How to avoid cover letter mistakes

Cover letters seem straightforward enough but there is an art to making them stand out – find out what to avoid if your cover letter is to have the impact you want it to. 

Don't write a personal statement 

A cover letter should give a brief indication of why you think you are right for this role. You will also want to showcase your passion for the work involved but be wary of writing a statement that is all about you – a personal statement would be a more appropriate document to tell your story and only some employers will want this as part of the application process. A cover letter, on the other hand, 'covers' the skills detailed on your CV by going into more detail and demonstrating your ability and how these skills have been put into practice. 

Keep it succinct 

It's tempting to overload your covering letter with multiple examples of your skills and how you have utilised these in your work so far but the employer needs a short and snappy summary to get through a lot of applications. Instead, save some of your examples and scenarios for the interview stage, where you will be able to talk about your work in much more depth. Your cover letter should be no longer than one page.  

Don't repeat your CV 

A cover letter shouldn't simply list your achievements and work to date as this is the task your CV takes care of. Instead, you should reflect your skills and experience using specific examples to back up the information on your CV. Your cover letter is all about proving you're the right person for the job through clear scenarios so think about what qualities the employer is looking for and then instances of when you have shown these qualities at work. 

Format it correctly 

Be sure to present the information on your cover letter in the correct style and layout. It's professional to include your address in the top right column and the address of your employer in the top left column of your letter, regardless of it being sent electronically. You should start the letter with 'Dear Sir or Madam' or even by name if you have this information to hand. If you have addressed the receiver as sir or madam, you should sign off with 'Yours faithfully'. If you have addressed the receiver by name, then 'yours sincerely' is best.

Write a new letter for every job role 

Writing cover letters shouldn't be rushed – and this means it can be time-consuming and the temptation to copy and paste from previous covering letters is strong. The problem with doing this is that it is often obvious to the employers that you haven't tailored your skills to the job description. It appears lazy and you can come across as unmotivated straight away – so, if you want your covering letter to have an impact, put the time in and explicitly link your skills and experience to the person specification.  

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