Cover letters are a double-edged sword. The best cover letter can wow the recruiter and land you the job. If you mess up, however, the cover letter can lose you the job even if you have the most perfect resume.
So you spend hours at a time working hard on polishing your cover letter, only to find out that you didn't get the position. You wonder what went wrong and just can't figure it out.
The reasons why your cover letter failed may not be that obvious. There are some small details that can make a big difference. We're here to help you figure out what went wrong and fix it in order to write your best cover letter yet.
in this guide we'll teach you:
- 8 Subtle ways your cover letter lost you the job
- How to fix those mistakes
Before we get into it, make sure that your resume is in the best shape it can be. Head over to our resume builder for some expert help!
Writing a great cover letter is hard and it's not uncommon for candidates to make mistakes and not be aware of it. Many of these mistakes are very subtle which is why we'll guide you through what could possibly be wrong.
1. You addressed the hiring manager by the wrong name/ title
Many candidates make the mistake of opening the letter by saying:
"To whom it may concern"
This is a very impersonal expression. It shows that the candidate hasn't bothered to do research and find out who they're speaking to.
It takes a quick search on the company site or LinkedIn to find out exactly who the hiring manager is and address them appropriately.
The fix: Find out who you're speaking to. Using the name of the person in charge is best but if it's not possible, use:
"Dear Hiring Manager"
This is a safe choice that's always appropriate.
If you need some more tips on how to address your cover letter, check out 5 Key Rules of Addressing a Cover Letter [Examples].
2. You repeated your entire resume
There's a major difference between a resume and a cover letter. While they both speak about your experience and are aimed at getting you the job, the resume presents the facts of your career.
The cover letter, on the other hand, talks about your motivation for wanting the job. It should read much more like a statement or even a story, as opposed to a fact sheet.
"As my resume explains, I've worked in sales for 5 years."
The fix: The best cover letter is that which is clear, easy to read, and explains why the candidate wants the job, not how they are qualified.
"I want this job because I'm passionate about sales and can help you increase you market to Millennials."
3. You never mentioned the company name
What candidates often tend to forget is that the cover letter is aimed to show how the candidate can help the company. If they fail to mention the name, the cover letter seems impersonal and generic.
"I want to work at your company because..."
The fix: The way to fix this mistake is extremely simple - just use the company name throughout your cover letter. Mentioning it 2-3 times is optimal.
"I want to work at (Company Name) because..."
4. You only spoke about your personal benefit
Yes, you want the job because of the great pay and awesome benefits, but even so, you have to show that you care about contributing to the business.
Recruiters don't like cover letters which are too self-focused on part of the candidate.
"I want the job because I can really use the money, plus I can learn a lot in your sales department."
The fix: Emphasize what you can do for the business instead. Showing how you can be of help will ensure that you write your best cover letter yet.
"I want to work at (Company Name) because I can help you tailor your social media to Millennials and increase your earnings."
This statement shows that the candidate has a plan and is excited to execute it.
5. You didn't use a relevant example
The best cover uses vivid examples to convince the recruiter. Leave the dry facts for your resume and get visual.
"I'm really good at customer service."
The fix: Show and don't tell. This is much more attention-grabbing and will make an impression on the recruiter.
"During my time at Bank X, I helped turn around a number of really unhappy customers whose accounts had been hacked. I guided them and gave them lots of personal attention along the way. They ended up being our most loyal customers yet and every time they came in, they asked for me."
Making a point by using an example is much more powerful than simply stating what you're capable of doing.
6. Your cover letter was vague
Hiring managers get dozens of cover letters every single day. The worst thing you can do is write a generic one and have them read the same thing over and over again.
The fix: Get really specific in your cover letter. Use the name of the company, mention the specific skills they look for in the ideal candidate, and use relevant examples that prove your point.
7. You focused on your weakness
Remember that the best cover letter is that which makes you shine. Stop focusing on what you can't do and talk about what you can do.
"I admit that I'm not the best when it comes to attention to detail..."
The fix: Focus on what you're good at. Your cover letter is not the place to be shy.
"I'm focused and goal-oriented which is visible in my track record and proven by the 5 Sales Associate of the month awards I earned at my previous job.
8. You had spelling and grammar mistakes
Writing a cover letter is stressful and unfortunately, it can cause candidates to make grammar and spelling mistakes without realizing.
Failing to proofread, however, can lose you the job as it makes you look careless and unqualified.
The fix: Proofread, proofread, and then proofread some more. Use Grammarly to find out if you've got any grammatical or punctuation mistakes.
Print out your cover letter and give it to a friend to look at. A second pair of eyes always helps.
Writing the best cover letter takes an extra amount of effort. Pay attention to the small things - punctuation, use of examples and stories, and focusing on strengths vs weaknesses.
When you let too many of these subtle mistakes in your cover letter, you'll lose the job. Instead, check out the easy fixes in order to make sure that your cover letter lands the job.
Finally, make sure your resume is up to date and well-formatted, and send your applications out confidently. For more expert help, head over to our resume builder.