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Brilliant Cover Letters by James Innes

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CHAPTER 6
The 15 most
common cover
letter mistakes
and how to
avoid them
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M06_INNE4636_01_SE_C06.QXP:M00_INNE4636_01_SE_C00 27/7/09 11:11 Page 114
I
have seen many, many thousands of letters, covering pretty much
every possible kind of job and situation and the difference in them is
vast. However, the same common mistakes crop up time and time
again.Too many jobseekers miss out on their dream job because of a small
number of easily avoided blunders.
Some of the mistakes that people make when writing their cover letter are
very obvious whilst others are much more subtle.The CV Centre has con-
ducted a comprehensive analysis of over 1,000 cover letters to derive a
‘top 15’. In this chapter I will list these 15 most common cover letter
writing mistakes and refer you back to previous chapters where necessary,
to explain why they are a mistake and also how to avoid them.
1 Failing to write to the right person
The best person to address your cover letter to is clearly the person who
is going to be making the decision as to whether or not to interview you.
Too many letters are simply addressed to the ‘HR Manager’ and start,
‘Dear Sir/Madam’. You want to try to get right through to the decision
maker.This is an elementary sales tactic but, unless you work within sales
yourself, you’re unlikely to be aware of how important it is to reach the
person who actually has the power to make the decision you want them
to make.
For further details on obtaining contact names, please refer back to
Chapter 1, page 3: First things first: who are you writing to?
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116 brilliant Cover L etters
2 Not including your own full contact details
I would recommend that you start all your
letters with a professional-looking letterhead.
It is vital that the reader can spot, at a glance,
not only your name but also precisely how to
get in contact with you. Put your name at the
very top, followed by your key contact details address, phone number,
email address and so on. Place your address on one line, with your phone
numbers on the next, and finish with your email address.
To find out exactly how to put together your own letterhead, please
take a look at Chapter 1, page 5: Structure: building your skeleton
letter.
3 Inappropriate email addresses
Whilst having no email address at all on your letter is clearly a problem,
it’s not something I see very often. Far more common is the use of fun or
jokey email addresses.
Whilst these may be fine for corresponding with friends and family,
employers will probably regard more ‘serious’ email addresses as simply
more professional.
You might have taken time to put together a brilliant cover letter, but if
your email address is mrluvverman@example.com then it may harm your
chances. I would suggest you open a new email account to use for pro-
fessional purposes (e.g. Hotmail or Yahoo!) and keep your professional
correspondence separate from your personal correspondence.
To learn more about how to handle email addresses, please see Chapter
1, page 7: Structure: building your skeleton letter.
4 Losing the reader’s interest with your opening
words
The primary goal of your opening paragraph is, of course, to explain to
the reader why it is that you are writing to them.
start all your letters with
a professional-looking
letterhead
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