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Common cover letter mistakes

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Cover letters are a great way to get an employer interested in your résumé and you. There are certain commonly made mistakes that will diminish all the hard work you put into writing your cover letter and résumé. You can avoid this by carefully reading your cover letter and checking for some of the following mistakes.

Forgetting to enclose your résumé;

You must always enclose all the materials you mention in the cover letter. This includes résumés and anything else you promised, such as writing samples, school transcripts, or published materials.

Typographical errors

Be very careful and edit your letters closely to avoid making any mistakes. It is extremely easy to make mistakes when you are sending out résumés and cover letters, especially when you are writing many in succession. Most employers are immediately turned away by spelling and typo mistakes.

The most common typographical errors include:

  • Misspelling the hiring contact's name or title in the address, in the greeting, or on the envelope.
  • Forgetting to change the name of the organization you're applying to each time it appears in your application, especially in the body of the letter.
  • Applying for one position and mentioning a different position in the body of the letter.

Inaccurate information about the organization

Make sure you verify any information about the organization if you are going to use it in your cover letter. Be specific and tie it into your skills and experiences. It is also important to not bluff your way through information. Do not state that you are familiar with the organization unless you have specific information to back that up.

Tone

Choosing the tone for your cover letter is often difficult. Always write your sentences in a positive manner. To avoid using the wrong tone, read your letter out loud. Always make sure that each sentence enhances your candidacy. It also helps to have someone else read your cover letter.

Unrelated career goals

Tailor each cover letter to the employer who will receive it. An employer is interested in what you can do for him/her. Your letter should demonstrate a genuine interest in the position and a commitment to fulfilling its duties. You should not include what you hope to accomplish for yourself. Since cover letters are generally only four paragraphs long, every word of every sentence should be directly related to your purpose for writing. In other words, if you are applying for a position as a chemist, include only those skills and experience most applicable to that field. Any other information weakens your application.

Emphasizing a lack of experience

Do not call attention to your weaknesses or lack of experience in your cover letter. This only emphasizes your shortcomings instead of your strengths. Center on your skills, organizational and industry knowledge.

Misrepresentation

You should never misrepresent your experiences and skills in either your cover letter or résumé. When the organization discovers the misrepresentation - as they will - they have grounds for immediate dismissal. If you have achieved something, say so and explain the situation in the best possible manner. However, don't exaggerate anything to the point of misrepresentation.

Using anecdotes

Your cover letter should be written in a serious, professional tone. If you use anecdotes, you run the risk of not being seriously considered. You should always keep a polite and respectful tone in your letter.

Don't sound desperate

Your cover letter should make you sound determined to successfully enter into the industry - not desperate to do so. Enthusiasm is very different than desperation. Make sure you don't beg for a position.

Demanding statements

You should never demand something from the employer in your cover letter. It is a common mistake to state "I am looking for a unique opportunity in which I will be adequately challenged and compensated." This insinuates that you expect the employer to place you in a position that satisfies your needs - not theirs. It is more effective to indicate where you feel you could make a contribution to the organization.

Wrong pronouns

In your cover letter, you must present your experiences and qualifications in an interesting manner. Do not use the third person (he/she) to discuss these qualifications. This is disconcerting to most employers. In general, using the first person (I) voice is preferable.

Avoid gimmicks

While sending a gimmicky type product instead of a cover letter may seem creative, the majority of employers will not be impressed. In fact, most employers prefer a simple, well-written letter.

Messy corrections

Your cover letter should contain all pertinent information. If you forget to mention something in your letter, retype the letter. Including a supplementary note, either typed or handwritten, is unprofessional and appears lazy.

Form letters

Mass mailings to employers are not always the best way to find a job. Most importantly, by taking this approach you cannot personalize each résumé and cover letter. Every cover letter that you send should be tailored to the position you seek and should demonstrate both your interest in a specific industry and familiarity with the employer.

Personal photos

Photos are completely unnecessary and unprofessional. Unless you want to enter into acting, modeling, or broadcast journalism, do not send a photograph.

Personal information

Not only is personal information inappropriate on the résumé, it should also be taken out of your cover letter. Do not include data such as your age, marital status, race, religion, or any other personal information unless you feel it directly pertains to the position you are seeking.

Inappropriate stationery

The only universally accepted stationery colors are white and ivory. Using different colors is not the best way to get an employer's attention - especially when applying to conservative industries.

Forgetting to sign your letter

Don't forget to sign your name at the close of your cover letter. An employer might interpret a typed name with no signature as an oversight or carelessness. Also, your signature personalizes your letter. Don't use a script font or a draw program on your computer. Always sign your name neatly in blue or black ink.

 

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