Many recruiters and hiring managers will tell you that the cover letter is a dying breed, and in a lot of cases that may be true. With the automation of the applicant screening process and the sheer volume of resumes that companies see each week, the cover letter is no longer a required part of the application process.
However, in certain situations, a cover letter is a welcome complement to the resume and can go a long way to helping you secure an interview. And unfortunately, if you don’t have a sound strategy for the letter, it can also help ensure that you DON’T get called in for an interview.
Here are five major mistakes that job seekers make with their cover letter:
1) It’s boring. A cover letter is meant to be an attention grabber – something that entices the reader to want to read your resume and find out more about you. In contrast to the much more formal resume, a cover letter can be a bit lighter and showcase more of your personality. In addition to showing why you’re a good fit for the position, try to show that you’re interesting and would be fun to work with. Qualifications are only one part of the hiring equation. People want to work with people they like, and a boring cover letter doesn’t do anything to convince them that you have a shining personality that will be an asset to the company culture.
2) It’s vague. We often counsel our clients that a cover letter needs to be tailored for a specific role at a specific company. Hiring managers can sniff out a generic cover letter from a mile away, and it’s a major turn-off. Proven to them that you’ve done your homework on the company and understand their specific market, unique challenges they may have, and why your background would help them to solve their unique challenges.
3) It’s all about you. The reader doesn’t really care why getting hired at their company would be a great thing for you personally. They’re not hiring so that they can fill some void in your life or help you take the next step up the financial / professional ladder. They’re hiring because they need somebody to come into their organization and solve a problem, whether that would be establishing new business development channels, coming up with a new marketing strategy, managing large-scale IT projects…whatever. So don’t make the letter about you; make it about them. Tell them specifically what it is that you can do to help add value to their organization.
4) There are no accomplishments. Don’t save all of your accomplishments for the resume. Use the cover letter to list a few of the biggest contributions you’ve had in recent roles. You want the reader to be envisioning how you can be a valuable contributor for them, and there is no better way to do that than by showing, specifically, how you have done that for previous employers.
5) There’s no call to action. Any effective piece of marketing needs a strong call to action. Your cover letter needs one too. At then end of the cover letter, you should briefly summarize why your skills and experience would be a good fit for their company and ask for an interview. Make yourself available via email and phone and politely request that somebody reach out in order to discuss the position in more detail.
To see what we can do to help you put together a personalized letter that helps you win the all-important interview, check out our cover letter services.