How to Write an Effective Cover Letter & Mistakes to Avoid
Clients often ask us if cover letters are even required anymore in today’s online recruiting environment, as they are often listed as “optional” on applications.
We strongly recommend including one for any position that you are seriously pursuing.
If you want the job badly enough, it's a non-negotiable.
When done right, a cover letter can be the deciding factor on whether you land an interview – especially if you are applying for a role that is a bit of a stretch.
Think of the cover letter as your opportunity to personally make your case as to why you are the ideal candidate for the role.
Cover letter writing is a subtle art.
Below, we discuss the most common cover letter issues we see.
1) Not including a cover letter at all
We recommend submitting a custom cover letter for each position you apply for, as it allows you to do the following crucial things:
- Demonstrate genuine interest: A cover letter shows that you are genuinely interested in the position and sets you apart from candidates who did not include one.
- Elaborate on relevant experience: A cover letter allows you to elaborate on selected points mentioned on your resume that are particularly important for the role.
- Provide additional information: A cover letter gives you the opportunity to provide additional information not included on your resume (such as why you have a gap in employment or that you will be in town for a potential interview next month).
2) Regurgitating information from your resume
You should use your cover letter to expand on bullet points in your resume and add additional information - not to simply re-state what you have already written.
When crafting your cover letter, consider these questions:
- How can you go above and beyond the factual information already on your resume and tell the backstory behind how your accomplishments and projects came to fruition?
- Can you add further detail on specific projects or initiatives you worked on?
- Can you elaborate on the impact of the projects or initiatives that you helped implement? How did the organization benefit from your work moving forward?
3) Sending the same cover letter for each position
Sometimes it’s okay to send the same resume for multiple applications – especially if you are applying for jobs in the same industry.
Not so with the cover letter.
Your cover letter should specifically make your case for why you would be a good fit for this particular role – on this particular team – in this particular company.
With a carefully tailored cover letter, you convey that you are seriously considering the role and that you made the effort to do your research!
4) Not tying your experiences into the job description
The objective of the cover letter is to elaborate on how you are a great fit for the role and how you will succeed should you land the job.
Therefore, you must provide examples of what you have accomplished and tie these into the requirements listed on the job description. For example:
5) Keeping the focus on you – not the company
The cover letter should focus on explaining the value you will bring to the organization – not what you expect to get from them:
- Don’t focus on you: “I look forward to learning more about the industry” or “I am excited for the opportunity to build my skills.”
- Focus on them: “I look forward to applying my sales skills that I demonstrated in my previous role to quickly start adding value to your firm.”
6) Forgetting to edit
Believe it or not, companies regularly receive generic cover letters addressed to, well, another company.
This careless mistake can instantly crush your chances.
Ensure that you:
- Keep your cover letters organized in a folder and name each file with the specific company name. In this way, you’ll minimize your chances of making this all-too-common error.
- Double-check your cover letter: Is it addressed to the correct person – correct title – correct company – correct job – correct address?
7) Not doing your research
Make sure you thoroughly understand the position you are applying for.
If you know you will be reporting into a certain VP, try to look them up on LinkedIn and address the cover letter directly to them.
The more specific information you include, the more you will stand out. Including this information is a clear indicator that you did your research and are taking the application seriously.
You'll likely see better results by applying to fewer positions and tailoring your resume and cover letter to each role than you will by quickly sending out dozens of generic applications.
If you're not sure where to start, check out our guide to writing cover letters and cover letter template.
You can also take a look at this sales and marketing cover letter sample.
Need help? Our team can help you craft your resume and cover letter. Email us at email@example.com or call (312) 428-6048 to learn more.