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Your cover letter is arguably the most critical component of your application.

Think of it this way: it’s like your Golden Ticket in the Willy Wonka film.

In possession of the Golden Ticket, you can enter his Chocolate Factory where you can see how their candies are made using their secret recipe.

Similar to a Golden Ticket, your cover letter will help you get an “in” with the employer.

However, unlike the ticket, you need to earn your stripes with your letter.

Writing a cover letter does not automatically land you the job, unfortunately.

What it does, however, is open you to the opportunities of getting hired, which is the best thing you can get assuming that you’re applying for your dream job.

However, cover letters are tricky. It’s easy to create a cover letter, but difficult to create one that will help you bag the job. There’s a fine line that separates both and most people fall on the former – they create cover letter just because.

This reason is why your applications aren’t getting the responses you expect. To be frank, it’s probably not good enough.

If you want your dream job to consider you for the position, then you need to give your best shot starting with your cover letter. Below are some pitfalls that you may have committed with your cover letter.

1. Addressing the Wrong Company/Person

I know this mistake sounds too stupid to be true, but it’s plausible at the very least.

In fact, it’s happened to me before.

(And yes, I am kind of stupid.)

If you are sending applications to multiple employers at the same time, then you could be attaching the wrong cover letter if you’re not careful.

It’s a simple error that could cost you your next job. It could affect the entire trajectory of your professional career.

I know, it sounds melodramatic. But these things go to show that you should be very careful when sending cover letters to employers. Make sure that you have their respective names and company names right. Double and triple-check if you have to before sending them out.

2. Poor Communication Skills

When developing your cover letter, what’s important is your ability to communicate your thoughts and ideas. No need to use flowery language and words that will make Shakespeare roll in his grave. “Keep it simple, stupid,” as the famous saying goes.

Assuming that you’re an aspiring professional writer, you shouldn’t have any problems expressing yourself in a clear and concise manner. After all, your grasp of the English language is what will get you jobs sooner than later.

However, there will be mistakes that pass through the cracks if you don’t review your cover letter before sending it to an employer. Grammatical errors and ill-conceived sentences happen even to the best of writers.

Aside from combing through your cover letter with your pair of eyes, a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway can tremendously help. The former will analyze your cover letter using 250 common mistakes that writers commit. While you can see these mistakes in your letter by paying for the premium tool, you can start with the free Chrome extension first. Using it will make it easier for you to spot errors that you may not see while editing the letter.

The latter is an editing software that helps simplify the sentences in your letter. It identifies unnecessary words that you can remove from your letter and complex sentences that you must break down into simpler sentences.

Both tools complement each other and work best together. They help tighten and make your cover letter impeccable, thus putting you in the best position to make an impression on your employers. 

3. Using a TemplateIf you’re writing a cover letter for the first time, it’s normal to refer to online templates for reference. However, the keyword here is reference.

Cover letter templates online should be used as a guide, not as the actual cover letter you will submit to your employers. Every job opening and company you plan on applying for is different. Therefore, each requires a unique cover letter that you may need to develop.

In other words, our cover letter should be personal to the employer. You are free to use templates to help you build your letter. However, you need to take time to customize each letter to make it feel that the employer needs you.

4. Lots of Unnecessary Information

When drafting your cover letter, it’s really easy to get sidetracked by including details that they shouldn’t know about you. Personal stories, unrelated experiences, and other information not related to the job offer. Therefore, they should never be included in your letter.

Nobody cares if you hate country music. Ditto if your idea of a great morning is the cool breeze of the winds from the mountains brushing your cheeks and the sun peeks from a distant…

Is it too personal? Yes.

Does my employer care? Hell no.

Should I leave them out of my cover letter? Hell yes!

Also, there are topics that you simply don’t bring at home if you don’t want to get into trouble.

I’m talking about politics and religion.

Both are subjects that amass polarizing opinions from people of different walks of life. In a global job market, you can’t afford to bring these topics up in your cover letter, whatever your intention may be.

You should aim for brevity with your letter. Go straight to the point and make a compelling case why they should consider you for the position. Normally, employers require you to answer questions or include certain information about your professional career. Stick to those talking points and don’t veer away from them. If you’re not sure if you should include certain details about you, the fact that you second-guessed means that you shouldn’t for your safety.

5. No Exceptional Sample Works

Unless the job is only for fresh graduates or those that require no experience, then you should always include the most relevant sample works. The only reason why you shouldn’t put them in is if they go against your contract with your past or current clients.

