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confusing sentences
how to write a cover letter
grammar mistakes
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quality results
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How Not To Write A Cover Letter
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Every time I had to hire someone, I’d read through the pile of resumes and cover letters and would come to one conclusion: more people know how not to write a cover letter than know how to write a good one. I’ll give you some of the worst mistakes I’ve seen. If you avoid these, you’ll be sure to know how to write a cover letter that will get taken seriously.

Mistake 1: Don’t bother to check your letter for typos, grammar mistakes or just plain unclear or confusing sentences.

Believe me, the people who make the decisions on who to hire eventually do read these letters. Any errors send the message that you either don’t really want the job, or if you get it, your work will be sloppy. Use the writing of the cover letter as a chance to show a potential employer that you can produce top quality results.

Mistake 2: Address your letter to “Dear Sir or Madam”

If you want your letter to stand out and get attention, you’ll have to do a little extra work. While most ads or job postings don’t list the hiring manager, it’s best to send your letter and resume to that person. Why? Because the person in human resources may not have the best understanding of the job you are applying for. Or even if you aren’t the best fit for the job you applied for, the hiring manager may have another one you would be great for. There have also been cases of hiring managers changing the job specifications to fit a candidate they really wanted to hire.

So it’s in your best interest to get that hiring managers name. If you can’t, get the name of the head of Human Resources. At a bare minimum, address your letter to “Dear Hiring Manager.” The only exception is if the posting specifically tells you not to do this. Then of course follow the directions!

Mistake 3: Produce the same letter for every job you are applying for

It’s comical and at the same time pathetic how many times I’ve read a cover letter addressed properly to my company, but later in the text the writer states how excited they are at the prospect of working for a completely different organization.

People who make this mistake show they don't know how to write a cover letter. There are two problems here. First, the writer made Mistake #1. Second, the writer completely passed up the opportunity to explain why he or she is a great fit for the job they are applying for, and why they want to work for that particular company. Use the cover letter to draw attention to some skill or experience you have that is mentioned as a requirement in the ad. Don’t assume they’ll figure this out.

Mistake 4: Focus on job titles and duties instead of accomplishments

Whenever I hired people, I wanted to know what they had achieved. The job title wasn’t that important. So if a job posting asks for experience in handling clients in a social services setting, don’t just say that’s what you did. Give them an accomplishment (I provided over 600 clients foreclosure prevention counseling was able to help 75% of them remain in their homes) so you get their attention. You might have all the right experience, but if you don't know how to write a cover letter that gets it noticed, you are wasting your time.

Mistake 5: Don’t spend much time reading the job posting

When you apply for a job, the time you take studying the job posting is time well spent. You don’t have a lot of space in your cover letter, so figure out what skills or experience they are asking for is most important. Pick some accomplishments of yours that are relevant to those skills or experience, and write a sentence or two about them. Not only will your letter communicate more effectively, it will give the hiring manager the idea that you actually read the ad and want the job.

Mistake 6: Ignore the key words used in the job posting

Maybe your current company still calls your department data processing. But if the ad or job posting wants someone with “IT experience” then make sure your cover letter states this. Many companies just scan the cover letters and electronically search for the key words. The ones that match are the only ones that don’t end up in the trash can. This is one of the tricks of knowing how to write a cover letter.

Mistake 7: Treat writing the cover letter like an afterthought, a boring chore or a waste of your time.

Think of it this way. What is your goal? You want to get a job. In other words, you want someone to pay you for doing some work. The job search process is all about convincing someone that you want to work and can do good work. Slacking on the cover letter is not a good way to communicate anything but laziness or bad work habits.

On top of this, unless someone reads something in your cover letter that gets their interest, guess what? They aren’t even going to look at your resume.

There are the most common mistakes I’ve come across when reading job applicants’ cover letters. Avoid these, and you’ll be well on your way to knowing how to write a cover letter.

Street Talk

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