Cover Letter mistakes are all too common… because you’ve probably polished your resume and LinkedIn Profile to no end, and never thought to give your Cover Letter the same attention.
If you think a Cover Letter isn’t important, think again.
Hiring teams want to find out if you understand their needs and business, no matter if your Cover Letter is a LinkedIn message, recruiter note, email, or even snail mail. Should You Use a Cover Letter for Executive Jobs? covers this in detail.
Bottom-line, “I’m interested in your job posting and here’s my resume” just won’t cut it. Instead, you should be making an irresistible pitch for your skills.
Here are 5 of the biggest Cover Letter mistakes:
1 – Your Cover Letter’s opening line is boring.
“I am an Operations Director with 18 years of experience” or “In response to your ad for a CEO, I have enclosed my resume” really aren’t compelling enough to use as opening statements in any Cover Letter.
Instead, try a hook that makes the hiring manager sit up straight in his or her chair, as in these examples:
- “Would a Sales Vice President who consistently pushes teams past quota (up to 52%) make a difference in your national rankings?”
- “As a CIO for global company ABC Consulting, I’ve increased customer satisfaction to 97% in 3 outsourcing engagements—pushing our revenue growth to its peak despite the recession. I’m interested in creating the same results for you.”
The idea is to speak DIRECTLY to the employer’s pain points while describing your impact, instead of boring the reader with this Cover Letter mistake.
Note that each of these sentences contains metrics, a targeted job title, and a career-defining achievement that is framed in context and laid out quickly for the reader to absorb.
Your Cover Letter’s opening paragraph should also leverage the research you’ve done on the company, per the next point.
2 – Your Cover Letter doesn’t show how you’ll solve the employer’s problems.
Rattling off a list of competencies isn’t strong enough to distinguish you from other candidates. This is among the most common Cover Letter mistakes.
However, speaking directly to the company’s needs will do the trick.
You have to dig into the company’s history, press releases, annual reports, and other news to figure out their pain points!
What type of expansion is planned? Were earnings down in previous quarters? What do industry analysts say about the company’s future and their business strategy?
Armed with this information, your Cover Letter can connect your leadership skills to the employer’s needs much more succinctly:
- “My ability to produce business development results (30% rise in cloud-based solution sales during Q1 2021) can address any struggles you’ve had in breaking into this market. Can we talk?”
3 – Your Cover Letter’s key points don’t match (or exceed!) the job requirements.
Like resumes, Cover Letters must be precise and point out the reasons employers should hire you and the edge your work can give them.
Many applicants make Cover Letter mistakes including focusing only on what they offer, NOT the tie-in to the company’s requirements.
While you’re writing, put the job description in front of you to remind yourself what the employer is seeking. Then, look for ways to point out how you can surpass these expectations.
The following paragraph is taken from an IT Director Cover Letter:
“Your ad noted that you require a leader in service delivery, digital transformation, and customer satisfaction. My career includes 3 years of 97% satisfaction ratings, achieved in transformation initiatives, and I hold responsive service as my #1 priority.”
4 – Your Cover Letter isn’t addressed to an actual person.
Finding a contact name inside the company has never been easier. First, you can use LinkedIn Search to find the company name and a list of employees by title.
For example, a Business Development Manager might look for keywords such as “VP Sales or COO” to identify the next-level manager contact, while an IT Product Director can try to find the CIO’s name.
If you don’t find a name through LinkedIn, be sure to check the company website to view the leadership team. If you have access to Hoover’s database or Dun & Bradstreet, you can also use these resources to locate company insiders.
In addition, ReferenceUSA.com is a free contact name database available through many public libraries, and requires only your library card for access.
Failing to find the right personal contact is among the most egregious of Cover Letter mistakes! Taking the time to locate a name (vs. resorting to “Dear Hiring Manager”) will help boost the wow factor in your letter.
5 – Your Cover Letter fails to prove that you’re a serious contender.
Especially if you’re pursuing an executive or senior-level role, employers like to see a take-charge style. If your Cover Letter closing line isn’t strong, you run the risk of looking too passive.
“Thank you in advance for reviewing my credentials” is certainly polite and professionally stated.
However, “I plan to exceed your requirements as your next Vice President of Finance” and “I am confident that I can demonstrate the leadership you look for in your next CIO” are both stronger.
Even more intense, “I will follow up with you next Tuesday” shows definite intent on your part to secure the interview.
There’s no reason to settle for a bland, one-size-fits-all message that makes these common Cover Letter mistakes.
(And there’s an even bigger Cover Letter fail you can see here).
Your job search will fare better when you zero in on your ROI with an unforgettable opening — especially when it draws a parallel between employer needs and your value proposition.