Would Or Will In Cover Letter

When it comes to cover letters, I’ve seen—and tried—it all. I’ve written stiff, formal documents (“Dear Sir or Madame”), overly casual notes (“Hey guys! Cover letters suck, huh?”), and everything in between. One time, I even composed one entirely in rhyme. (Yes, I did. And no, I didn’t get the job.)

They’re are a blessing and a curse. They give you some elbow room to discuss your qualifications, which is a welcome relief from the crunched bullet points of a resume. But because of that freedom (and that intimidating blank page to fill), it’s easy to veer off in the wrong direction and make some common mistakes that can pretty much guarantee you’re not getting a call back.

If you’re in my cover-letter-writing boat, chances are you’ve made some of these blunders before. Read on to learn five of the most common cover letter mistakes—and how you can turn them into successes.

1. You Didn’t Listen to the Advice Everyone Gave You

You’ve heard all the basic dos and don’ts. But somehow, rookie mistakes still make their way into even experienced job seekers’ writing. If, for example, you address the cover letter “Dear Sir” when the hiring manager is a woman, you fill three entire pages with your every achievement since kindergarten, or you forget to proofread and let the opening line read: “I absolutely love you’re company!”—it’ll go straight into the trash can.

Next Time

You’ve probably heard this advice time and again, but unfortunately, job applicants keep making these classic mistakes, so it bears repeating: Keep your cover letter to a single page, pay attention to details (e.g., address the letter specifically to the hiring manager by name), and most importantly proofread, proofread, proofread. And then, proofread again.

2. You Regurgitated Your Resume

Your cover letter’s meant to complement your resume—not reiterate it. So, it won’t do you much good if you simply take the best bullet points from your resume and repeat them in your cover letter. If your cover letter and resume are replicas of each other, why submit two documents in the first place?

Next Time

A job application is supposed to be a representation of you as a whole, well-rounded potential employee—so between your various application materials, you should aim to convey a variety of pertinent information. Instead of just repeating yourself (“I was in charge of reviewing invoice disputes”), use your cover letter to describe additional details that you weren’t able to squeeze onto the single page of your resume:

“By resolving invoice disputes, I gained a deep analytical knowledge—but more importantly, I learned how to interact calmly and diplomatically with angry customers.”

A cover letter gives you the freedom to use full sentences—instead of bullet points—so use them to expand upon your resume and tell the story of why you’re the perfect fit for the company.

3. You Used a Canned Version

You may not love the idea of composing a unique cover letter for each job you apply to, but it’s worth it. When a recruiter reads, “Dear Hiring Manager<, I am so excited to apply for the open position at your company, where I hope to utilize my skills to progress in my career,” she immediately recognizes it for what it is—a stock cover letter that you’ve mass-distributed to every place in town. And that’s not going to fly with a company that wants employees who are truly excited about its unique mission and vision.

Next Time

Write a cover letter that's specific to the job and company you’re applying to, explaining why you’re interested in that particular position. If you take the time to write something thoughtful (“I’m a daily reader of your company’s blog. Your post about personal branding actually inspired me to start my own blog—and that has given me the perfect experience for the open role of Marketing Content Specialist”), you’ll instantly convey that you are genuinely interested in that particular company.

4. You Highlighted Your Weaknesses

If you don’t meet the basic requirements of the job, your resume will clearly indicate that—so you don’t need to begin your letter by stating, “I know I don’t actually have any coding experience or know much about computers, but…” That simply shines light on the fact that you’re not qualified. And once the recruiter realizes that, she probably won’t make it to the part of the letter where you try to convince her that she should hire you anyway.

Next Time

Focus on explaining how your past experience—regardless of how irrelevant it may seem at first—will translate to this new role. This is the beauty of cover letters: Resumes barely allow enough room for a few bullet points of duties and accomplishments—but cover letters let you more thoroughly explain how those experiences will make you a perfect fit for any position.

For example, perhaps you were a manager of a bakery in the past, but want to apply for a writing position. The experience doesn’t seem to correlate, does it? But, when you highlight the fact that you composed, edited, and published your previous company’s training materials and employee handbook, you suddenly do, in fact, have that required experience.

...Why not make it easier on yourself?

Talk to a Cover Letter Coach Today

5. You Focused on What the Company Can Do for You

When you apply to a job you’re really excited about, it’s natural to want to convey your enthusiasm to the company: “I’ve wanted to work for your company since I was little—this would be my dream job, and it would mean so much to me if you would grant me an interview!”

But when a hiring manager reads what you wrote, she wants to see what a potential employee would do for her company—not what the job would do for you. She wants to hear about the unique skills and expertise you’d bring to the team and how you’ll help the company grow and succeed.

Next Time

While it’s fine to convey that you’re excited about a position, use a slightly different angle—one that shows how your enthusiasm will directly benefit the company: “I was very excited to find this open position because I’ve been following your company since its startup phase. My thorough understanding of your company’s background and mission means that I can jump in and make contributions to your marketing team right away.”

