Don't start off your job search with one (or more) strikes against you by committing any of these common cover letter blunders. Each is easy to avoid, but they can sink your chances of an interview if you include them in your letter.
1. Sending your letter to the wrong person, location, or department.
Do you really want your letter to land you a job at the company you're sending it to? Then take the time to verify that you have the proper name, title and address for the hiring manager or other decision maker who should receive it.
Unless you're absolutely sure you already have the most up- to-date contact information, take a few minutes to call and ask. Otherwise you may as well not bother sending your letter - it most likely won't reach the intended recipient. And if it does, he or she won't be impressed that you didn't bother to take this simple step.
2. Irritating your potential employer with a pushy, arrogant or conceited tone to your letter.
Are you truly God's gift to humanity? If not, chances are you ought to come across with a bit of humility, not braggadocio. Save the "I am too good for you not to hire me" stuff for when you're bragging to your friends about the great job you just landed. (Even they probably won't be impressed - and they already like you!) Instead, let your accomplishments and skills speak for themselves.
3. Typos, misspellings, punctuation or grammatical errors.
There's no excuse for leaving any of these mistakes in a cover letter (or a resume for that matter). If such matters truly aren't your strong suite, ask a friend to look your letter over for you. Blatant errors like these are just one more reason for a hiring manager to shunt your resume and cover letter aside, never to be seen again. Why? Because they'll think you are too lazy, too uncaring or too unskilled to be a good fit at their company.
4. Writing rambling, unfocused sentences and paragraphs.
Few hiring managers want to think they're reading a newly discovered missing page from James Joyce's Ulysses. Especially when all they really want to understand is why they should read the enclosed resume. Tightly written sentences and three or four short paragraphs that communicate the answer to that question will help ensure your resume gets read, not tossed.
5. Writing long letters, even if well focused and well written.
Here's a good rule to live by: Don't go over one page. It's a cover letter, not your autobiography. Capture your reader's attention quickly and impress him or her with your well written main points. Then let your resume do the rest of the talking. Until the interview of course.
6. Writing a letter that is all about you, and not about what you can do for your prospective employer.
Do you listen to WIFM? Sure you do. That's What's In it For Me, the little radio station in our heads that everyone listens to, including the person who receives your letter. Your potential employer wants to know what you can do for him or her, not the other way around. Make sure your letter highlights why you will be able to help their company sell more widgets, design better satellites or otherwise make its future brighter.
7. Using odd layouts, too many fonts, colors and other attention getting devices.
With rare exception, attention getters like overly busy layouts, exotic multi-color designs and odd sized paper have no place in a cover letter or resume. Save it for the decorations at the next office party.
Follow these common sense suggestions and you'll write a cover letter that is bound to make you stand out-and land you an interview.
Copywriter and consultant Vincent Czaplyski is founder of www.impressive-resumes.com, your online source for professionally written "industrial strength" resumes and cover letters guaranteed to land you an interview.
Copyright 2005 by Vincent Czaplyski, all rights reserved.
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