How to Fix 3 Common Cover Letter Mistakes
There’s plenty of advice on what to include in your resume: numbers that verify your accomplishments, language in your job description (always relevant to your experience, of course), and impactful verbs like “achieved” and “improved.” .”
But when it comes to the cover letter, it seems a little less straightforward, and sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to include.
“A cover letter is like a written introduction to yourself,” he says Gorick Ng, Harvard career counselor and author of “The Unspoken Rules.” Ideally, include three paragraphs that cover who you are, why you’re interested in this role, and any relevant experiences that directly translate. It’s like “personal selling,” he says.
However, it can be easy to get things wrong. Here’s what not to include in your cover letter.
For starters, it’s essential that you address your cover letter to a real person instead of writing a generic “to whom it may concern.”
If you know who’s the head of talent acquisition or who’s responsible for hiring for a particular team or role, addressing that letter to them “shows even the tiniest bit of commitment,” says Ng. A lot of people don’t send cover letters, and if they do, they do it the wrong way. This personal touch will make you stand out.
If you don’t know who that hiring manager is, try doing a Google or LinkedIn search to find them, your potential department head, or anyone else who might be involved in the hiring process.
“Maybe you didn’t get it right, but even if you wrote to someone who is even remotely involved in this process,” says Ng, that goes a long way.
Another thing that goes a long way: getting the details right about the gig you’re applying for. “An easy way to personalize your cover letter that takes less than a minute is to mention the company name and the job title,” says Ng.
Include these details in the first paragraph of your cover letter after introducing yourself.
This may seem obvious, but many people don’t take the time to write a detailed cover letter for each position they are applying for. “What they do is they write a generic block of text that everyone copies and pastes,” says Ng. Often, this does not include the company and role they are applying for.
These days, you can learn a lot about an employer before even stepping foot in the office. And when it comes to the cover letter, you want to show them that you’ve done your homework and get to know the culture you’re joining.
Check the employer’s website, blog, media interviews executives may have given, and any reviews written by past or current employees to see if the company is buttoned up or loose. If none of these help you get a sense of how much flair or personality you can add to your cover letter, keep your language neutral and direct.
“Be really aware and present” in the language you’re using, he says Christine Sachs, executive and leadership coach. “What will happen is that you’ve acquired certain ways of speaking, presenting, writing that are appropriate for your previous organization, but not necessarily appropriate for the new organization.”
“I think people try to be subtle or try to add little personal flourishes,” says Sachs. If that’s not the culture the company has, it can turn them off.
DON’T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work and life? Sign up for our new newsletter!
Here’s an example of the perfect cover letter, according to Harvard’s career experts
The 1 sentence you should use to start your cover letter, according to the CEO of ZipRecruiter
Career Expert: How to Write a Cover Letter That Really Gets Noticed