Now you’ve shown that the relationship will be mutually beneficial: You’ll have a great job with a company you love—and the company will have a valuable, skilled, and enthusiastic new employee (who, coincidentally, is also an amazing cover letter writer).

Very few job opportunities do not require a cover letter. Cover letters are a must-have in the application process because they give you an opportunity to showcase your skills beyond the traditional resume.

Each part of your cover letter reveals something important to potential employers — whether you want the job or not. And unfortunately for some job seekers, not all of the revelations are positive.

Take a look at some examples of real-life cover letter sentences that don’t quite make the cut in the competitive hiring landscape.

1. “My skills and experience are an excellent fit for this position.”

At the beginning of every cover letter,  state the position you’re applying to. Then describe exactly how your skills and experience are a good fit.

Employers are not interested in applicants who will jump at just any job. They want applicants who have their eyes on the open position and who have relevant experience. By generically stating you’d be a great fit for the position, you admit to hiring managers that you haven’t taken the time to find the specific job title, review the qualifications or think about how your specific skill set meshes with the role.

To avoid this perception, be specific.

Your initial statement should sound something like this: “With ten years of experience in the stock market, I am seeking a position as a day trader with ABC Investments.” This shows you actually care about the particular position and took the time to research the job title and customize your cover letter.

2. “I have been looking for an opportunity to work in this industry.”

Employers want to hire someone who cares about their company, not someone who finds all companies in a particular industry interchangeable.

Don’t wait for the interview to show you’ve done your homework. For example, when applying for a store manager position at Jamba Juice, a statement like, “I have a dedicated work ethic and years of experience as a chef,” doesn’t work. Jamba Juice is known for hiring upbeat, energetic employees. The business specializes in smoothies — not French cuisine.

Instead think about how your past experience applies specifically to Jamba Juice.

If you write a cover letter specific to an industry and not a particular company, you’re wasting an opportunity to show your passion for this specific company — something hiring managers look for.

3. “Thank you for taking the time to read my resume.”

Studies show that people who ask for raises are more likely to get them. The same concept is true in your job application. Ending a cover letter with a request for an interview will lead to more job offers.

Weak closing messages like, “Thank you for your time,” or “I hope to talk with you soon,” give the hiring manager a choice: To call you back, or not to call you back. Asking for an interview creates the impetus for the hiring manager to at least call back in response to your application.

Address your cover letter to a specific person. Look up the name of the hiring manager or human resource manager before you send it off. If the company website does not list the hiring manager’s name, call the business directly. You’ll show a heightened level of interest and indicate you’re serious about this job.

4. “I am an experienced, goal-oriented team player.”

Hiring managers read cover letters all day long. They are used to reading the same words and phrases in each letter. If you write a cover letter with the generic format, you express you’re a generic candidate who didn’t put much thought into how your experience or goal orientation fits in with the role.

Resumes and cover letters should show personal qualities, not tell about them. (Click here to tweet this thought.)

Instead, think about writing statements like this: “I served as the COO of Plant Pharmaceuticals for ten years. During that time, I managed a team of 50 people and set aggressive revenue goals. Last year, our executive team wanted to increase departmental revenue by three percent, but I was able to bring in an additional six percent by introducing an innovative social media strategy that drove over 100,000 new sales.”

The last statement shows all of the same generic qualities, but backs them up with actual facts.

5. “I’m everything that you’re looking for… and more!”

Job postings often include keywords that show what the company wants in an employee. These keywords represent skill sets that are important because they can be used in your cover letter.

Incorporated these keywords into your cover letter so that hiring managers — and more importantly, applicant tracking systems — will better understand that you have the necessary talents and pay attention to each detail.

If a job posting requests an employee who is punctual and willing to learn new skills, you should incorporate these two attributes in your cover letter. This instantly shows that you understand the needs of the position.

6. “I look forward to you’re response.”

It sounds crazy, but spelling and punctuation are common cover letter problems. In a recent study by Grammarly, we learned there are five errors on a typical cover letter or resume. The top mistakes include verb tense, hyphen use, formatting and careless spelling mistakes (words that are spelled correctly but used in the wrong context).

Before sending your resume or cover letter, always spell check and proofread your document first. Better yet, have a grammar-minded friend do it for you. Misspellings, typos and errors show you lack attention to detail.

A cover letter is one of the first pieces of information a hiring manager receives about you. Many hiring managers use your cover letter to read between the lines and figure out what type of person you are. This piece of paper will determine if you get an interview or not.

So what do you want your cover letter to portray? That you’re careless, generic and arrogant? Or that you’re meticulous, dedicated and passionate? Although the interview will ultimately determine if you are hired, your cover letter is your secret password to make it to the interview.

Max Lytvyn, co-founder and head of product strategy for Grammarly, drives the future direction and technical integration of Grammarly’s product portfolio. Connect with Max, the Grammarly team and more than one million Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.

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