Cover Letters: 1 Get Started Tip and 4 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Cover Letter TipsIs it hard for you to write a cover letter?

For some job seekers, crafting this 1-page tell-all is so difficult it can bring the job search to a halt. Yes, you can hire someone to write a resume cover letter for you – but it’s also possible for you to pen it yourself, and get the results you need.

Before you write your next letter, consider this 1 get started tip…and avoid these 4 mistakes.

1 Get Started Tip

Simplify your hire-me message:

Why do I want this job? Let me count the ways…

If you are a seasoned pro, there are likely dozens of reasons why you’re a good fit. But you can’t include all of them in a 1-page letter. Instead, organize your thoughts with my 3-2-1 Rule.

First, study the job description and your resume; consider all the reasons why you are a top candidate for the job.

Next, answer this question:

Give me 3 reasons why I should hire you.

Now, give me 2 reasons.

Finally, state 1 reason why you should land this job.

As you work your way through 3-2-1, you’ll quickly distill the dozens of reasons into a short list – perfect for organizing your 1-page cover letter.

Now that you have simplified your hire-me message, you’re ready to begin writing.

4 Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. You have a bland opening line.

If there are dozens of people applying for the same job, what can you do to make your cover letter stand out?

I’m applying for a job I saw posted on Monster.com, and I want to tell you why you should interview me, doesn’t work like it used to.

If you’ve done the 3-2-1 exercise, then you already have the Number 1 reason why you should be interviewed. Start the letter with that fact, and you will avoid a bland opening line.

It looks like this: My best memory of working with seniors was when I started a socialization program for the residents of a psychiatric hospital in Wilsonville.

2. You didn’t introduce yourself.

People forget to introduce themselves in the letter, and it’s so important. A cover letter is a letter of introduction. Most job seekers simply start with I am applying for the job I saw on Craigslist, and of course the reader doesn’t know who “I” is.

“I” statements are also unpopular because it makes the letter sound like it’s all about you. When you say, “My name is,” you shift the letter away from those annoying “I” statements and begin the process of defining how you benefit a company.

For example: My name is Joe Williams and I thrive on transforming concepts into award-winning customer and market solutions.

3. You write as if it’s all about you.

If you have too many “I” statements, you’re in danger of falling into this trap. Keep in mind: The cover letter is not about you, it’s about how you help solve a company’s problems in a way that no one else can.

This is a subtle mind shift. You have to think of yourself as a tool to solve a problem, an asset. The only reason there’s a job is because there’s a problem the company needs to have solved. No problem means no job.

Think of it this way: We don’t buy a hammer, we buy the dollhouse the hammer will build. So a hiring manager does not hire a CPA, she hires someone to make sure the company stays out of trouble with the IRS.

4. You didn’t deliver a “talk to me NOW” hook.

Your resume cover letter is a sales letter. Instead of the buy this, get that pitch that comes in the mail, your cover letter should emphasize: hire me, solve this problem.

Most people re-state their resume in the cover letter. That’s a mistake, because you’re not telling the reader anything new. Your resume is a listing of your job facts, the cover letter is the story of your career. Use the letter to share winning anecdotes or explain the statistics that prove your skills. The idea is to show, not tell, how you help a company solve a problem.

What you don’t want to say: I am a CPA with a keen eye for details.

What’s better: In my last job I conducted an internal audit that saved the company $2 million dollars.

Crafting your own resume cover letter can be a challenging and thought-provoking process, but so is the job search! Writing becomes easier when you organize your thoughts, pick a key message, and then deliver a compelling reason why you should be interviewed. Plus, you’ll be proving that you have strong writing skills – a must in today’s workplace.


Guest Expert:

Susan Rich writes and edits, then writes some more. She has a journalism degree and 20+ years experience in print, PR, and marketing. She has published more than 2,000 articles, that’s about 1 million words in print. An author and public speaker, Susan recently published her second book: Write it Rich! How to write a kick-butt resume cover letter. As the owner of RichWriting, she is the invisible voice behind website copy, ghost blogs, media scripts, and sales letters.

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