Monday, July 12, 2010

Common Cover Letter Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

How many times have you replied to a job ad via e-mail by shooting them a copy of your resume and cover letter? If you have been job searching for any significant length of time and not getting the number of responses you desire, the chances that you are guilty of one or more of the following faux pas are high. Here are some of the most notorious mistakes people make and what can be done to improve the likelihood that your cover letter and résumé will get noticed:

Not bothering to find out to whom your cover letter should be addressed. Your cover letter should be addressed to the person in charge of the hiring process. If you do not know the name, call the company directly and ask. While you are on the phone, also ask for the correct spelling of the person’s name.

Not using the full name of the hiring manager. Given that we live in a multicultural society, it is always best to use the full name of the hiring manager. This technique will also help you avoid embarrassing blunders when addressing those with names that are not gender specific.

Not referencing your desired position. Many large companies will have more than one position they are trying to fill. Therefore, it is important to let the hiring manager know for which position you are applying.
Attaching your cover letter to the e-mail. If you copy and paste your cover letter into the body of the e-mail, the recipient of the e-mail will be much more likely to read it, or however much of it shows up in the preview screen, since it is already right there in front of their face.

Using a font that is too small or too fancy. Both your cover letter and your résumé should use a font size between 11 and 12. It is also best to steer away from non-standard fonts because not all word processing programs will translate the font correctly. Some hiring managers will be distracted by the weird little symbols that appear on the page where, for instance, bullets should be.

Writing your whole life story in the body of the e-mail.
Hiring manager do not have the time to invest in reading any material that is unrelated to the many ways that you can solve a problem for them. Keep your cover letters short and to the point.

Excluding information that those who posted the advertisement specifically asked you to include. Some employers may ask you to submit a sample of your work, portfolio, hours of availability and even salary requirements. Whatever it is that they have asked you to include, make sure you include it in your cover letter. There is a lot of qualified talent out there, so you need to keep your application in the “Worth Considering” pile rather than the “Circular File” and the easiest way to do that is to follow instructions.

Not using a cover letter at all. While in some cases, you are selling yourself short by not including at least a brief introduction, there is some merit in demonstrating that you have the ability to communicate clearly and effectively in a grammatically correct fashion. Unlike your résumé, which will be kept on file in the database of most recruiters, your cover letter will likely be deleted after it is read. If you do not send a cover letter at all, it is likely that recruiters will not even bother storing your résumé. Private companies, on the other hand, like to keep everything you send them.

Forgetting to tell the hiring manager why you are the best fit. The most effective cover letters are those that take the time to address, in detail, all of the job requirements in the original advertisement and how you, as the candidate, have direct experience in meeting those needs.

Forgetting a “Call to Action”. Your concluding paragraph should thank them for their time and consideration and state that you will be calling them within a specific time, usually a week, to arrange an interview. E.g., “As I would appreciate an interview to allow me to personally present my qualifications for this position, I will be calling you within the week to arrange a time that is convenient.”