Preparation

5 Mistakes You’re Making When it Comes to Your Cover Letter

The cover letter can be a tricky part of the job/internship application process. Don’t let it be a barrier between you and successfully applying to a job or internship. Continue reading to make sure you don’t repeat any of the following mistakes when crafting your cover letter:

Mistake #1: Not submitting a cover letter at all. You should always submit a cover letter. Repeat. You should always submit a cover letter. Even if it is not explicitly asked for. By taking the time to write a tailored cover letter, you are showing the employer that you are an eager applicant.

Mistake #2: Starting with “To whom it may concern”. Do not begin your letter with this phrase, it is very impersonal and cold. Ideally, you would get the name of the hiring manager and address the letter to that individual. If you are unable to get a name, you may address the letter to “Dear Hiring Manager”.

Mistake #3: Rewriting your resume. The reader will already have your resume, so you do not need to rewrite or reference everything in your resume. Instead, your cover letter needs to show how the experiences listed on your resume relate to their specific needs.

Before you jump in and start writing about your relevant experiences, you need to first consider the following:

  1. What skills and qualifications are required for the position?
  2. Are there key phrases in the job description, organizational mission, or other materials from the company that seem to show up over and over?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can use this information to tailor your letter. Select two to three skills or qualifications the employer is seeking and, using examples from your resume (without repeating your resume verbatim), tell a brief story about the experiences that best qualify you for the role. 

Mistake #4: Not demonstrating your enthusiasm for the role. Often times, the cover letter is the first time you get to introduce yourself to the employer. Just like if you were speaking in person at a networking event, you want to show how excited you are about the role and how well suited you are for it. Your goal is to motivate the employer to want to continue reading to learn more about you. Employers read so many cover letters that they are great at spotting cookie cutter/disingenuous letters. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap and take the time to make your letter unique.

Mistake #5: Not proofreading your letter. As this is a professional letter, typos are not acceptable. Written communication is a top skill that employers are looking for in their candidates and you need to demonstrate your competence through your letter. Have a trusted source proof your letter. The Career Center has daily drop-in appointments where you can meet with a coach to have your cover letter reviewed. As a plus, our coaches will also verify you didn’t make any of the aforementioned mistakes.

For more information about formatting your cover letter, visit our website or come to the Career Center for a drop-in appointment.

By Allison Postlethwait, Assistant Director, Marketing and Communications

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