My clients suffer more over cover letter writing than any other aspect of the job search. This is your professional introduction that should build off your resume. The cover letter must be the most compelling document you have ever written. The cover letter’s importance is equal to that of the resume. The goals are simple: 1) capture the person’s attention immediately so they will actually read the cover letter, 2) compel them to read the resume, 3) convince them to pick up the phone and invite you in for an interview. Here is my list of the top 50 things to avoid when creating your cover letter.
1. Trying to write a cover letter in a hurry.
2. Confusing or unattractive layout with margins that are unequal.
3. Using a different font type and font size than the resume.
4. Having a header that is different from the resume.
5. Misspelling the contact’s name or using an incorrect job title.
6. Inaccurate address of the employer.
7. Addressing it “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”; failure to write to a real person.
8. Producing generic or form cover letters.
9. Mass mailing your cover letters.
10. Forgetting to mention the name of the person who referred you to the position or organization.
11. Neglecting to state which position you are applying to.
12. Not capturing the reader’s attention immediately.
13. Not clearly knowing the audience, who you are, or what you have to offer.
14. Giving the impression that you lack confidence or coming across as negative.
15. Under-selling your transferrable skills, knowledge and accomplishments.
16. Sounding desperate.
17. Communicating in self-serving or arrogant tone.
18. Sharing too much about your personal life and feelings.
19. Focusing more on you and less on the tangible results you can deliver to an employer.
20. Leaving the impression that you know little about the organization.
21. Failing to understand that the cover letter is a “sample” of the quality of your work.
22. Boring sentences that do not allow your personality to come alive.
23. Neglecting to highlight three to five key points.
24. Disorganized and ineffective writing style.
25. Drawing attention away from the employer’s needs.
26. Jumbled thoughts that are less than convincing.
27. Missing descriptive action verbs.
28. Rambling or long winded sentence that extend the cover letter onto two pages.
29. Paragraphs that are too long, irrelevant or too vague.
30. Missing space between paragraphs.
31. Lacking attention to detail and not using examples to backup any generalizations.
32. Starting off too many sentences that begin with “I”.
33. Avoiding the question, “Why should I interview you?”
34. Apologizing for your weaknesses or shortcomings.
35. Expressing dissatisfaction with your current job.
36. Denying their request for a salary range in the cover letter.
37. Being dishonest or unprofessional in any way.
38. Regurgitating your resume in a stiff manner.
39. Citing quantifiable information inaccurately (i.e., sales growth, revenues, cost savings, budget figures, etc.).
40. Failing to review your vocabulary and not choosing words which reveal your personality and enthusiasm.
41. Closing the letter without a course of action.
42. Forgetting to sign it.
43. Neglecting to proofread for errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.
44. Skipping a professional critique by trained career counselor.
45. Printing it on photocopied, colored, or low quality paper which also does not match the resume.
46. Not remembering to enclose a resume, references or other required documents.
47. Putting your resume over your cover letter instead of vice versa.
48. Folding your resume and cover letter to fit a standard business envelope instead of inserting them flat into a 9″ x 12″ envelope.
49. Handwriting the mailing address on the envelope.
50. Forgetting to keep a copy for your records.