Composing cover letters may be one of the most arduous aspects of applying for work, but it seems that they remain a necessary evil. The purpose of the cover letter is to introduce yourself to an organization in the context of the specific job to which you’re applying. Cover letters are pointedly aimed toward each potential opportunity, whereas the rest of your application package might be similar to what you use for other job openings. A cover letter can make or break your application, so it’s important to avoid certain common pitfalls in order to maximize its benefits.
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Here are some things to keep in mind.
1. Be specific.
A cover letter should be geared specifically toward the particular job to which you’re applying. Be sure to include a lot of details about why you want the job, as well as ways in which you are uniquely qualified for it. If your cover letter is too generic, it won’t look good. Of course, some phrases and even full sentences will have relevance across many applications, but each cover letter should be unique and custom-tailored toward each particular organization and each job.
2. No mistakes.
For goodness sakes, please don’t send out a cover letter riddled with grammatical errors or typos. Really, don’t even have one. Even the tiniest of spelling mistakes is likely to move your application from the “maybe” pile into the “definitely no” pile pretty fast. Read your cover letter over, along with the rest of your application, more than 24 hours after you finish writing it. This should help you to catch errors that you might miss right after composing. Have a loved one take a peek too, if you know someone who’s good at this kind of thing. Submitting an error-free cover letter is really important.
While you want the company to know that you’re a good fit, pointing out problems that they have that you feel you can fix may be a bit premature, and it could cost you the job. This isn’t to say that you should avoid telling the organization how you’d be an asset to them. In fact, you should mention ways in which you imagine moving things forward. But, focusing on the negative, highlighting problems, isn’t likely to get you a lot of good attention. Stay positive and demonstrate knowledge and fondness for the organization instead.
This idea follows along with the importance of being specific rather than generic. Take the time to do some research and learn the name of the person who will be reading your application and address your letter to them. Even if you end up addressing it to the wrong team member, you’ll be in better shape than if you’d left it as, “To Whom It May Concern.” In this day and age, just a little research online should get you a name. You want to show the organization that you put in those few minutes rather than taking a shortcut.
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