3 things you can’t afford to get wrong in your cover letter

  • cover letters
  • February 15, 2017
Did you know that according to the New York Times and Microsoft, and thanks to the digital revolution, you now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish? It’s true. And in some ways it’s not surprising. We’re bombarded with information, more than we can possibly consume and it’s difficult to focus and virtually impossible to process everything.
 
So we scan, skim and skip information, making judgment calls (some better than others) on what is worthy of our time and attention — which is bad news for those of us sending cover letters and resumes.

Recruiters and hiring managers have a lot on their plates, just like the rest of us. So they rely on visual cues, search strategies and even personal biases to narrow the pool of qualified candidates. How can you be sure you make the cut?
 
Eliminate errors and oversights and increase your odds of clearing the first hurdle. There are plenty of references on how to put together a well-written cover letter, but we’re going to focus on the quick things you can’t afford to get wrong.
 

Typos and grammatical errors

We’ve seen too many resumes land in the slush pile on this one. Typos and grammatical errors send the wrong message about your communication skills and attention to detail.
 
Spell check isn’t enough. Give yourself time to edit and proof your cover letter or have someone you trust give it a second look. We even recommend letting it sit for an hour or two and coming back to it with fresh eyes.
 
Of special note: the hiring manager’s name, the company name and the job title. Get these right or you could cost yourself an interview.
 

Being too general

You’re applying for a specific position, so tell us why you’re the perfect fit for this job.
 
Start with a general cover letter or outline, sure, but tailor it for the company and the position. You’re not doing yourself any favors by sending something generic.  
 
Still, customize with care. Recruiters and hiring managers know most candidates are applying for multiple positions. But if in your haste to cut, paste and customize you forget to swap out the company name or replace the job title, it doesn’t reflect well on you and your preparation.
 

Making it too long

“I encourage people to stick to one page,” says Tina Nicolai, executive career coach and founder of Resume Writers’ Ink. “And because people have short attention spans today, and less time to read each cover letter in full, I suggest writing in bite-sized nuggets or bullet points.” 
 
Time is in short supply, so open strong and highlight how you bring value to the position. Challenge yourself to be brief, even if that means getting things down and then going back and being a bit ruthless with a red pen. Don’t leave it to chance someone will find what’s most important.
 
You’ve spent hours polishing your resume. Make sure to devote ample time to a cover letter that does justice to you and your experience. It could be the gateway to an introduction. Make it count.  

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