Whether to include a cover letter alongside your resume is arguably one of the greatest debates in the recruiting space. As I share in this article, there’s no single right answer when it comes to this age-old question. Yet if you do decide to submit a cover letter, there are several mistakes you want to avoid making.
4 Common Cover Letter Mistakes To Avoid
What follows are 4 mistakes to avoid the next time you submit a cover letter.
1. Rehashing your resume.
Hands down, one of the biggest cover letter mistakes I see job seekers make is simply repeating their resumes. While your intentions are well-meaning, rehashing your work history is not the most strategic way to use your cover letter and won’t help you stand out in the competitive labor market.
Instead, consider using your cover letter as the first opportunity to call attention to what sets you apart from other applicants. This will make it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to put you in the “heck yes” or “heck no” pile while reviewing applications.
2. Writing a lengthy cover letter.
Another common mistake job seekers make when developing their cover letters is the length. Unless applying to specific industries such as higher education, where cover letters often extend to multiple pages, you want to keep your cover letter as short as possible. Less really is more.
I encourage my coaching clients to aim for 200-300 words in length as a guidepost when developing their cover letters. Additionally, you can leverage bullet points, as well as bolded text, to quickly call the reader’s attention to your accomplishments and unique value proposition (AKA your fabulousness).
3. Failing to customize your cover letter.
While on the topic of cover letter content, you’ll want to customize it to each company. Yes, this takes a little effort, but it doesn’t have to take a ton of time or mental bandwidth. As a recovering perfectionist, I advise setting a timer for 10-20 minutes to circumvent the urge to write each cover letter from scratch.
Instead, you can create a master cover letter that you quickly tweak for each application. Briefly explain why you’re drawn to the specific company, then insert any relevant keywords (areas of expertise) from the job posting. If you have an ‘in’ at the company, be sure to mention that too.
4. Skipping the cover letter entirely.
Finally, while some companies are moving away from mandating cover letters, many still require them. Consequently, you don’t want to have your candidacy disregarded simply because you forgot to submit a cover letter when the job posting explicitly asked for one.
Although cover letters are only one aspect of the job search, they can help you stand out in today’s competitive job market, so long as you don’t make these common mistakes. You’ve got this!