How to Avoid Common Cover Letter Errors

          While including a cover letter with a resume is slowly becoming a thing of the past, its usefulness is never diminished.  In today’s competitive job market, anything that can help your application stand out is more than welcome.  In an age where job seekers are slowly turning their backs on the traditional job search process and abandoning the need to include a carefully written cover letter, you should seriously consider writing one on your next job application.

          A cover letter provides you with the opportunity to market yourself to any potential employer. It’s an invitation for them to take a closer look at your skills, experience and just about everything that you’re bringing with you to the table.  Writing a thorough and error-free cover letter works splendidly with an amazing resume. As such, a sloppy cover letter will definitely bring more harm than good to your job application.

          The first step to writing an impressive cover letter is recognizing some of the most common errors and preventing them from ever making a surprise appearance.  Here are some mistakes you should look out for so you don’t jeopardize your chances of catching your dream career.

Proofread Typos, Spelling or Grammar

          Even the littlest error can be a huge turn off to HR recruiters and employers reading your letter. Typos, spelling and grammar errors can ruin a potentially amazing cover letter so it’s best to proofread carefully before printing it out.  It is good practice to write a draft copy of the letter first so you can review what you’ve written.  As an added measure, ask someone to proofread the letter further as an additional pair of eyes can help catch mistakes you may have missed the first time.  

          Typos normally occur when adding the employer’s name and address so use the internet to double-check the accuracy of the information.  If you’re sending an application out to several employers, make sure to update the information with the corresponding name, job title and company address.  You can download free spell checker software from the internet or use MS Word’s built-in spelling and grammar program to help minimize typos but you’d have to manually look out for common words that sound the same but are different in meaning (there/their, to/two/too).

Not Too Long or Too Short

          A cover letter should neither be too long or too short.  A good figure to aim for when writing one is around 250 words of four to five paragraphs.  Here’s a breakdown of how the letter should look:

          First Paragraph: This is where you tell the reader about how you learned about the job posting and why you’re interested in the job.

          Second – Third Paragraph: This should include information that highlights your related work experience, your skills & achievements and personal traits that makes you the perfect person for the position.

          Last Paragraph: This is where you close the letter with a request for an interview.  Include important contact details that the recruiter or the employer can use to get in touch with you.  Wrap the letter with a sentence or two thanking them for their time and for considering your application.

Not Bragging or Begging

          Nothing turns off recruiters and potential employers more than a cover letter that borders on bragging or begging. Whilst it is okay to be confident about your skills, it’s best to keep your pride in check.  Let the reader pick up on your competence through your cover letter’s content.  Sell your skills without going overboard.  Highlight what you can bring to the table and focus on things that make you stand out from the rest of the applicants applying for the same position.

          Don’t add statements that recruiters and employers may find desperate however grim your job prospects are.  Don’t lower your success rate by sounding like you are begging for the job.  Add value to your cover letter by highlighting your sincere desire to be part of the company.

Cover Letter Example

          A cover letter becomes more effective:

  1. When you know the name of the HR recruiter, the Hiring Personnel, or the Employer
  2. When you have clear information about the job requirements
  3. When you have been personally referred or invited to apply for the job posting

          Here’s a good example:

Tom Smith

Project Manager

ABC Company

Dear Tom,

I am writing in response to the opening for Project Assistant, a role that I believe directly reports to you. <shows research skills>

I can offer you seven years of experience managing communications for CDE INC, a top-tier consulting firm.  My stay with them has allowed me to develop excellent project-management skills and a keen eye for detail. These skills coupled with my experience working in an industry similar to  yours makes me an ideal candidate for this job opening. <Highlights important skills and work experience relevant to the job posting>

I have attached my résumé for your review and would welcome the chance to speak with you to discuss my qualifications.  I can be reached through my mobile number: 915-1234567 or my home phone: 655-5865.  <includes complete contact details>

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

Samantha Lee

Here’s another example of an interesting yet powerful cover letter.

          Understanding what a cover letter is and keeping an eye out for common mistakes and errors when writing one will greatly improve your chances of getting your job application noticed.  It may take a while to write the perfect cover letter but with practice you should be able to master it in no time.  Good luck on your application.