Blast away those Cover Letter Blunders!

You always want your job application’s cover letter to get your submission off to a brilliant start. Since your cover letter is the very first impression conveyed to a potential employer, it’s a super-important piece of writing. But not only does it need to clearly say “Here I am!” Your cover letter also needs to hit the reader’s sweet spot.

Many job applicants unwittingly build unconsidered or inconsistent elements into their letter, causing the reader to squirm a bit and read no further. Here are five of the most common mistakes made in cover letters and some recommendations on how to avoid them.

First Cover Letter Blunder that’s Easily Fixed – Introducing Yourself with Your Name

If you ignore what seems to be a common trend and think logically, you’ll see that starting a letter with your name is rather inefficient. Your name does not define any of your qualities or skills,  since you’re probably not a renowned individual. It’s crucial to introduce yourself right off the bat regarding your job qualifications.

The hirer is first and foremost interested in seeing if you’re qualified for the job. If you’re not qualified, the hirer probably won’t read your resume. In any case, you’ll be signing off with your name in the cover letter and at the end of the resume. Remember to include your contact information on both documents as well.

By doing this you’ll ensure your chances of getting an interview in the event that the letter and resume get separated from each other. To engage the reader from the very start, it’s advised that you open your cover letter with an attention-grabbing sentence.

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Second Cover Letter Blunder that’s Easily Fixed – Too Long or too Short

A cover letter must be no longer than three-quarters of an A4 page. The only exception is if you are applying for a top-level management position. Remember to express yourself concisely and effectively. Refrain from overloading the reader on any one topic.

Simple facts like a relocation can be explained in a sentence or two if it’s the reason you’re applying to the job. More significant thoughts like a career change being the reason for your job application may require one paragraph only.

Keep in mind that the key to this writing exercise is choosing your words carefully so that each significant point is mentioned in a few sentences. Don’t be too formal or informal with the tone you use in your writing. The somewhat grey area between the two would likely illustrate a personality perfectly.

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Third Cover Letter Blunder that’s Easily Fixed – Poor Effort is Evident

A reader (most importantly, the person recruiting an employee) can usually tell how much effort the writer has invested to produce his or her material. If you start your letter with “To whom it may concern”, you’re indicating a lack of eagerness to be hired and may even signal a slight laziness.

Research details about the organisation online beforehand or make a call to the reception desk to find out who’s in charge of hiring for this position and address the salutation in your letter to that exact individual. Another sign of poor effort is the presence of spelling mistakes or other typos. These errors may cause you to be eliminated from the pool of applicants since you may be considered to be careless. Avoid making these mistakes by proofreading your cover letter twice.

It can be done once by a friend (even your mom can do this!) or a mentor you may know from your school days. Another display of poor effort is copying and pasting bits and pieces from your resume to create your cover letter. Remember that your cover letter should explain all the interesting information that you cannot include in your resume insofar as it is related to the position you’re applying for. Such copying and pasting can also indicate that you are lazy.

Being considered a lazy person will likely lead to your being screened out. Also, watch out if you are sending a general cover letter to all the jobs you apply to. You might end up sending the cover letter to your targeted company with the name of another organisation you applied to earlier. Sending a cover letter with an incorrect company name is a very silly and embarrassing thing to do.

Fourth Cover Letter Blunder that’s Easily Fixed – Including Unnecessary Information

Personal information elements such as your ethnicity, religion and gender are not always compulsory inclusions. Unless the job post asks you to mention these, you should avoid doing so. You might be wondering how to convince the reader that the organisation’s culture suits you. Sure, but this doesn’t mean it’s relevant to describe your social life and personal hobbies.

The best way to prove that you will be a good fit with their culture is by expressing yourself briefly in terms of the organisation’s values and vision. This will help you prove that you share any particular ideas with the organisation’s culture.

Fifth Cover Letter Blunder that’s Easily Fixed – Focussing on Where You’ve been Rather than what you Offer

In your job application, you must include all your own relevant skills and experiences that can contribute towards the company’s progress. These skills and experiences must be related to the job description. You must emphasise that these skills and experiences will make the organisation successful at achieving its mission.

Just mentioning that you’ve been trained in a certain field at a particular famous institution won’t entirely fit the bill. You must connect the skills learned in your training with how they will help you deliver high-quality performance for the benefit of the organisation.

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C.E.O @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen). Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).