Covering letter no-no’s

PUBLISHED: 16:31 13 April 2006 | UPDATED: 10:01 06 May 2010

YOUR beautifully typed covering letter attached to your beautifully typed CV is the first sales pitch that you will make to your prospective employer. Companies receive thousands of CVs and covering letters from job hunters each year, and so, your challen

YOUR beautifully typed covering letter attached to your beautifully typed CV is the first sales pitch that you will make to your prospective employer. Companies receive thousands of CVs and covering letters from job hunters each year, and so, your challenge if you choose to accept it is to really make your CV and your covering letter really stand out from the proverbial crowd.

Good covering letters introduce you to your prospective employer and indicate why you are the best woman or man for the job in question. By avoiding, like the plague, the following list of 10 fatal mistakes when it comes to applying for a job, you can produce a covering letter that will really transport you to the top of the pile.

1. Not proof-reading your letter for errors and tone before you send it off.

Forgetting to do this can be dire. CVs of some job applicants are frequently thrown in the bin because of errors in spelling, typing and grammar.

2. Addressing your letter to the entirely wrong person.

Give the company a ring, and ask for the name and title of the person to whom you should address your letter. The one thing this does show is initiative and resourcefulness, and will certainly impress your reader that you figured out a way to address them personally.

3. Using someone else's words.

Make absolutely certain that the letter you send sounds like you and not like you've swallowed a dictionary. Both the covering letter that you send, as well as your CV, ought to be an accurate reflection of your personality. Today's employers are searching for people with enthusiasm, focus and knowledge.

4. Unwittingly revealing your ignorance both about the industry and the company.

Research, research, research are the watchwords here. Make it clear you didn't pick the company you have applied to at random out of the phonebook. Let them know you know who they are, what they do and why you have gone for them.

5. Being too familiar and too informal.

You are a professional and your letter should be the closest thing to a business proposal that you can get, not a heartfelt plea from someone who is desperate for either an interview or a job. Think about what you can offer them that is of value and what objectives you can help them achieve.

6. Talking about yourself too much.

Downplay 'I' and emphasise 'you'. Try to convert 'I haves' into 'you wants' for the employer.

7. Being too cocky.

If you meet all the required standards for the job, say so in your letter, but don't lay it on with a trowel. Emphasise the match between their needs and your skills.

8. Lacking focus.

Try and structure your letter so that each bit of it achieves a particular goal. State your letter's purpose in the opening paragraph, and keep it organised.

Decide on the focus of your letter and ensure all points reinforce the topic.

9. Enclosing a photo.

Unless you are after a job in modelling, acting or any other performance industry it is very definitely NEVER appropriate to send along a photo of yourself with your covering letter. Your prospective employer will have plenty of time to look at you when you're invited for interview. Until then a picture won't help you get a foot in the door.

10. Forgetting to ask - as the old saying goes, if you don't ask, you don't get.

The main aim of your covering letter is to bag yourself an interview, so be sure and ask for one at the end of your covering letter. Always be prepared to initiate the follow-up communication yourself and let your prospective employer know that you will be doing this. It might just be enough to persuade them to hold onto your letter and give it a more thorough read.


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