The 8 Most Common Cover Letter Mistakes That Could Cost You the Job

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By Kathleen Elkins

As easily as an impressive cover letter can land you an interview, a generic and rushed one can send your application straight to the "no" pile.

We turned to Amanda Augustine, career management expert and spokesperson at TheLadders, an online job-matching service for professionals, and asked about the most common cover letter pitfalls.

Here are eight costly errors to avoid:1. Not having one at all
TheLadders found that 50% of recruiters believe a cover letter is essential, while the other half admitted to never reading them. "Since you don't know which type of recruiter will read your application, it's better to play it safe and include a cover letter," recommends Augustine.

However, if you're applying to a position online and are asked to upload your materials to an electronic system, make sure they provide a spot to include your cover letter, she advises. "There's no point of taking the time to carefully craft the document if the application won't accept it."

2. Using a generic template
"Sending a general cover letter with every job application is just as bad as not sending any cover letter at all," says Augustine. "If you are using the exact same cover letter for every job application and simply swapping out the company name, you're wasting your time. Your cover letter shouldn't be an after-thought."

Customize each cover letter you write, she says. Use it as opportunity to detail why you would be a great fit for the specific position, and don't be afraid to infuse some personality to stand out from the crowd.

3. Opening with "Dear sir" or "Dear madam"
Figure out exactly who you're sending your cover letter to and address them by name. "Do a little online snooping and check with your network to see if you can determine the name of the hiring manager or the recruiter in charge of the job opening," she suggests.

However, this is easier said than done in some instances. You may have to use to a generic "Dear Recruiter" opening, she admits, but only resort to this after you've put in all the research you possibly could.

4. Not carefully proofreading
According to a social recruiting survey, 66% of recruiters reconsidered a candidate whose social media profiles contained spelling and grammatical errors. If they don't take well to typos on Facebook or Twitter, they likely will toss your application if your cover letter is plagued with mistakes.

You should have multiple sets of eyes making edits. "Carefully proofread your cover letter. Then read it again. Then have a friend proofread it," Augustine says.

5. It's all about you
While it can be beneficial to show some personality in your cover letter, be wary of going overboard or delving into irrelevant information. "Recruiters don't care that you've always dreamed of working in fashion," explains Augustine. "They want to understand why you're interested in this position and more importantly, why you're qualified for the role."

Your cover letter is prime real estate. Use the bulk of it to focus on explaining how your experience and skillset will meet the employer's needs.

6. Worshiping the company
It can be tempting, but resist the urge to shower the hiring manager with compliments in your cover letter. "Don't tell them you love their company; instead, specifically mention something about their brand, company mission or strategic direction that you strongly support," Augustine says. "In other words, prove that you've done your homework and know something about the company or industry."

7. It's too long
Recruiters spend an average of six seconds scanning your résumé. They cherish brevity.

"A good cover letter should be no longer than one page," says Augustine. "Remember, the recruiter already has your résumé. There's no need to rehash your entire work history all over again. Instead, use this opportunity to highlight your qualifications that matter most for this role."

8. There's no 'call to action'
You want to end your cover letter with a bang by reiterating your enthusiasm and creating a "call to action." Rather than just thanking the employer for their consideration, take a more proactive approach; let them know that you will follow up within a week and encourage them to reach out with any questions that may arise.

"Don't leave the ball in the recruiter's court," says Augustine. "Create the next step in the process so you have the opportunity to follow up."
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