Even the most experienced job hunters can produce pretty shoddy cover letters. As a school leaver, you might not be used to applying for jobs, but it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t put together a good cover letter. Now you’ve learnt how to write a cover letter, here are five cover letter mistakes you really don’t want to make…
Wittering on about yourself…
"Huh?" I hear you ask, "but a covering letter is supposed to be about me, right?"
Unfortunately, a cover letter is not a one-page bragging competition, rather a chance to show the company what you can do for them. It’s not about what skills you have, rather showing them that you have the attributes they want. A subtle difference, but very important.
Another thing they don’t want to hear about is your life story. Cover letters must be to the point; recruiters want to know why you’d be a great fit for their school leaver programme, not about how the death of your pet hamster (named Voldemort because you ABSOLUTELY OH MY GOD love Harry Potter) profoundly affected you.
Not tailoring your cover letter to the company
You don’t have to write a five page essay dissecting the strengths and weaknesses of the company, but you should know what they do, who they are and why you’re interested in them. Better still, you should convey that in your cover letter. It's not a good idea to produce a generic cover letter to send off to every school leaver programme going. Instead, have the specifics of one particular company at the back of your mind when writing to them.
Not checking your cover letter
Other than checking for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, you should also read your cover letter out loud to ensure that it makes sense and the structure of the letter works. Channel your inner teacher and go through your first draft with a red pen correcting it. It’s worth getting someone else to read it through too. A fresh pair of eyes can pick up mistakes you might have missed.
Using boring stock phrases
Imagine going to a photography exhibition and, instead of seeing interesting, beautifully shot photographs, you are confronted with stock image upon stock image of people gurning over a piggy bank or having a very important, very fake business meeting. That’s what it feels like for a recruiter reading letter upon letter littered with phrases like “I’m exceedingly interested in…” and “I would relish the opportunity to…” Try and think of ways to mix up your writing style in your cover letter, whilst keeping it formal. The company want to get a sense of the (professional) person behind your cover letter, not that you are very good at sounding like someone else.
Overlong cover letters
You’re no Jack Kerouac: your cover letter shouldn’t span a 120 foot roll of teletype paper. Recruiters will usually get loads of applications for their school leaver programmes and they don’t want to spend ages reading your cover letter. Therefore, try to keep your school leaver cover letter relatively short, i.e. less than a page and between three and four short paragraphs long. It shouldn’t be too short, as only writing a couple of sentences will look lazy. The secret is to cut out any waffle and keep it regimentally relevant to the school leaver programme and the company.
So there you have it, take note of these and you’ll be well on your way to writing a winning school leaver cover letter.
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