Cover Letters: Critical Mistakes To Avoid

Posted on: June 26th, 2012 by
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Is your cover letter an asset or a liability? It’s a liability if it diminishes your candidacy by an ineffective presentation. It’s an asset if the reader is intrigued and can’t wait to see the resume. Your goal is an irresistible introduction.  Here are some critical errors:

  1. You don’t understand what they’re looking for in a candidate: If you don’t know the key issues or required skills, you can’t successfully present yourself as a serious candidate.  Understand what is driving the search:  Strategic issues?  Tactical problems?  Competitive demands?  Supervisory or staff crisis?  Low performance?
  2. The cover letter doesn’t compel the reader to move on to the resume: A dull and pedestrian cover letter prepares the reader for a dull resume.  Don’t make the cover letter a cut-and-paste of the resume. It’s a “marketing” vehicle for what’s to come.
  3. Overexposure to the word “I”: Be careful how you introduce yourself.  Rather than focusing on “I, me or my” needs, focus on what the hiring organization is looking for by using “you or your” criteria for success.  Done the right way, the hiring manager will see you as an inclusive “team” player.
  4. You list irrelevant experiences or criticize others: Stay focused and don’t wander into side discussions.  Irrelevant material will draw the reader away from your objective.  Criticism of your present company is a strong negative. The cover letter should make a positive impression.
  5. You use humor, inflated words or arrogance that turn off the reader: Humor can work against you.  Inflated words about how great you are can be even worse.  The worst of all is arrogance.  Be careful of superlatives as it detracts from your achievements.  When hyped-up words are used your veracity is questioned, “How could all those accomplishments be achieved by only one person?”

As the saying goes:  You’ll never get a second chance to make a good first impression. It’s your opportunity to impress or disappoint the hiring organization.  If not done right it’s the last time you’ll hear from them.

Some key suggestions?

  • Keep your cover letter simple, direct, short and powerful
  • Target the issues and needs of the hiring organization (through research)
  • Highlight two or three result areas that directly parallel the open position
  • Define key results that you can transfer to the success of the open position

 

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