Cover Letters: Is yours top notch or bottom of the pile?

Being a recruiter, the one thing I can guarantee going into work in the morning is that I will spend part of my day reading through CVs and cover letters. Another thing I can also guarantee is that some of those cover letters will be well written, relevant and of interest, while others not so much…

 

In this day and age there are a number of ways to apply for jobs, but something that will never die is submitting a cover letter of some form as part of an application (whether it is a separate document, in an email or a LinkedIn message). A cover letter is a way for you to express interest in a job, to introduce yourself and let a company know why you are interested in a certain role. If you’ve taken the time to prepare a good CV then you should take the time to equally prepare a good cover letter, don’t set yourself up for failure by making mistakes in your cover letter.

 

Set yourself up for success and check out 5 of the most common mistakes I come across that you should avoid when preparing your cover letter:

 

  1. Misspelling

When I’m reading a cover letter I look for things that stand out for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. When a recruiter / hiring manager is reading a cover letter spelling mistakes stick out like a sore thumb and draw attention away from what’s actually important – the content. Misspellings can easily be overlooked when preparing a cover letter, but if you are competing against a large pool of impressive candidates for the same role then these errors could take you out of the running. Don’t let these silly mistakes be your downfall, check your cover letter twice!

 

  1. The Greeting

When you are applying for a job, whether it is through a recruiter or directly to a company, address your cover letter to the right person. I receive a lot of “To Whom It May Concern”, and that’s fine, but if the name of the hiring manager is included then you should address the cover letter to that person. Failing to do this can make you look like you haven’t read the job advert correctly or that you haven’t put the effort in to find out who is advertising it, so although “To Whom it May Concern” seems polite, I recommend not taking this approach. If you are addressing the cover letter to a specific person also make sure that you are spelling the name the right way and if you are including a title make sure to get it right (I get a lot of Nicole, Niamh, Nicholas and Mr. Nicola etc. even though my adverts clearly say Nicola and my title would be Miss). If you are in doubt of who to address the cover letter to or what title to use, then a simple “Dear Recruiter” or “Dear Hiring Manager” are good options so you can play it safe.

 

  1. Re-writing your entire CV

When you send in your cover letter usually the other document attached to it is your CV, so when writing your cover letter there is no need to repeat it all again. You obviously want to mention your experience, but use the cover letter as an opportunity to show the reader your knowledge about the company and requirements for the role at hand. Highlight your experience that is applicable then to this rather than talking about every little detail, there’s no need to include your work experience in the local shop from 4 years ago for example if it’s not relevant even though it’s on your CV. This will help the reader understand that you are a good fit for the role and that you’ve done your research into what they need.

 

  1. Being Generic

When preparing your cover letter for a role, make sure to avoid using template generic sentences. Even if you are applying to a role online and you are unsure of what company it is with, this doesn’t mean you can’t be specific in relation to your content. When preparing a cover letter, study the job advert and first make a list of 4-5 points you gather are important for the role, then when preparing the substance of the letter cover these requirements and back it up with specifics regarding your knowledge and experience related to them. Summarize this information either in paragraphs or in bullet points to grab the reader’s attention. Being specific is something that very few people do, and yet it is the thing that will make your application stand out from the crowd.

 

  1. Including Unrelated / Unnecessary Information

If you have a gap in your CV or want to explain why you are looking for a role in X but are currently based in Y, your cover letter is the perfect opportunity to explain your reasons. However, there is a fine line with explaining you situation and over-sharing. A prospective employer / recruiter doesn’t need to know the ins and outs regarding every little detail, for example you can let us know that you are relocating next week but there is no need to explain that it is because you recently broke up with your partner and that you are moving for distance from them. Remember to remain professional when preparing you cover letter, and don’t feel pressurized into explaining yourself more than you need to.

 

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