Your cover letter is going to be the first document that a prospective employer is going to read from you. This is why you need to get it right the first time.
Imagine if you will that you are a company recruiter or the HR officer responsible for reading through all of the job applications coming into the company.
Sorting job applications is a thankless task
You are also very aware that it is your task to find those candidates that are a good fit for the job being advertised.
How irritating would it be for you to constantly see the same generic set of words and phrases being used over again – especially if they don’t really add anything of value to help boost the applicant’s chances.
The problem with a lot of cover letters is robotic prose
We all want to craft the best possible cover letter that lets your personality shine through, so why do so many people resort to including a lot of robotic prose?
Your cover letter is there to serve one purpose and one purpose alone, that of showing off your suitability for the job on offer.
You could liken your cover letter to something like a trailer for a new blockbuster film. It is there to give a taste of what you offer and to entice the reader to discover more about you.
The idea is to start your cover letter with a bang to hook in your reader and encourage them to keep reading so that they move on to your resume or CV to discover the finer details of your skills, experience and training.
Think personable and professional cover letter
The very best cover letters offer their reader an interesting hook in the form of your most relevant work experience that makes you look like a perfect cultural fit for their company.
Remember that most recruiters, when faced with a barrage of job applications, will only ever remember those cover letters that convey a human side. By making your cover letter more personable you will stand out more than another applicant.
Your cover letter is more valuable than you think. Make sure you don’t fill it up with overused and irrelevant words and phrases that could end up irritating the reader instead of encouraging them to remember you.
Cover letter words and phrases to avoid using
Let’s dive right in with your cover letter introduction. The very first and glaring mistake made here by many thousands of job applicants is addressing your cover letter in the wrong way.
1. To Whom It May Concern
Ugh! Just hearing this being read aloud in your head should make you want to squirm. Believe me, any recruiter reading this opening will certainly be squirming already!
This type of generic salutation is very overused, especially with job seekers sending off blanket job applications without taking the time or trouble to find the correct addressee.
This sort of introduction can come across as quite sterile and impersonal. This is why it is worth spending a bit of time to find the name of the HR manager or the recruiter who is handling the job applications.
Always check the job advert carefully as most will detail who you should be addressing your cover letter and resume to in relation to the vacancy. Failing to address your cover letter correctly, especially when a contact has been highlighted, can make your application look lazy.
Ok, but what if there is no direct contact?
In the absence of anyone specific to address your cover letter to, it may be worth researching the company to find out who you would be working directly for should you land the job.
Let’s say that you would be working in the sales department for the company. You could personalize your cover letter by addressing it to the manager of the sales team that you will be reporting to.
Customizing your letter this way may be bypassing a fully automated application system, but if your application, cover letter and resume ends up in the hands of your future boss, then this could work in your favor!
2. Using the wrong insider jargon
Another common mistake is that a job applicant will try to use professional sounding industry-specific words and phrases in their cover letter.
While this may sound like a good idea because it makes your application sound relevant to the job in hand, it can backfire if you don’t also do a bit of research on the company first to understand their company culture and way of speaking and using language.
Even within the same industrial sector, one company may use the terminology for job titles and job descriptions and working practices that another company may not be at all familiar with.
Mirroring your prospective new company culture
When including your relevant skills and work experience in your cover letter, it can be very easy to simply write down what you do using the company descriptive language that you are used to.
Re-read the job description to identify the words and phrases that the company use to describe the job and the duties involved. It may help you to contact the company in advance of you sending in your application for further information about the vacancy.
By requesting some extra information about the job you will be getting an insight into the company background and what descriptive words and phrases they commonly use and recognize.
Draw these keywords and key phrases out of the job description and any extra information you can source and weave these into your cover letter to describe your work experience and skills that you will bring to the company.
Make yourself sound like part of the team
By making yourself sound and appear like someone who already works for the company, the recruiter will be more inclined to see you in a positive light.
They will feel that you will integrate smoothly and seamlessly with the existing team and only require the minimum of induction training.
3. Drop the millennial speak
Always remember that you are trying to come across as a professional person. The person that you are addressing with your cover letter may well be much older and more experienced than your average millennial.
While you want to show your passion and drive in your cover letter you shouldn’t enthuse or gush too much. Avoid saying that you ‘love this industry’, instead be more specific about what made you want to enter this field and how this job fits well into your career path.
4. False flattery
There is no harm in expressing your desire to work for a company because of its fine qualities. The company may have an excellent staff incentive scheme or have an outstanding reputation for good employee mental health well-being, for example.
However, try to be authentic with your flattery. Don’t offer flattery where none has been deserved. A hiring manager will hire a person because they like them.
They will like the candidates authentic self and believe that they can do the job well. But if you offer insincere flattery it can leave an impression that you are not genuine or very trustworthy.
You should bring honesty to the table and work on building trust with your future employer.
5. ‘Please feel free’
You will want to end your cover letter with a clear call-to-action, but you need to make it a direct call-to-action rather than a soft one.
Using the phrase, ‘please feel free to contact me for more information’ can leave your ending too open. You are not telling your cover letter reader to do something specific here.
Be confident with your call-to-action and finish off with what you really want – finish with a request for an interview.
Cover letter examples from Freesumes
If you are looking for some fantastic example cover letters to help guide you, then look no further than our own cover letter selection!
Here you will find 12 of the best cover letter examples to follow to help you grab the attention of the recruiter. Our handy guide includes the following sections:
- Cover Letter Layout To Follow
- Cover Letter Styles
To help you out even further, we have created some very useful Cover Letter Examples By Professions, including:
- Customer Service
- Social Worker
If you are looking for a bit of extra help and inspiration with your cover letters, then don’t forget to read our helpful advice in our Cover Letter Tips section!