Cover letter mistakes you should avoid
Nix these things and make sure your first impression isn't the equivalent of a limp handshake.
Avoid these common mistakes when writing your cover letter.
Your cover letter is like a handshake—it’s how you introduce yourself to employers when you apply for a job. Like a good handshake, you want your cover letter to be strong, succinct, and make a great first impression.
This isn’t a part of the job application process you want to skimp on, either. A cover letter allows you to go into more detail than your resume allows, explain gaps in your employment history or your need for a career change, and make a case as to why you would be a great fit for the position. And a great cover letter can open the door to scoring an interview and, ultimately, landing a job.
Make sure your first impression is a good and lasting one by avoiding these common mistakes below when writing your cover letter.
1. Overusing “I”
Your cover letter is not your autobiography. The focus should be on how you meet an employer's needs, not on your life story. Avoid the perception of being self-centered by minimizing your use of the word "I," especially at the beginning of your sentences.
2. Using a weak opening
When writing a cover letter, job seekers frequently struggle with the cover letter's opening. This difficulty often results in a feeble introduction lacking punch and failing to grab the reader's interest. Consider this example:
- Weak: Please consider me for your sales representative opening.
- Better: Your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match to my three-year history as a top-ranked, multimillion-dollar producer.
3. Omitting your top selling points
A cover letter is a sales letter that sells you as a candidate. Just like your resume, it should be compelling and give the main reasons you should be called for an interview. Winning cover letter tips include emphasizing your top accomplishments or creating subheadings culled from the job posting. For example:
- Your ad specifies: Communication skills
I offer: Five years of public speaking experience and an extensive background in executive-level report.
- Your ad specifies: The need for a strong computer background
I offer: Proficiency in all MS Office applications with additional expertise in website development and design.
4. Making it too long
If your cover letter exceeds one page, you may be putting readers to sleep. A great cover letter is concise but compelling, and respects the reader's time.
5. Repeating your resume word for word
Your cover letter shouldn't regurgitate what's on your resume. Reword your cover letter statements to avoid dulling your resume's impact. Consider using the letter to tell a brief story, such as "my toughest sale" or "my biggest technical challenge."
6. Being vague
If you're replying to an advertised opening—as opposed to writing a cold cover letter—reference the specific job title in your cover letter. The person reading your letter may be reviewing hundreds of letters for dozens of different jobs. Make sure all of the content in your letter supports how you will meet the employer's specific needs.
7. Forgetting to customize
If you're applying to a number of similar positions, chances are you're tweaking one letter and using it for multiple openings. That's fine, as long as you customize each letter. Don't forget to update the company, job and contact information—if Mr. Jones is addressed as Ms. Smith, he won't be impressed.
8. Ending on a passive note
When possible, put your future in your own hands with a promise to follow up. Instead of asking readers to call you, try a statement like this: I will follow up with you in a few days to answer any preliminary questions you may have. In the meantime, you may reach me at (555) 555-5555.
9. Being rude
Your cover letter should thank the reader for his or her time and consideration.
10. Forgetting to sign the letter
It is proper business etiquette (and shows attention to detail) to sign your letter. Err on the side of formality, and if you need any help figuring out how to close your cover letter, consider these possible sign-offs.
However, if you are sending an email cover letter and resume, a signature isn't necessary.
If you need additional writing tips, join Monster today, so the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service can help you impress employers with a high-impact resume and cover letter.
We discussed the importance of creating an email cover letter in our previous post, Five Steps to a Standout Resume Email, and thought would be helpful to our job-seeking readers to provide some examples to use as a starting point for your next email cover letter.
The examples below come from real-life job seeker emails, although we’ve altered the details and contact information. Whether you prefer a “salesy” approach or you’re more of a “direct and to the point” kind of person, choose the template that suits your style. Just be sure to include these key elements in your email cover letter.
- Mention the title of the position you’re applying for in the subject line and body of your email.
- Explain where you found the job posting or how you heard about the position.
- Conclude with a subtle call to action to remind the hiring manager of the action you’d like them to take, such as, “I look forward to hearing from you.”
- List your full name and contact information in your email signature block (not just on your resume attachment).
- If applicable, quickly explain any questions that your resume may raise. For example, if you’re from out of town but planning to move close to the job location, or you’ve been at your current position for only a short time.
Email Cover Letter Examples for Legal Professionals
Example #1: If you prefer to keep it brief.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am interested in the Litigation Associate position advertised on LinkedIn. I have attached my resume and cover letter for your review.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.
Example #2: If you’re relocating to the city where the job opportunity is located.
Dear Hiring Manager,
I’m writing to express my interest in the Litigation Secretary position listed on Monster.com. My resume is attached for your review and consideration.
I am a fast learner, very dependable, organized, and computer savvy. I have extensive experience assisting firm attorneys and multiple paralegals, as well as supervising and managing an office. While I currently reside in Los Angeles, I will be moving to San Francisco at the end of the month.
I look forward to the opportunity to meet with you to learn more about your firm, its plans and goals, and how I might contribute to its continued success. I can be your ideal candidate if given this opportunity. Thank you.
Example #3: If a colleague referred you.
I was referred to you by a mutual acquaintance, John Smith, who said you have an opening for a litigation secretary. I have many years of experience as a litigation secretary, most of them working with managing partners. I am a professional looking for a career, not just a job. I am organized, reliable and self-motivated. I like being part of a team, but can also work independently.
Included with this e-mail is a copy of my resume for your review and consideration. Once you have had an opportunity to review my resume, please contact me if you have any questions or to arrange an interview. I look forward to speaking with you in the near future.
Thank you for your time,
Example # 4: If you’ve been at your current position for less than one year.
Please allow this introduction. My name is Jane Smith, and I have 12 years of legal secretarial experience working with managing partners of small, mid- and large-sized law firms. My current typing speed is 105 wpm from written form and 120 wpm from live dictation with the utmost accuracy. I am interested in the Litigation Secretary position advertised on your firm’s website.
I am currently working for a small civil litigation firm. However, after only 11 months in this position, the financial stability of the firm has significantly changed. Therefore I am seeking long-term tenure with a stable civil litigation firm.
Attached please find my resume and list of references. If you are interested in the professional skills and positive attributes I can contribute to your firm, please contact me at [phone number] at your convenience to schedule an interview.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Example #5: If you want to be dazzle the hiring manager with your qualifications.
Dear Recruiting Administrator:
Do you need a hardworking, creative and conscientious paralegal to meet your firm’s needs? If so, I can help you. The following is a summary of my qualifications:
- More than ten years of progressively responsible legal experience;
- Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in Business Administration;
- Exceptional verbal, written and analytical skills;
- Advanced computer skills;
- Outgoing personality and “can-do” attitude.
I would like to meet with you to discuss how I might assist your firm in fulfilling its present needs. My resume is enclosed for your review. If you need someone who is highly motivated, eager to learn, and willing to work hard to succeed, please contact me at [phone] or via e-mail: [email].
Thank you for your time and consideration,
These examples are meant to be a starting point only – add your own voice, style and experience to make your own standout (or at least solid) email cover letter.
Categories: Career Advancement
September 18, 2013
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