Be honest- do you get discouraged when a job posting asks for a cover letter? Especially when you’ve already submitted a resume, references, or filled out a form, the prompt for a cover letter can be frustrating. With all the other information you already supplied, do you really need a cover letter? Some postings don’t fully require a cover letter, making it unclear whether you should put the optional extra effort in.
But that extra effort can make a big difference. 53 percent of employers admit they prefer candidates to send a cover letter when applying for a job. Cover letters can also make you stand out from the crowd. You can use a cover letter to expand on your credentials and experience. Just submitting a cover letter separates you from other applicants who didn’t make the same effort.
Jason Fried, the co-founder of 37 Signals, said that “We ignore résumés…What we do look at are cover letters. Cover letters say it all. They immediately tell you if someone wants this job or just any job.”
So if you want to increase your chances of being considered for a position, a cover letter can push you over the edge. To further impress a recruiter or hiring manager, you can follow our guide to a perfect cover letter and avoid these common mistakes.
Proper spelling and grammar are perhaps the most important part of a cover letter. Recruiters and hiring managers pay special attention to catch any typos in cover letters. One-fifth of recruiters surveyed said they throw resumes away after spotting a single mistake. Another 28% said two typos would cost applicants an interview.
Those errors show a lack of attention and detail, which are big red flags for employers. An employee who doesn’t check their work could create large problems for the company.
Luckily, there are many ways to review your work. Grammarly, a free browser extension, will check for spelling, grammar, and even wording errors. If you prefer to keep it old school, have a friend review your cover letter. You can also read your cover letter out loud to yourself. Reading out loud makes your brain pay more attention, and allows you to catch more errors.
It can be tempting to fill your cover letter with text. Some even resort to a multi-page approach. While you want to include important information about your skills, experience, and education, hiring managers strongly discourage the verbose approach. A Saddleback College survey found that “70% of employers wanted a cover letter of less than a full-page and about 25% said the shorter the better.”
With a 12 ppt font, a full page will be around 250-400 words. This range will allow for plenty of white space, which is key to an easy-to-read design.
Not Including Keywords
Many major companies have added an ATS to their hiring process. Over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS of some kind, according to research conducted by Jobscan.
ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System and is used to identify key candidates. This sorting is done by identifying “keywords” that employers are looking for. Skills, qualifications, and experience are typically what the ATS looks for.
Hard skills in particular are likely to be included. Hard skills include types of software, methodologies, spoken languages, and other abilities that are easier to quantify. If licenses or certifications are included in the job description (especially positions that require a license, such as medical or legal positions).
Even if a company doesn’t use an ATS system, including keywords is beneficial. IT shows that you read the job description carefully and that you have the appropriate skills for the position.
Generic Cover Letter
If you don’t know where to start with a cover letter, templates can be a great resource. Following a structure can make it easier to collect your thoughts and successfully present yourself. But adhering to a strict template can lead to cliched cover letters. A generic cover letter defeats the purpose of using a cover letter to stand out. The best way to make your cover letter unique is to include specific information about your skills and experience- after all, no one has the exact same path as you! You should also pay attention to avoid certain cliched sentences.
- I think outside the box.
- References available upon request
- I am applying for the position
- My name is
- I’m the best candidate for this position
Repeating Your Resume
A common mistake many people make is including identical information in both their resume and cover letter. After all, your best should be highlighted in both documents, right? But it’s important to remember that someone has to read both your cover letter and resume. The two pieces should support each other- not repeat each other.
Your resume is a brief overview of your work history and skills. The cover letter is your opportunity to expand upon and add to your resume. For example, you can use your cover letter to demonstrate the impact of your achievements mentioned in your cover letter. If you were recognized at work, talk about why, and how it benefited the company. Write about how your certifications helped you succeed and achieve company goals. This paints a fuller picture and showcases your positive business impact.