When beginning a job search, job seekers are often quick to update their resumes. But what about their cover letters? Cover letters often create the first impression a hiring manager has of a job candidate. Taking time to craft an impressive cover letter could land you a position faster, but a poor cover letter can cost you.

Here are five cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Rewriting your resume. Job seekers often try to squeeze their entire resume into a cover letter. What comes out is a mess of information with no clear focus. Recruiters have your resume; they don’t need a second document detailing that information in a different format.

Instead, focus on information that directly relates to the position for which you are applying. This can also be the time to explain any information that didn’t fit on your resume.

2. Failing to personalize. Recruiters have a keen eye and can tell if you took time on your cover letter or if you sent them a generic one. Although it may be easier to just copy and paste the name of each company into your cover letter, doing so could mean disaster for your job search.

Take the time to research the hiring manager to which the cover letter will be sent. Include his or her name and job title. This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked and disregarded for a quicker option. Also, take this time to show that you have an interest in the company. Don’t just talk about your skills but instead include specifically why you are applying to this company and what value you could add.

3. Writing too much. Hiring managers do not have time to read pages and pages of cover letters. Often, if your letter is too long or wordy, they will overlook it completely. Cover letters should be three to five paragraphs in length. Email cover letters should be around two paragraphs.

4. Being pushy. Companies like confidence but only to an extent. Don’t end your cover letter stating that you will call to set up an interview. Recruiters set up the interviews and will be put off by your misplaced eagerness. Instead, use phrases like “I’m excited about the opportunity” and “I look forward to hearing from you.” These will show your interest without overstepping your boundaries.

5. Forgetting to proofread. There is nothing that irks a hiring manager more than a cover letter riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes. Sometimes just one mistake can cost you your creditability as a writer and perhaps even the position. Make sure you carefully proofread your cover letters. Fix any errors and reword any awkward sentences.

RiseSmart, the leader in next-generation outplacement services, offers various services through its Transition Concierge. With resources like one-on-one coaching and professional resume services, RiseSmart helps workers prepare the needed materials to land their next position.

21 September 2012

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