Last week, we looked at what you should do to make your cover letter strong enough to attract the attention of those who will go through it. This week, we are going to look at some of the Don’ts of a cover letter. These are things you should avoid when you are preparing or writing a cover letter. Including them in your cover letter will reduce the chances of being called for an interview.
1. One cover letter for every position
There is a very common practice of sending out the same cover letter for similar positions. Don’t do this. A generic cover letter will read like something that fits everywhere but doesn’t perfectly fit the position you are applying for. A generic cover letter is boring and it will not attract the interest of the reader. Remember, your cover letter should address the job requirements. Take the time to craft each of your cover letter. Even if you would like to use an old cover letter, update it accordingly with the requirements of the position you are applying for.
2. Making your cover letter way too long
As per conventions, a good cover letter shouldn’t be more than one A4 page. It should be short and concise. You might get away with a cover letter that is one and a half page. But remember, your cover letter needs to be short. This is because no one has time to read pages and pages of what you have written. Recruiters and hiring managers need to go through many applications. Long cover letters are not something they are keen on reading. How to achieve a short cover letter? Well, write the initial draft and trim it down until you have a short and clear cover letter. Those long sentences are something you should look at because they might confuse someone reading them. Communicate your strengths with short sentences.
It goes without saying that your cover letter just like your CV needs to be free of any grammatical mistakes. No one likes calling a candidate with typos and spelling mistakes to an interview. Use different online platforms that can check the grammar for you. It is not a bad idea to let your cover letter sleep for a few days before checking it again. You will be surprised at how many mistakes your sharp eyes can pick. Before sending your applications, have someone check it for you to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
4. Writing a cover letter five minutes
How long does it take you to write an impeccable cover letter? If it is five minutes then you need to read this. There is no serious cover letter that you can write in the shortest time, send it and expect a positive result. You need to spend time crafting it, writing those sentences, deleting them, writing them again until the whole thing looks professional enough. And here you haven’t even factored in the time to edit and proofread. When you are trying to impress someone, you take time to prepare yourself. Do the same for your cover letter. In fact, you need to be very cognizant with many factors like your mood when writing it, the level of noise, and the environment. All these can affect how well you can produce an attractive letter. Your cover letter needs all the right elements to be perfect.
5. Not answering the Job Advert
The cover letter is a response to the job advert. Look at your cover letter and ask yourself if it answers the job advert. If it doesn’t, write one that does. At BrighterMonday, we see a lot of applicants writing generic cover letters that say they have teamwork skills, creativity, going the extra mile, etc., even when those things are not asked in the job advert. Even though they are good skills to have, you shouldn’t just add them because you feel like adding them. Look at the skills that the employer is looking for and answer those. It might not be teamwork but analytical skills. Instead of wasting the space talking about the former you can expound the latter.
There are times when you might apply for a position that you like but you don’t have the education to back it up. For example, you have finished college with a degree in finance. You like writing and you have seen an internship advert looking for writers. Instead of talking about accounting, talk about that time you edited the school paper, or that collection of poems you have, or that blog that you are managing. Jump right in and talk about your writing passion instead of spending time elaborating your finance skills.
6. Lack of evidence in your achievements
Imagine a job asking for someone with writing experience and you write something like, “I believe this is a good position for me because I like writing,” or when a position needs someone with analytical skills and you say, “I have analytical skills.”
No one is going to take your application seriously because you are just regurgitating the job advert without substantiating your claims. It is easy to say you have analytical skills but it is hard to back it up. So, instead of just ending there, find examples that can vouch for what you are saying. For example, “I believe this is a good position for me because I have writing experience from producing content for a blog,” or “I have analytical skills from reading the Google Analytics performance reports and presenting solutions on how to improve poor performing metrics.”
Many people struggle to come up with achievements because they don’t remember them. They have been working for 4 years and when it comes the time to apply for a new job they don’t remember what they did well. So, cultivate a habit of documenting your achievements at work for future purposes.