Common and Costly Cover Letter Mistakes

Nancy Anderson
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Never underestimate the power of a cover letter. A great cover letter can open the door to an interview, while a mistake-ridden cover letter may result in a tossed resume, no matter how qualified the applicant may be. Craft the best cover letters by avoiding these common and costly cover letter mistakes.

Using a Generic Salutation

The best cover letters avoid the impersonal "To Whom It May Concern" and directly address the proper hiring professional. This is especially important if that information is given in the job description or want ad. If it is not that easy, spend some time finding out who does the hiring and use his name. If a quick online search and a few phone calls do not provide the needed information, skip the salutation and use a subject line.

Following a Template Too Closely

Templates are a great place to get started, but closely adhering to a particular format is the best way to bore a hiring manager. Boring cover letters that all sound the same are shuffled through quickly and rarely read. The best cover letters capture the reader's attention with their uniqueness. Aim for an eye-catching first sentence to pull the reader in and hold his attention.

Avoiding Specifics

An interesting cover letter still falls flat if it does not include specific details that connect your background to the position for which you are applying. Tell the hiring manager exactly why you are the best person for the position. Create a connection between your skills and experience, as listed on your resume, and the job description. The best cover letters state exactly how you add value to the company.

Writing Too Much

Long cover letters are rarely read and not friendly in an increasingly mobile environment. Many hiring managers browse through applicants on tablets or smartphones. The best cover letters are less than a page long and make points succinctly in a way that is easy to read.

Not Proofreading Carefully

Spell check is not foolproof. Reread your cover letters several times to make sure every word is used correctly. Be on the lookout for commonly misused words, such as "their," "its" and "your." Have at least one other person read your letter to check for anything you might have missed.

Not Following Directions

Perhaps the most costly mistake is not following the directions in the advertisement. Nothing is more likely to get your application dropped in the reject pile. When applying electronically, make sure all forms are in the right format and sent to the right people. Read the instructions thoroughly, and check them twice before hitting Send.

The best cover letters gracefully avoid these common cover letter mistakes and present your resume in a positive light. Consider your cover letter to be your introduction to the company. Present yourself as a valuable addition to the operation in an interesting, easy-to-read manner.


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