to your cover letter connotes a lack of creativity and/or laziness. Neither makes for a good first impression.
- Do NOT include what you want to get; rather, include what you want to give. “I want a challenging position in your company…” is you wanting something. “If hired by your company, I will achieve [insert specific accomplishment here, including how you’ll do it]” is you giving something. If I’m an employer, I want you—my new employee—to hit the ground running. I don’t want to be thinking about how I’m going to fulfill your desire for a challenging role. In today’s world of work, achieving career nirvana isn’t my responsibility…it’s yours!
- Do NOT include a sob story / rant / song-and-a-dance about why your last boss or company wasn’t a good fit for you. Focus instead on why the position at hand is a great fit; why you want to work for this company; how this is the obvious next phase of your career. No one wants to hear about how you were mistreated or how bad it is to work for Company X (that’s what Glass Door is for). Not even if they confiscated your stapler and sat you in the storage closet! Rule of thumb: If it’s not going to make you look good to the new employer, don’t share it.
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