Your Job Search Cover Letter--5 Mistakes You are Probably Making and 8 Tricks to Avoid Them

Your Job Search Cover Letter–5 Mistakes You are Probably Making and 8 Tricks to Avoid Them

Today’s lesson: Job search cover letters. For starters, everybody is doing a cover letter, right?

I hear too often that, “No hiring managers read cover letters.” or “My résumé says it all.” Really?  How do you know? What is the downside?

What if the hiring manager you’re applying to does value cover letters? And what if the other 249 candidates you’re up against do submit a cover letter? All you have is your résumé. And you think your résumé is that good? Think again! 

8 Tricks for Cover Letter Magic:

  1. If someone referred the position you’re applying for to you, put that in the first sentence of your cover letter. “Sally McCay at <company> referred this position to me because we worked together four years ago.”
  2. If you were not given the recipient’s name officially, then use the first sentence to explain how you found them. “I found you on LinkedIn and am hopeful that you can either assist me or direct this correspondence to the hiring manager.” If you don’t have a name, address it, “Dear Hiring Manager for Position XXXXXX” even if you know it’s going to Human Resources (HR).
  3. Keep the cover letter short and easy to read. Don’t make the reader scroll through a long email. Send it to yourself first and see if it shows on your PC screen as a single page.  
  4. Bullet points are great for the body of the cover letter.
  5. Use the same font as your résumé. You can even use the same header that you use in your résumé with your name and contact information. Be sure your contact information is complete, either in the header or your signature block.
  6. Feel free to consider one or two additional sentences that enhance your message. For example: “What you won’t see on my résumé is my passion for sales in addition to marketing. The two need to work hand in hand.” Or “My analytical skills and attention to detail will enable me to help solve your challenging problems and insure a high-quality output.
  7. Have a great subject head. And if you are soliciting a job that is not posted yet, use the subject line to state the type of role you are ideally seeking. “Sales Manager seeks Business Development position.”
  8. Use this “Cover Letter Checklist” on every cover letter before you press “send.”
  • The contact name and company name are correct.
  • The letter mentions the position you are applying for.
  • Your personal information (name, address, home phone, cellphone, email) is all included and correct.
  • If you have a contact at the company, you have mentioned him or her in the first sentence.
  • The font you have used is 10, 11, or 12 point, easy to read (Calibri or Arial, for example), and matches the font in your résumé.
  • There are no spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors. You have read it out loud to catch any errors.
  • You have kept a copy for your records.

5 Top Cover Letter Mistakes You Should Never Make

Mistake #1: Simply regurgitating your résumé. Nine out of 10 cover letters do this; it is uninspiring and adds zero value.

Mistake #2: Starting almost every sentence with “I.” It is a huge turn-off for the reader and unnecessary. Circle the number of times you use “I,” “me,” or “my” and edit the letter to cut the number in half. Try to replace them with sentences that use “you” or “your.”

Mistake #3: Using a generic cover letter. The recipient can tell immediately.

Mistake #4: Being too wordy and then using a tiny font so it will fit on one page.

Mistake #5: Forgetting the attachment. If you are sending a cover letter, you are obviously also sending a résumé or CV (CV is short for Curriculum Vitae, which is just another way of saying résumé) or an application form as an attachment. Many candidates forget the attachment and then have to send another email correcting this. We all make this error from time to time. Just try not to do it on the most important activity of your life… securing your next job.

There are many more tricks and tips available on my written blog as well as in my 100+ YouTube videos, all designed to help you rise to the top of the YES pile, get an interview, and win that job! What questions do you have about your job search? I want to hear them here!