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Ten Entry-Level Job Cover Letter Mistakes

Ten Entry-Level Job Cover Letter Mistakes

Kim Isaacs, Monster Resume Expert

September 21, 2009

Your cover letter is the first thing employers see when they open your materials.

Avoid these 10 mistakes, and make your first impression a good and lasting one.

Mistake #1: Don’t Overuse “I”

Your cover letter is not your autobiography. The focus should be on how you meet an employer’s needs, not on your life story. Avoid the perception of being self-centered by minimizing your use of the word “I,” especially at the beginning of your sentences.

Mistake #2: Don’t Use a Weak Opening

Job seekers frequently struggle with how to begin a cover letter. This often results in a feeble introduction lacking punch and failing to grab the reader’s interest. Consider this example:

  • Weak: Please consider me for your sales representative opening.
  • Better: Your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match to my three-year history as a #1-ranked, multimillion-dollar producer.
Mistake #3: Don’t Omit Your Top Selling Points

A cover letter is a sales letter that sells you as a candidate. Just like the resume, it should be compelling and give the main reasons why you should be called for an interview. Winning cover letter strategies include emphasizing your top accomplishments or creating subheadings culled from the job posting. For example:

Your Ad Specifies: Communication skills I Offer: Five years of public speaking experience and an extensive background in executive-level report. Your Ad Specifies: The need for a strong computer background. I Offer: Proficiency in all MS Office applications with additional expertise in Web site development and design.
Mistake #4: Don’t Make It Too Long

If your cover letter exceeds one page, you may be putting readers to sleep. Keep it concise but compelling, and be respectful of readers’ time.

Mistake #5: Don’t Repeat Your Resume Word for Word

Your cover letter shouldn’t regurgitate what’s on your resume. Reword your cover letter statements to avoid dulling your resume’s impact. Consider using the letter to tell a brief story, such as “My Toughest Sale” or “My Biggest Technical Challenge.”

Mistake #6: Don’t Be Vague

If you’re replying to an advertised opening, reference the specific job title in your cover letter. The person reading your letter may be reviewing hundreds of letters for dozens of different jobs. Make sure all the content in your letter supports how you will meet the employer’s specific needs.

Mistake #7: Don’t Forget to Customize

If you’re applying to a number of similar positions, chances are you’re tweaking one letter and using it for multiple openings. That’s fine, as long as you customize each letter. Don’t forget to update the company, job and contact information — if Mr. Jones is addressed as Mrs. Smith, he won’t be impressed.

Mistake #8: Don’t End on a Passive Note

When possible, put your future in your own hands with a promise to follow up. Instead of asking readers to call you, try a statement like this: I will follow up with you in a few days to answer any preliminary questions you may have. In the meantime, you may reach me at (555) 555-5555.

Mistake #9: Don’t Be Rude

Your cover letter should thank the reader for his time and consideration.

Mistake #10: Don’t Forget to Sign the Letter

It is proper business etiquette (and shows attention to detail) to sign your letter. However, if you are sending your cover letter and resume via email or the Web, a signature isn’t necessary.

Get more entry-level resume and cover letter advice!

This article originally appeared in Monster’s Career Advice Section


+28
  • Stephandi_max50

    dgreen29

    about 2 years ago

    4 comments

    I am just wondering if a cover letter is a "must" or can you get a job without one?

  • Willie_valarie_001_max50

    edwwilliams67

    about 2 years ago

    2 comments

    My only comment: Powerful!!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    robblawrenceguivarra

    about 2 years ago

    4 comments

    Exceedingly educative thank you, I presume your current audience would definitely want a good deal more writing like this carry on the excellent hard work.
    Outstandingly revealing thank you, I presume your current audience may very well want further articles similar to this continue the good hard work.

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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    transition

    about 3 years ago

    4 comments

    this is excellent advise for an college student preparing to enter the job market.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    fadwaalazab

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Thanks for the guide.. It made me clear...

  • Superhero_logo

    Frank_Ball

    over 3 years ago

    19756 comments

    Please keep your comments on topic to the article -- Any comments posted with embedded links leading to questionable infected sites outside MonsterCollege will be removed and the poster's account will be banned from MonsterCollege. Thank you.

  • Gradpic5_max50

    Vanessavun

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Great article. Thanks for the tips!

  • Snapshot_20090403_14_max50

    splendorfarm

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Thanks for the information it gives me some insight on what I need to work on for my resumes.

  • 0103002150_max50

    tlr0419

    about 4 years ago

    4 comments

    Thanks for the tips! Very helpful indeed.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    caseyritz

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    I'm going to comment just to boost my comments ;). However I really did like the advice even if it's not perfect.

  • Norway_coa_max50

    PolarCodester1980

    about 4 years ago

    22 comments

    How does one avoid being "self-centered" by using personal pronouns, while still trying to sell oneself to a company as someone whom they could use/

  • Superhero_logo

    Frank_Ball

    over 4 years ago

    19756 comments

    #8 follow up with a phone call *** So many job postings today, have you e-mail or fax your resume and cover letter, sometimes you don't even know the company name that you are applying to...

    How can you be more agressive after applying, so that your resume just doesn't end up in the stack ???

  • Belushicollege

    editor

    over 4 years ago

    396 comments

    Thanks Kim.

  • Belushicollege

    editor

    over 4 years ago

    396 comments

    Thanks Kim.

  • My_picture_max50

    mkgessner

    over 4 years ago

    220 comments

    Great information. I see some tips that will help me improve my cover letters.

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