As a professional, the proof is seen through the work you have produced. If you don’t have anything to show for, then the path towards getting employed just got more arduous.

For writers, producing written work to showcase in your cover letter isn’t as simple as it sounds. You might be thinking of signing up for a free blog and publishing your content there.

There’s nothing wrong getting your content published on these free platforms. But it doesn’t do you any favors. There is no barrier to entry when it comes to signing up for a WordPress or Blogger account. That means everybody can do it. Even the guy who sold you a pack of cigarettes before reading this article can create a blog in minutes!

In today’s competitive job market, you need to stand out from the pack. Free doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to earn your stripes if you want to be taken seriously by your employers.

Publishing one of your best articles on a blog and domain you signed up for is a step towards the right direction. While you own the blog, the fact that you paid for a domain means that you’re serious about your career. It would even be better if you have gotten a post published on authoritative sites like Huffington Post and others. It would be difficult getting articles published there, but it’s not impossible. After all, if it were easy, then everybody would be doing it.

On your cover letter, you could mention that you maintain a blog about your topic of choice that showcases your knowledge about that niche. Even better, you can drop the names of the sites where you’ve written for. The more established and popular the site is, the better! These mentions can help turn your fortunes around and grab the attention of your employers.

6. Turning Over a “Meh” Cover Letter

Getting the attention of your employer is never an easy task. It is assumed that this person is going through hundreds of cover letters all at the same time. You are also going up against equally great, if not better, applicants for the job. The odds are stacked against your favor.

It won’t help your cause if you have a mundane and boring cover letter.

As mentioned earlier, you need be personal with your cover letter. However, you also need to showcase your personality if you want employers to take notice of your application.

It all starts with how you construct your letter. It’s not enough that you lay down the facts of your application. What’s equally important is sprucing up your letter and treat your application like it’s the only thing that mattered in your life!

You have to want the position, and your letter should reflect that!

Here are a couple of tips to help you set your cover letter apart from the rest:

  • Don’t start with your name – Nobody cares what your name is at this point. What employers want to know if you’re the guy who can fill in the job vacancy like a glove. Instead, start with your job title and your experience in the field related to the one you’re applying for.

  • Use active voice – As mentioned, your cover letter should show that you want to bag the job. Your intention should also reflect in the language you use. Instead of using the active voice, i.e., I have been hired by clients for their writing needs, you should use the active voice, i.e., Businesses hire me for all their writing needs. This voice lends to a tighter and stronger letter that will help communicate your ideas better.

  • End strong – You don’t want to leave employers hanging. At the bottom of your cover letter, you should ask them to perform a particular action. For example, you can leave your number at the bottom to answer any questions they have about your application. You can expect employees to come calling you if they are impressed with your letter.

7. Hubris

It’s one thing to believe in yourself. It’s another to make it appear that you’re the best thing since sliced bread.

(Hint: you’re not.)

I mean, you could be. But the fact that you’re saying these things to a person who decides whether you get the job or not is almost career suicide.

I’m telling you, as important as standing out is concerned, this is not how you do it.

Keep in mind both words when drafting your cover letter.

Undersell. Overdeliver.

First, you want your body of work to do the talking for you. You want to make an impression by laying out your achievements so far in your young career. However, you don’t want to come off strong when talking about your accomplishments. Emanating the confidence that employers look for in an employee is a feature to your cap should you pull it off.

To be frank, they don’t care what you think about yourself. They’re more interested in what you’ve done, and they’ll decide from there.

Wrapping it up

Your cover letter is key to making people care about your application. No matter how good your body of work is, you still need to grab the attention of your employees so you can increase your chances of landing the job. Your cover letter aims to do precisely this, which is why you need to make the best possible letter for your respective application.

The tips above should help put your best foot forward with your application.

Did you know that the common mistake content writers make is writing content without the elements of persuasive copywriting?

If you’re applying as a content writer, my blog about 5 Persuasive Copywriting Tactics to Help You Write Better Blog Posts will surely help you have a great jumpstart in the field and help you craft blog posts not just to educate your readers, but to persuade them to take action after reading the blog posts.

Plus, I can assure you that it can boost the results you and your clients get from the blog posts you write. Go ahead and check it out!


Author: Christopher Jan Benitez

Christopher Jan Benitez is a freelance writer for hire who provides small businesses and startups with high-quality content that resonates with their target audiences. He’s also a founder of a boutique digital agency, a WWE fan, and a loving husband and father.

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