These Cover Letter Mistakes Can Cost You a Potential Job
Writing cover letters is one of the most dreaded parts of the job application process, but it’s a necessary one in most cases — a ResumeLab survey of over 200 hiring managers found that 87% prefer candidates who send a cover letter with their job application. While the cover letter is an opportunity to convince a prospective employer that you’re the right candidate for the job, it can also diminish your chances of getting an interview if you make certain mistakes.
According to the ResumeLab survey, these are the cover letter mistakes that can cost you a potential job.
Spelling Mistakes or Typos
Be sure to proofread your cover letter carefully — then proofread it again and again. According to the survey, 76% of hiring managers would automatically reject a cover letter that contained spelling errors or typos.
“Always double-check your grammar and sentence coherence,” said Noelle Martin, career and workplace editor at Mantelligence. “The one thing any hiring staff would notice that can put an end to your application process is poor grammar. You can use Grammarly or other grammar-checkers for this crucial step.”
Lying or Exaggerating About Your Qualifications
Most of the hiring managers surveyed — 68% — said that lying on a cover letter is a moderate or serious problem. So while you may be tempted to embellish your work experience on your cover letter, resist the urge — the truth has a way of coming out and can land you in the reject pile.
Even if you don’t have every skill the employer is asking for, there are ways to wow them without lying. For example, use the cover letter to emphasize your soft skills or explain why you would be a good culture fit.
“If your personal values align with their company values, mention that to show you’d fit in well with the culture,” said Anne Matsushita, career coach at Randstad RiseSmart. “If you read something interesting about the company in the news recently, like they are expanding to another territory, tell them why that resonates with you — maybe it’s your hometown.”
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Not Providing Specific Examples of Your Achievements
Your cover letter is your platform to share why you’re a great prospective candidate — but you need some specific examples to back these claims up. When a candidate boasts about themselves without providing specifics on how they’re a good fit for the role, 61% of hiring managers see this as a moderate or serious problem.
“I encourage my career coaching clients to showcase three assets that set them apart from other job seekers,” said Kyle Elliott, career coach and founder of CaffeinatedKyle.com. “For each asset, share a relevant accomplishment or example from your career.”
Repeating Exactly What’s in Your Resume
There may be overlap in your resume and cover letter, but avoid simply copying your resume into letter format. Fifty-eight percent of the HR professionals surveyed rated this as a moderate or serious problem, and one specifically cited copying your resume as one of the worst things you can do in your cover letter.
“In your cover letter, devote as much — if not more — content to proving you know the business, their needs and where you can bring value,” said Rob Barnett, headhunter and author of “Next Job, Best Job: A Headhunter’s 11 Strategies To Getting Hired Now.” “You don’t need to rehash your resume or tell your life story. It’s about how you can help them with the skills you have now.”
Failing To Provide Requested Information
Sometimes a job posting will ask that you provide specific information within the cover letter. Failing to provide this information can be a red flag, as it shows that you either didn’t read the posting carefully, can’t follow instructions or are not able to provide what the employer requires. The survey found that 62% of hiring managers said that failing to provide requested information is a moderate or serious problem.
Not Including Keywords
You should be creating separate cover letters for each job you apply to, weaving in keywords from the job posting throughout.
“By linking your cover letter to the aspects of the position that fit your unique skills and expertise, you’ll create a cover letter that employers won’t be able to ignore,” said Tyler Martin, founder and certified business coach at ThinkTyler. “What exactly are they looking for that you excel at? When drafting a cover letter, these are the points to emphasize.”
Failing to include keywords is not only a missed opportunity to stand out, but it may also mean that your application won’t even be seen at all. According to ResumeLab, most employers now use applicant tracking systems — computer programs that scan your job application and filter out unqualified applicants. A lack of keywords can signal to the system that you are not qualified, and your application will automatically be sent to the reject pile.
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Obviously Recycling an Old Cover Letter
One way to signal to a recruiter that you are reusing a cover letter you used to apply to a different job is to forget to swap out the company name or the name of the person you are addressing it to. This is a major cover letter “don’t,” according to the HR professionals surveyed. Be sure to double-check this before hitting “submit.”
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Last updated: Oct. 15, 2021