10 cover letter mistakes that will cost you the job
Putting together a good cover letter is one of the most dreaded, agonizing steps of the job application process for many people, but job applicants in the hospitality industry should never ignore the power a well-crafted cover letter has to get you to the interview stage.
As much as a good cover letter can open the door to the job offer of your dreams, a bad cover letter can slam it shut faster than you can read “We regret to inform you…”
To remain a competitive applicant on the job market, avoid making these embarassing cover letter mistakes. They are sure to move your resume to the bottom of the pile at best, and, at worst, the trash bin.
1. Grammar, spelling, or typo errors.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many cover letters contain easy-to-fix mistakes like misspelled words or typos. And, no, simply running spell-check on your document is not enough. The last thing you want to project when applying for any kind of a job is sloppiness or lack of attention to detail. Simply put, this is the kiss of death for any job applicant. If you're unsure of your grammar or spelling skills, it's worth having an outside reader look it over for you.
2. Excessive length
There are a few industries, like academia, where 2- or 3-page cover letters are actually the norm. Luckily for you, hospitality is not one of them. Cover letters should never exceed one page, and typically should only contain a few paragraphs, including your introduction, made up of 3-5 sentences each. Anything much longer than that comes across as rambling and disorganized and probably won’t be read all the way through.
3. Repeating your resume
This is just a time-waster, plain and simple, for whomever is reading your job application. A cover letter is not meant to restate your resume in paragraph form but instead to give your potential employer a deeper insight into who you are and what you can bring to the table for their company. This is the place where you should explain how your unique experiences, challenges, or skills make you the best candidate for the job, and the kinds of information you give about yourself and your background should be complimentary to your resume without repeating it word for word.
4. Getting too personal
Even if the culture at the company you’re applying to seems casual, personable, and fun, that doesn’t mean that it’s ok to abandon all sense of professionalism in your cover letter. While the cover letter is unavoidably more personal than the resume, keep in mind that it’s not about your personal life. Each paragraph, each sentence should always speak to how your skills, traits, and job experiences enable you to thrive and succeed in the role you’re applying for.
5. Getting the company name wrong
Everyone knows this is a big no-no, but it's also not surprising that it still happens... a lot. When you're applying for mulitple positions every day or week, it's common to write a general cover letter and then tailor it to each individual position as you go. Having multiple versions of of your cover letter floating around certainly makes it easier for errors to make their way into your copy, and none is more embarassing than including the wrong company name or hiring manager's name in the letter. One more reason it's always important to read over every word of your cover letter before every single send. It may seem time consuming, but it's worth it.
6. Too generic
One of the most common reasons an applicant gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile is their inability to make a clear, strong connection between their skills and experience and the requirements of the job they're applying for, and the cover letter is the most important place where you do this. A generic, one-size-fits-all cover letter that doesn't speak directly to the position will leave any potential employer thoroughly unimpressed and uninformed. Not the impression you want to give when you're tring to get a foot in the door.
Hopefully, this one doesn’t need much explanation. Lying on the cover letter – just don’t do it… ever. Same goes for the resume or any other part of your interview process.
8. Using the wrong tone
A good cover letter is neither overly formal in tone nor overly informal but strikes a good balance between the two. The tone or impression that your cover letter gives should be professional yet personable, polished yet still genuine and reflective of your personality and background. With any kind of professional writing exercise, acheiving an effective tone of voice typically happens when you relax and focus more on the substance of your writing rather than the rhetorical flourish. Simply put, don't try too hard either way to sound either formal or informal. Having a trusted friend or family member read your final draft of the cover letter is also an excellent way to get this kind of feedback since it can sometimes be difficult to judge your own work this closely.
9. Too much negativity
Whether you're explaining why you left a previous employer or how you dealt with a past conflict, if you focus too much on the negative aspects of the situation (as opposed to the solutions you brought), you'll create a poor impression not only of your professional demeanor but also of your personal character. Avoid focusing on problems you've had with past employers (save any explanations for the interview, but even then, still take a positive, proactive approach), and certainly you want to avoid criticizing either your past, current, or potential employer. Find a tactful way to point out areas for growth and how you would help acheive them without being disrespectful.
Do not mistake arrogance for confidence. Yes, you certainly want to project confidence in your abilities and your character throughout the entire hiring process (and beyond, we might add). Downplaying your value and capabilities can have serious negative consequences on the job because, if you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect your employer, colleagues, or customers to have faith in you? That said, you never want to come across – especially in the cover letter, which is often a hiring manager’s first impression of you as a person – as obnoxious or overly conceited, which can give the impression that you’re overcompensating or insecure.