The 7 Biggest Mistakes You're Making in your Cover Letter

We've all been there: dead-end job's got you feeling down, you're after a career change or you've just seen the job of your dreams advertised and you want to make yourself stand out from the crowd. You know that your cover letter is your way to get your foot in the door, but how do you make an impression without writing an essay?

If you don't know much about my story, let me give you a little recap - and why I think you'll want to listen to these simple tips on how to write a cover letter.

After graduating from University during a time when no-one was hiring, I somehow managed to instantly land myself a 3 month internship at a small media agency in London doing blogging and social media for private hospitals and hospitality clients. It sounded like my dream job, however, clients cut their costs and social media was the first thing to go. After nearly nine months of twiddling my thumbs at my desk I got made redundant from my first ever job. After three months of searching for a job (and many, many cover letters late) I landed myself another role at an even bigger agency - which sadly was sold to me as something it wasn't because they were so desperate for staff. Nine months later I was sick of it and got a part time job with a high profile blogger in London helping her with her social media. In turn, this allowed me to develop my client base and eventually go full time on my own business which I've now been doing for 2 years!

So, I've written a fair few cover letters in my time - and they've helped me get to where I am today.

On top of this, I've employed several interns, and a couple of employees so I've also scoured through piles of CV's to find the best candidates. Here I'm going to explain the 6 most common mistakes I've found in cover letters and tell you how to correct them so you can nail it first time around and bag that dream job!

 

1. Talking about yourself exclusively

The number 1 mistake people make in their cover letter is talking about themselves. I've read too many cover letters explaining how working with me could benefit the candidate.

Here's the brutal truth: Companies don't really care about how they can help you, they care about how you can help them.

Take a look at your most recent cover letter. Are you guilty of this? Here's how to rectify it.

Instead of saying "It would help me gain experience to grow my career" try to use phrases that show them you're pro-active and want to help them: "I'm a quick learner and would love to gain skills and knowledge in X,Y,Z to help me perform better in my role."

Lesson: Talk about yourself, but make it relevant and show how it could help them within the job role you're applying for.

 

2. Not using the job description to your advantage

At the heart of any good cover letter is the job description. Print it out, highlight a few key points that you really feel play to your strengths and work on describing in a few sentences how you could fulfil this using key skills e.g. communication, time-efficiency and creativeness.

 

3. Not double checking your work

ALWAYS I repeat, always, check spelling and grammar. Poor spelling and grammatical errors is sloppy and shows that you haven't checked your work, and have little attention to detail. I don't just mean doing a spell check on word. I mean show your work to two different people - friends or family, who can check it for you.

 

4. Always using the same format

I have been known to hand-write a cover letter because I thought it was most appropriate for the company I was applying to. I drafted the letter on word until it was right, then hand wrote it using a fountain pen. Turns out it was the best thing I ever did because I landed the job!

Granted, it's not always possible to do this - especially if you're filling out an online form but it's worth thinking of the most attention-catching way. They probably remembered me as 'the girl who hand-wrote her cover letter' during the interviewing process.

 

5. Not being true to who you are

One of the most interesting ways to make yourself stand out is by adding how skills that you've learnt through a hobby apply to the job you're hoping to get. Not many people actually have a long standing hobby these days, so try mentioning anything that is important to you whether it's playing tennis, or something more niche like knitting. You never know when these skills might come in handy.

You know the job I was talking about in the previous point? Well, it was for a well known regatta in Berkshire. I added on my cover letter how I used to row at school, have sailed from a young age and can legally drive a powerboat. Turns out they were thrilled that I was comfortable on the water and could drive a powerboat so that I could go off on my own in a boat and inspect the race course!

Let your personality shine through on your cover letter through your skills, attributes and hobbies!

 

6. Writing your cover letter and CV in a word document

Strictly speaking, this isn't exclusively a cover letter thing, but the best way to make yourself stand out from the crowd is by designing your CV properly. We use Canva for pretty much everything at Sassy Digital, and there are some amazing CV templates on there that you can personalise to make sure your personality, skills and creativity come across to the hiring manager!

 

7. Writing a whole page - keep it short!

The worst thing as a hiring manager is receiving really long cover letters. You can't ignore them because they might be right for the job, but also they're painful to read. The good cover letters are concise and take a minute to read - if that. Think of it as your elevator pitch - you have 10 seconds to sell yourself to the company. What do you write?

Suggestion: Try to write 3 short paragraphs, talking about previous experience, hobbies and key skills - all the while relating these back to the job description.

 

Does anyone else have good experiences or stories to share from their cover letters? Please comment below!