Here at Give A Grad A Go, we’ve made it our mission to unearth those less-than-obvious graduate job hunting blunders, which could be costing you your dream job.
This week we’ve decided to put the classic clover letter under the microscope.
Nailing the cover letter is crucial.
The cover letter is the first impression an employer has of you as a prospective employee.
It’s also your chance to shine and show that you’ve got what it takes to work for their company.
With that in mind, here are 8 often forgotten cover letter mistakes to avoid at all costs:
1. Too many ‘I’s
Lots of graduates start every sentence on their cover letter with ‘I’- ‘I am a confident candidate……’, ‘I have just finished an internship with….’ ‘I’m looking for a position in…’ Using ‘I’ too often will work against you for a couple of reasons:
1) It’s boring to read.
Varying your sentence structure will come across as a little more polished, will help your letter flow, and keep your reader from falling asleep!
2) It sets the wrong tone.
You need to emphasise to your potential employer what you can do for them, while too many ‘I’s implies you’re only thinking of number one.
2. Copy and pasting
When you’re applying for dozens of positions a week, it can be incredibly tempting to use the same cover letter.
The problem is that it’s obvious when you read a cover letter in which only the company name has been changed.
Companies want to know that you only have eyes for them.
It only takes 10 minutes to peruse their website, pick out a couple of reasons for why you’d like to work there rather than anywhere else, and pop them into your cover letter.
3. Attaching it
If you’re sending your application by email, make sure you put your cover letter in the body of the email rather as an attachment; if you attach it you risk it being unread and lose the opportunity to engage your reader from the off.
Lots of graduate cover letters take an unnecessary apologetic/grovelling tone.
Eg. ‘I would be honoured if you would consider me for this position’ or ‘I realise I am lacking experience in some areas, but I would love to have the chance to prove myself.’
Keep your tone positive and upbeat, avoid advertising your shortcomings and never (ever) apologise!
5. Taking too long to get to the point
Open with a bang by selling yourself in your first few sentences.
Put yourself in an employer’s shoes: if you have a hundred applications for a position, you’ll probably only read the first sentence or so of each cover letter, and skim over the rest.
A short punchy opening paragraph emphasising why you would be an asset to the company will grab the reader’s interest and convince them to take a look at your CV.
6. Overly formal language
E.g. ‘I am writing this letter with a view to registering my high level of interest in the role advertised by yourselves.’ or ‘Enclosed please find my CV highlighting my experience and skills that would help your company flourish.’
While you shouldn’t be too colloquial, overly formal language in a bid to be professional comes across as insincere and affected.
Before hitting the send button read your cover letter aloud to see if it sounds like something you’d actually say; if it doesn’t, re-word it.
7. Using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
You’ve likely been told that it’s polite to start your cover letter with ‘Dear Sir/ Madam’ or ‘To whom it may concern’, but it’s always better to lead with a name – frankly, it seems a little lazy not to.
If it’s not immediately obvious who you need to address, it’s perfectly acceptable to ring up the company and enquire.
Make sure you have the correct title and spelling of the person’s name too.
A letter addressed to Mrs Smyth, instead of Miss Smith, is a surefire way to annoy Miss Smith from the off!
8. Focusing on your ambitions
E.g. ‘This would be the perfect opportunity for me.’ ‘I have a passion for marketing, I’m fascinated by what makes people tick and would love the chance to prove myself in a bustling agency like yours.’
Yes, it’s all very well and good that this is your dream graduate job – but the person reading your cover letter isn’t going to employ you just so that you can achieve your lifelong ambition, they want to know what they’re going to get out of it!
Look at the job description carefully, pick out the key skills that the employer is looking for and outline how you match these in your cover letter.
This way they’ll be able to see exactly what you’d bring to the table.