Having interviewed more than 5,000 candidates in my 23-year career in Tech, Legal, Telecom, Print, Manufacturing, and SaaS -
I have seen my fair share of effective, and not so effective cover letters.
Here are 5 all-to-common mistakes that keep qualified candidates from landing interviews.
1/ Spelling Mistakes. Grammatical errors. General Inattention to detail
Your cover letter is usually the first document read by recruiters and hiring managers.
Yes! Human beings do read your cover letter.
This is your chance to make a great first impression on your reader.
If your cover letter has even a single spelling mistake, grammatical error, or seems generally ‘off the mark’ it will quickly be overlooked.
Poof! There goes your shot at landing an interview. Just. Like. That.
Avoid making a poor first impression by:
- Asking a trusted friend, family member, or colleague to read through your cover letter and flag your mistakes for correction.
- Use a free online writing assistant or editing program like Grammarly or Hemmingway.
2/ Too Many Words on Too Many Pages
In short, your cover letter is too long.
I rarely read cover letters that are more than 1-page in length.
Most recruiters I work with do the same.
There are two reasons for this – time & impact.
I don’t have time to read multiple pages and even if I did, if you can’t sell me on why it would be beneficial to interview you in a paragraph or two, then I’m not buying what you’re selling.
Show your reader the impact you can have on their business.
Do it on 1-page.
3/ Repeating What’s Already in Your Resume
Your resume is the place to showcase your hard skills.
The results you have achieved and how you achieved them.
Your cover letter is not your resume.
Your cover letter is not your resume.
Your cover letter is your best opportunity to show why you are different from your competition.
This is your time to showcase some personality.
What makes you unique?
Is it how you approach challenges?
Is it how you think outside the box?
Is it how you communicate, collaborate, or debate?
What’s your ‘WOW’ factor?
Be sure to make it clear and concise.
4/ Not Answering the Only Question That Needs Answering
“What’s in it for (the reader) if they work with you?”
Aka…”What’s in it for me?”
I can’t tell you how many cover letters I have read that drone on and on about skills and attitude but leave no clues as to how that is relevant to the challenges faced by my business.
Answering the “What’s in it for me?” question is critical to moving forward in the hiring process and doing so will almost always move your reader to become curious enough to invite you in for an interview to learn more about how you can help them right now.
Do your research on the company, the role, and the person to which you are addressing your cover letter.
Do not cut corners here.
Invest the time required to really understand how you can help and why that is important to the reader and their company.
The more you know about the challenges faced by your prospective employer, the better you can tailor your cover letter to answer the WIIFM question quickly and directly.
5/ Telling What You Do Instead of Why You Do It.
I’ll be blunt, I don’t care what you do. I care why you do it.
If I told you that I threw rocks at school windows professionally what would be your first question?
If I told you that I designed bicycles with square wheels, what would you say?
While the above examples may seem silly, the truth is that they are not much different then reading summaries of the daily tasks your current job requires.
Without sharing the “why” behind the “what”, you leave your reader guessing.
And guess what that means?
You will be the one submitting your application then waiting for a response that never comes and wondering “why?”
Whether you are breaking windows at your local public school (please don’t!) or sweeping arena floors after Taylor Swift concerts, your reader will inevitably want to know one thing….
Now that you know the 5 cover letter mistakes that will keep you out of interviews, you can act.
Review your cover letter to ensure you are not making these 5 common mistakes.
Then move forward with confidence that you are making the best first impression possible and start landing more interviews.
Is your cover letter mistake free but you still can’t land interviews?
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