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Five things your cover letter shouldn’t say

The purpose of a cover letter is to convince the recruiter of why you are the best person for the job and to get them interested enough to look further to your resume. As simple as that may seem, many people get it wrong and write cover letters that do not fulfil that purpose. Here are some common mistakes that people make and why you should avoid them if you want your cover letter to make the ‘yes’ pile.

  1. The cover letter isn’t about you

While it may seem like a cover letter should be all about you, it should really be all about the company you are applying for. Of course it is necessary to mention your skills and strengths, but only if they directly relate to the position. Mentioning irrelevant skills and bragging about yourself isn’t going to help your cause. You need to explain what you can do for the company based on your experience and how the company will benefit from hiring you. This involves thorough research of the company, finding out what they’re about and relating that directly to what you have to offer. You can’t just say you’re a good employee; you need to say why you’re the right fit for this particular job.

  1. Avoid generic cover letters

A number one error to make is copying and pasting the same cover letter to different employers – it’s very obvious to the people reading it. Also if you’re telling the employer that you just want a job in x industry it doesn’t show your passion for that particular company. Read carefully through the job description and make sure you are answering the questions that are asked either explicitly or implicitly within. Look out for key words in the job advertisement and incorporate these into your cover letter. It is also essential to address an actual individual instead of ‘to whom it may be concerned’. If you take the time to research and find out the name of the person who will be hiring you, such as someone within the HR team, this demonstrates much greater initiative and shows that you care enough about the position to go a little further.

  1. Don’t submit without proofreading

If one of your skills listed in your resume is ‘attention to detail’, you better make sure you proofread your cover letter at least a few times! Misspelling of the company name or any words in general can make your cover letter look unprofessional and will give the impression that it was a quick job that didn’t involve a lot of effort on your behalf. After you’ve finished the first edit, step away and come back later with a fresh mind, as you may be able to spot mistakes that you previously didn’t notice. Having someone else read over it may also be helpful to ensure it’s perfect before you send it off.

  1. Don’t be vague about your skills

If you want your cover letter to stand out from other applicants, you may want to avoid phrases like ‘team player’ that are generic and overused.  Don’t borrow skills from online templates – stand out by choosing your own unique expressions according to what you have to offer. Don’t just list skills without anything to back it up either – make sure you have concrete examples to say how you’ve exhibited that skill in previous employment. This could be an award you’ve won for innovation or how being promoted to manager demonstrated your leadership skills. Again, make sure the examples you are giving are useful for the job hirer to know when considering you for this position.

  1. Keep it concise

The best cover letters will stay within an A4 page and have short paragraphs that get to the point straight away. If you ramble on, you’re more likely to make mistakes or bore the person reading. In line with keeping it simple, make sure the language is also clear and concise by avoiding big words not used in everyday English. Again, the chance that you will make a mistake will increase if you use a complicated word in the wrong context. If you have lots of breaks between paragraphs and use the same font consistently throughout your cover letter and resume, this will generally make your cover letter look more professional and accessible. Try not to repeat yourself and end with a brief statement that expresses your interest in the position and let’s the employer know your availability for further contact.

WORDS BY LAUREN PIGGOTT. If you need personalised advice for job applications and the interview process within your industry, why not sign up to the PropellHer mentoring program? Arrange online meetings with your Mentor to work through the process of job applications.


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