Applying for your first job can be intimidating. Luckily, there’s a way to significantly improve your chances of getting hired: including a cover letter in your application whether it’s required or not. Doing so shows a level of professionalism that employers are looking for.
Here are five common mistakes to avoid when writing your first cover letter.
1. Including unnecessary details about your experience
Recruiters go through many applications in a day, so they’re not going to want to spend too much time reading one cover letter. Note that the average hiring manager spends only about six seconds per cover letter before determining if it's worth reading further or skipping entirely. By keeping your letter meaty but streamlined, you're more likely to capture recruiters’ attention from the get-go.
Your cover letter is not a chance for you to tell your entire life story. Instead, a cover letter should be concise, straightforward, and related to the job that you’re applying for. For someone who hasn’t had previous work experience, you can mention any relevant internship positions you’ve held or extracurricular activities that highlight how you’re fit for the job. Any extra fluff you want to talk about can wait until your interview when recruiters have more time to spend per applicant.
2. Stating your salary expectations
A cover letter is essentially one of your first touchpoints with an employer. It’s a way to make a good impression and introduce yourself. You don’t want to make yourself look greedy by discussing your salary expectations immediately. Although salary transparency is recommended when job hunting, there’s a time and place for it, and your cover letter is not it. Instead of asking how the company can benefit you, use the cover letter to discuss what value you can bring to your employer and the job.
3. Not putting effort into personalization
It’s so easy for first-time applicants to fall into the trap of using templates for cover letters. They simply look up the most basic version and send it in without making it their own. This doesn’t add anything substantial to your application whatsoever. It can even backfire, with recruiters immediately disqualifying you for the role. It’s essential to research the company and the job and write about how you fit into the equation. By making it unique and personalized, recruiters are likely to remember you and your application.
4. Neglecting to mention your applicable skills
Without a lot of previous work experience in your resume, employers won’t have a lot of references to evaluate you with. The cover letter can be the last push that urges them to give you a chance. However, only writing down your personal information and background won’t tell them what kind of worker you are. It’s especially important now, with many companies conducting skills-based training, where degrees and school grades aren’t prioritized. In your cover letter, make sure to talk about the applicable skills and strengths that make you the ideal candidate for the job.
5. Not proofreading
Often, job seekers focus more on what they're trying to say than how they say it. But this is a mistake, since a poorly crafted cover letter can cancel out however many impressive points you're trying to show off. For example, emailing a cover letter littered with spelling and grammatical errors is a quick way to disqualify you from consideration for the job. Keep in mind that even the smallest typo can ruin your opportunity to land a position. It shows a lack of attention to detail that gives recruiters the impression that this is the kind of work you do. Instead, make sure to reread your cover letter multiple times to check the flow and find any mistakes. You can also use the help of spell-check to pinpoint any errors you may have overlooked.
Roseann James is a writer who specializes in business practices like recruitment strategies, company culture, and proper management. When she’s not working, she likes to spend time with her dogs and catch up on current events.
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