Sometimes, fixing the little things can offer the most benefit. Anyone writing a cover letter to a hiring rep should follow some golden rules before hitting start on the fax machine, licking that envelope shut, or hitting “Send” on that e-mail.
Treat your cover letter like any piece of business correspondence. It should have a professional appearance, a professional tone, and possess accurate grammar and punctuation.
Remember, you’re out to impress, not turn a job away. Your correspondence should command attention, and if it doesn’t, you’re virtually sabotaging the opportunities that took so long to uncover.
Before sending, be sure to review your cover letter thoroughly. You’re looking for amateur mistakes; the kinds your competitors are making. Below is a list of errors to avoid:
1. Avoid sloppy copy
Visually, your letter should appear consistent and the content should be “tight.” The first impression given to any hiring agent is based upon overall appearance of the letter. The cover letter is the first item seen before proceeding onto the resume. Should a letter arrive on a hiring manager’s desk without consistent margins, font, pica and without effective writing, your candidacy just may be “dead in the water.”
2. Avoid listing unrelated skills and qualifications
Weigh every sentence contained in your letter, and ask yourself two key questions. Does each sentence add to my candidacy? Am I fully relaying my quality and value without that particular sentence? If so, you probably don’t need that sentence in question. Mention only significant skills or achievements that pertain to your current position — or in accordance with the scope of the target position. Including irrelevant information can leave a negative impression, so be selective on what you list.
3. Avoid forgetting to input contact name
By failing to list the basics, like a contact name, you’re showing a lack of attention to detail; and possibly worse, allowing the document to float around the company rather than sitting on the right person’s desk — or in a general e-mail account currently neglected by an overworked secretary.
Yes, there are instances where a company doesn’t list a contact name within job postings. To ensure your resume and cover letter make it into the right hands, consider placing a call to the company or contacting your area Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to find a proper name to place in your correspondence. Take care to include the proper spelling for the recipient’s name, and to include the correct position title.
4. Avoid forgetting to verify the company’s address
While scouring the Internet or reading your area’s newspaper, how many typos do you uncover? Never assume what’s listed is 100% accurate. In fact, assume the address is incorrect until you verify otherwise. Visit the company’s website or scan the yellow pages to ensure the address you list is perfect.
5. Avoid using an unprofessional layout; use an appropriate business format only
Business formatting has always meant your letter contains certain elements… examples are: current date, contact name, company address, regarding line (RE:), salutation, and signature line. You only need to review two or three letters from your own mailbox to identify common features contained within proper letter formats.
I'm an executive career coach, leadership development consultant. I'm interested all things at the intersection of leadership and communications. I blog about it here and at pure-jobs.com/blog. I work with CEOs, senior leaders and teams at companies ranging from small, private businesses to the Fortune 50. I enjoy hearing new ideas! Send any articles, tips or cool thoughts on leadership my way.
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