10 Tips to an Excellent Cover Letter
We can call a résumé a technical document. A technical document has no scope for errors. What you present in your résumé is correct data. For example let us say that you were born on the 22nd April 1986. That is a fact. That is data verifiable. It is exact. Similarly your education. Only one unique individual such as you has one hundred per cent verifiable data that ties in to you and your records whether they be your parents, your academic grades, sports accomplishments and or any other such.
On the other hand a cover letter while technically speaking may not be a ‘technical’ document comparable to the résumé that is under reference, it highlights your other skills that may not be finite. That is the reason why we need to be more careful in crafting a cover letter. All errors and mistakes in creating a cover letter straight away contribute to your failure in provoking the HR personnel sending you the call letter.
So let us go through the 10 most common cover letter mistakes and see how you can over come them. These tips come to you from my experience of having poured over thousands of cover letters and résumés.
1. Career Objectives: The first thing you should be doing is to address your cover letter to the job you are applying for. The HR executive is not interested in how that particular position is going to help you progress in your life. S/he is more concerned about what you did, how you are helping the current employer or helped the previous employer. Your cover letter should reflect your genuine interest in the position that you are applying for. Ideally it should also be clear about how long you intend to be with the company should you be invited to join them. Consider the difference between these two real-life examples:
Wrong example: ” Though my experience as a Sales Executive is gratifying I am looking at an administrative position in Purchase department to help hone my negotiation skills.”
Right example: “This Sales executive position excites me and am sure I would be able to contribute significantly to the turnovers if I am given an opportunity. You may please consider my performance with my current position.”
2. Wasted space: Ideally cover letters need not extend beyond four paragraphs. You would be wasting precious white space repeating the obvious – mentioning the position and how you came to know about it and why you are applying,especially when it appeared in the “situations vacant” column. Instead of that it would be better if you just mention the skill sets that you have and how you would be able to add value to the position that you are seeking. A lot of rhetoric would be out of the window and only what matters, in this example is, your people skills and your experience should be highlighted. Mentioning other things that are irrelevant to the current assignment that you are eying only weakens your cover letter.
Wrong example: ” This is with reference to the “Situation vacant”, advertisement that appeared in today’s The Times, pg 4, for the position of a sales executive. I have graduated from cover letter sample the University of Midlands, majoring in Sales Management.” The HR executive is aware that you have applied for this position. Besides you have already mentioned it in your résumé. It would be better if you stick to establishing your skill sets as a Sales person and how you helped your current employer reach the set goals.
3. Cover letter templates / forms: There are plenty of sites out there that have a template or a form letter in place. It is like walking into a store and picking up a shirt. A shirt has a collar, two sleeves, a pocket and buttons right across the front to hold it in place. Similar for any letter, you have an address, a subject, an opening paragraph, an introduction and elaborate on it in the next paragraph and then you have a closing. There ends the similarity. The fabric of the shirt is different. The shirt you pick up depends on the occasion you have in mind. So is with the cover letter. The position you seek is different. The employer is unique. So are their expectations from you. You need to tailor your cover letter exactly to the potential employer’s needs. You do not pick up a unisex, fit-all shirt. Similarly you do not have a universal cover letter template or a form. Every job is unique. So is every employer . Your cover letter should make it abundantly clear to the HR your commitment and familiarity with the position that you are aspiring to get into. HR can identify a template or a form letter and throw it into the dust bin or move it to the recycle bin.
In a real life situation I had come across a template wherein the applicant had filled in the blanks with a pen. The worst case scenario is that – you are insulting the HR.
4. Do not beg: Never ever pour out your woes into your cover letter and beg for a job. You should always quantify your positive attitude and make a strong pitch about why you think you are more suitable for the position. You should in your cover letter sound more determined and not at all desperate. The HR person should find a lot of optimism and enthusiasm from you towards the position. On the other hand should you pour out your heart about how important this job is to you he or she may be turned off by your desperate plea for employment. However, a fine line often separates the two, so the best advice would be to follow your instincts.
Wrong example: In one of those cover letters there was this plea: ” Look I have my mom in the hospital and I need to pay those bills. So please help me with this job.” A classic shout from the roof tops,” “I AM VERY BADLY IN NEED OF MONEY!”
5. Missing résumé: Check. Once. Check again. Double check. See all the attachments are in place. You have also mentioned in your Post Script that you have enclosed your résumé . But you forgot to staple it. It is very easy to forget to attach file while sending your cover letter through email. This is a fatal mistake. That HR is not going to call you or mail and ask you to send the résumé again. Because there are plenty of others who did it right without committing that grave and fatal oversight.