Your cover letter is the way you introduce yourself to a hiring manager or job recruiter whom you want to impress. You wouldn't introduce yourself to a hiring manager in person by talking to someone else on the phone while you're introduced, or shaking hands with your hand covered in sticky chocolate. Don't commit the equivalent errors in your cover letter. If you don't take the time to get it right, you send an obvious message to job recruiters that they're wasting their time with you. Here are some tips to keep your cover letter from being a waste of time.
If you address your cover letter to "Dear Hiring Manager" or even worse, "To Whom It May Concern," you've just sent the message that your application is a waste of the HR department's time. If you can't be bothered to do the simple research required to find out who to address a cover letter to, you can't be trusted to be a self-starter who can work independently and contribute to the company.
Failure to Proofread
Most companies aren't interested in job candidates who send cover letters filled with typos, grammatical errors and misspellings. If you don't bother to proofread your cover letter, you demonstrate a lack of attention to detail that can be fatal in your job search. If proofreading doesn't come naturally to you, get a friend who loves grammar and editing to take a look at it before you send to make it worth your prospective employer's time.
Being Overly Personal
Your cover letter isn't the place to talk about why how you fell in love with the idea of working for an insurance company when you were 10 years old. It isn't even the place to talk about yourself. Instead, use the precious few paragraphs you have to talk about how you could fit into and benefit the company you're applying to. In addition, avoid bringing up personal negatives. These can include anything from why you moved to a new city to get away from a bad relationship to the reason you were let go from your last job.
Being Too Generic
Yes, you probably have a standard cover letter that you can pull out whenever you need to send out a new resume. However, don't just cut and paste it to each company you're interested in. Instead, use it as a template. Write a fresh opening and conclusion to your cover letter each time, and make sure it's focusing on the right details for each specific job. The hiring manager reading your cover letter can tell if you're cutting and pasting.
While you're avoiding using an obvious template, make sure you also keep from using trite phrases that could make an experienced hiring manager roll her eyes. Instead of describing yourself as a "team player," take a sentence to describe a specific situation in which you worked well as a collaborator, or draw attention to your teamwork on your resume.
Sending a Message of Arrogance
You may be the perfect candidate for the job you're applying for. Even if you know that, though, you're not the one who gets to make that call. Be careful in your cover letter not to come across as arrogant or overconfident. Even worse, don't send a subtle message that you're too good for the job. Your hiring manager doesn't want to waste time on someone who is just going to antagonize all his new co-workers.
Writing a Letter That's Just Too Long
Let's face it, the purpose of your cover letter is to introduce the hiring manager to your resume. If you have a personal connection at the company, of course you want to mention her by name. Other than that, the shorter, the sweeter when it comes to your cover letter. Mention a few salient facts, point to your resume, provide all your contact information and offer your thanks. That's all you really need. If you bore the hiring manager, you're wasting her time.
A cover letter that reads professionally and has a clean look goes a long way to moving you up the interview list. Take the time to target your cover letters to each job you apply for, and always take a second look to make sure your letter is perfect before licking the envelope or hitting send.
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