Your cover letter is often the first impression you’ll make upon a hiring manager. Although many people believe cover letters are a waste of time, I always read a candidate’s letter first thing.
To ensure you spark the hiring manager’s interest so they move on to your resume, avoid making the following mistakes:
Mistake #1: Failing to Tell Your Story
Your cover letter is your chance to convey your passion and interest in the position and organization. Although your resume will show your qualifications, your cover letter should explain why you are the best fit for the position. Tell a compelling story about your past accomplishments in more detail than your resume will. Make the hiring manager want to move on to your next document.
Mistake #2: Using “To Whom It May Concern”
Whenever possible, you should address your cover letter to an actual person at the organization. If the job description doesn’t supply it, search the organization’s website, LinkedIn, or do a Google search. When those don’t work, call the receptionist to simply ask to whom to address your letter. (If the job description specifically states “no phone calls,” that means the hiring manager doesn’t want to receive calls. It’s fine to ask the receptionist.)
Mistake #3: Inconsistency Between Your Resume & Cover Letter
Your job search documents should look like they go together! You should use the same letterhead, fonts, styles, etc. for each document. Try to use a san-serif font, such as Arial, to make your letter easy to read.
Mistake #4: Not Addressing Known Concerns
If you’re applying for a job not close to your permanent or local addresses, be sure to indicate that, while you reside in another area currently, you are interested in relocating and will do so at your own expense. The same goes for applying to a field outside of your formal education or experience—explain why you are a good match for the opening.
Mistake #5: Leaving Off a “Call to Action”
At the end of your letter, thank the reader for his or her time. Then, state that if you don’t hear from the person beforehand, you will follow up within one week. And stick to it!
What’s your best cover letter advice?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. She is also the author of #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), national entry-level careers columnist for Examiner.com and blogs about career advice at HeatherHuhman.com. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherhuhman.
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