Five Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid


A good cover letter will motivate the employer to read your resume.  A poor cover letter, however, can cause you to be eliminated instantly from being considered for the position.  To ensure that your cover letter gets you great results, here are five mistakes to avoid:

1.  Emailing, mailing or faxing your resume without a cover letter.

Unless you are handing your resume to an employer directly, you always want to include a cover letter.  Your cover letter can be even more important than your resume because it is the first communication that is read by the employer. A good cover letter can help your resume to stand out from others received for the same position.

2. Sending your cover letter to a generic recipient.

If at all possible, you want to address your cover letter to the person who has the power to hire you.  Don't make the mistake of starting your letter with "To Whom it May Concern" or Dear Human Resource Director" if you can possibly find out the appropriate name.  This approach will just indicate to the employer that you didn't bother to take the time to find the name of hiring manager.  If you are responding to an advertised job opening that does not provide a name, you can call the company and ask for the name of the hiring manager for the advertised job. 

3.  Failing to describe how your skills and experience can help meet the employer's needs.

Employers are interested in how you can meet their needs.  They want to know how you can help them succeed and add to their bottom line.  If you are focused on describing how your skills and experience can help them produce more profit, solve problems and/or help fulfill the company's mission, you will have a much better chance of grabbing the employer's attention.

4.  Not taking initiative by asking the employer to take the next step.

Most cover letters end with a plea for the employer to contact them.  For example, "I would appreciate your time in reviewing my enclosed resume and I would welcome an opportunity to meet you for a personal interview." Instead of this typical request, be bold and proactive by writing that you will follow up with them.   Here is an example:

"I would very much like to set up a time to talk to you about your graphic arts department and the opening for a graphic artist. I will call you next week to see if we can arrange a mutually convenient time to meet. I look forward to talking with you!"

5.  Sending a letter that is not personalized to the job.

If you are applying for a job that is of high interest, take the time to create a cover letter that reflects how you have the specific qualifications that the employer is seeking.  If you are applying for an advertised job, an effective strategy is to "mirror" back what the employer is seeking.  For example, you can use the actual wording from the online job posting and then describe how your skills and experience match what the employer is seeking.