The importance of the covering letter by some these days can tend to get overlooked, regardless your covering letter will be the first thing that any subsequent hiring manager will see, it acts to strengthen and enhance the case for your CV to be read over others. Therefore having a well-constructed and thought out covering letter will be your best chances of catching the recruiter’s eye when it comes to securing the all-important interview. Consequently knowing what to put in and more importantly to leave out is crucial in order for you to make a lasting impression.

Below we have put together the most common mistakes candidates tend to make when putting together their covering letters.

Not tailoring each letter to the specific job

Hiring managers will be experienced enough to know when a candidate has sent them a generic letter. You should avoid this at all costs, as it will appear as though you could not be tasked with adapting each letter for its intended role, and will raise doubts in the recruiters mind about your commitment to the job. It will be time well spent just to read through and then change the skills and experience set needed to match the job description if it helps you to secure the job. Be sure to clearly state why your feel you are the ideal candidate for that particular position. We always recommend that in your first paragraph you state which job you are actively applying for.

Not addressing the letter to the right person

If you are unsure or need to get the name of the hiring manager or the head of human resources then you may need to ring the company and ask. If this is not possible, you could use the company’s website to obtain the contact details of who is dealing with the recruitment process, so you can address the letter to them. A covering letter that is addressed in the correct way will always look more professional than one simply addressed to “Dear Sir/Madam”.

Not checking for spelling mistakes

Not proofreading a covering letter for grammatical errors is probably one of the most common mistakes candidates tend to make, and will harm your chances of being contacted for an interview. Always use spell checkers to help you if you are unsure of the correct vocabulary. Also, for more piece of mind try reading your covering letter aloud, going through each word slowly. Asking a family friend or relative will also help in screening for mistakes that you may have missed.

Making your covering letter to too long

Remember that whoever reads your covering letter will probably have numerous others to get through, so you will need to make your case succinctly. Aim for short paragraphs, between 3-5 paragraphs long containing no more than 5 lines for each.

Equally a short coving letter will also be harmful, as the employer will start to question your commitment to the role as well as your enthusiasm for it. Remember you will not be able to market yourself professionally and properly if you only write a few lines.

Providing too much generic, irrelevant information unrelated to the position

Hiring managers are busy people so always refrain from telling them everything that you have done up until that point, they do not need to know your life and work history.  Never mention salary in your covering letter as this will almost certainly harm your chances of securing an interview.  Conversely never beg that you need the job, no matter how much this may be true. Companies look for candidates that are qualified, enthusiastic but also have other firms that are only too happy to employ them also.

Failing to use enough examples to enhance your case

Your covering letter will be your opportunity to really sell your previous experience that is related to the role. Failing to use concrete examples to really set yourself apart from all the other candidates will only tell the recruiter that you do not desire or lack the determination to get the job on offer. Every opening statement that you use should be accompanied with an example of how you used your skills for the benefit of the company. For example “my project management skills helped company x complete a £80,000 IT project to be delivered on time and on budget, the after results being that overheads fell by 20% within the first year, which I am particularly proud of”.

In today’s competitive workplace candidates need to give themselves the best chances of marketing themselves apart from all of the other candidates, and the covering letter still represents the best way for this to be done. Constructing and getting the tone of your covering letter right is crucial in order to create a favourable impression with a hiring manager. Using these steps as a guide will strengthen your case to be put forward for an interview.   

 Written by Jennifer Megafu                                                                                                                    

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