For those who don't identify as writers, composing a cover letter for a job application can be downright terrifying. It doesn't have to be -- I can help, if you'd like! -- as long as you avoid including these five things.
Negative thoughts about your last employer
You're leaving your job, so it's already obvious you aren't happy or believe you can do more. There's no need to burn bridges on your way out. Even in big towns, business connections surprise me, and you don't want to inadvertently offend your last boss's cousin, who could have been your new boss, if you hadn't stuck your foot in your mouth.
Don't start this date talking about your ex; instead, focus on what's happening for you now and what you're looking forward to in the future.
Negative personal information
Maybe you're looking for a job in a new city because of an unanticipated divorce. Yikes. I'm so sorry for your tough time, but disclosing personal info can make a potential employer uncomfortable. And even though you may be happy about your place in life, that doesn't always come across in a cover letter; rather, if you deem it important enough to include in your letter, an employer may perceive you as hung up on your emotional turmoil.
If it comes up during an interview, that's your chance to breezily state, "I moved here to Phoenix after a divorce, and I'm loving the dry air! Now, you've got to tell me: Where's the best place for a decent cup of coffee around here?"
Too much "I" or "me"
Your cover letter should introduce who you are, address what the employer needs and express how you can solve those needs for the company. The employer already has your résumé, so your cover letter is the chance to show 1, you can coherently string together sentences, and 2, you understand their business's goals and see where you can jump in to make a difference right away.
Letting typos slip through
It's the biggest mistake I see in cover letters, and it's completely preventable. As someone who worked on a hiring team for years, a cover letter with erroneous punctuation, randomly capitalized words or -- honestly! -- the company name misspelled is a guaranteed way to be passed by. Edit your cover letter. Have a friend edit it. Hire a professional to edit it. Don't give it a read on your own and deem it A-OK. It likely isn't.
Listen, just about everyone is a team player who exceeds expectations and is detail-oriented with superb organization skills. That doesn't say anything about your experience. Use real examples that show how you restructured your marketing team in three months without losing a single worker and still earned high marks in your annual peer review.
If you've binge-watched three seasons of "House of Cards" just to avoid starting your cover letter, it may be time to call in a pinch hitter. I've written clear, compelling cover letters for lawyers, pharmacists, elementary school teachers, IT professionals, students, those who've had a gap in their employment and more. If you're interested in having someone else deal with the yucky stuff (although, I happen to love this work!), check out this page for more information. And take a deep breath! You're thisclose to your dream job.
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