In Australia, the best cover letters will prompt a prospective employer to read your resume. They do this by demonstrating how your skills and experience align with those sought after by the employer.

By briefly outlining how you can add value to their business, the hiring manager will see that you are someone worth investigating further.

Oftentimes, however, an application will be dismissed before the resume is even read, as a result of mistakes in the cover letter.

Here are the most important cover letter mistakes to avoid:

Best cover letters: Avoid typographical errors

Most hiring companies are looking for people with good communication skills.

This will usually include written skills, as well as, verbal ones. Your cover letter is your first, and, often, only opportunity to show your prospective employer that you have the necessary language capabilities to be able to succeed in their business.

Typographical and grammatical errors will often see your application rejected immediately.

Here are some tips:

  1. Make sure to use a spellchecker after drafting your cover letter.
  2. Re-read it to make sure the content is grammatically and contextually correct, as computers will not pick up all of these errors.
  3. Ask someone else to read through it as well. Sometimes we can miss some obvious mistakes as we have read the content a number of times and are ‘too close to it’.

Best cover letters: Avoid using a standard or generic cover letter

You need to tailor your cover letter to the position you are applying for.

One of the quickest ways to have your application overlooked is to send out a generic cover letter which does not address the specific key selection criteria or skill set required.

Things to include in a tailored cover letter are:

  1. The position you are applying for.
  2. The skills and experience you have which qualify you as being suitable for this specific job;
  3. An example of how you applied as many of those skills in a previous role – this should directly tie in with one of the key selection criteria listed in the job advertisement.
  4. The name of the organisation you are applying to; the name of the hiring manager – (do your best to find this out i.e. call them up!) and change the date of your cover letter if you are using a template from a previous application.

Best cover letters: Don’t write too much!

Your cover letter should be concise, encouraging the hiring manager to want to learn more about you by reading your resume, and, ultimately, inviting you to an interview.

By rambling on too much and including unnecessary information, you risk alienating yourself and having your application dismissed.

Keep your cover letter to one page, highlighting your most relevant achievements and skills, always ensuring they match the key selection criteria stated in the position description.

Best cover letters: Avoid buzz words

Using Buzz words or clichés in your cover letter shows a lack of imagination and effort.

Simply recycling those qualities listed in a job ad word-for-word and attributing them to yourself won’t do you much good. Without giving concrete examples of how they apply to you will see your application immediately brushed aside. Examples of such buzz words include:
‘team player’; ‘good communication skills’; ‘hard worker’; and ‘detail-oriented’.

Don’t just tell them you’re a hard worker, show them! You can do this by detailing specific tasks and outcomes you were responsible for, and successful at, while in your previous role(s).

Best cover letters: Include appropriate personal details

Personal details such as your age, hobbies and marital status should not be included in your cover letter.

Not only are they usually irrelevant to the job you are applying for, but they could also give the person reading your cover letter an excuse to dismiss your application without having read your resume.

An employer wants to see how your previous work experience relates to the position on offer.  So unless your outside interests are pertinent to the role, it’s best to not include them in your cover letter.

Best cover letters: Don’t exaggerate or lie about skills or experience

Sometimes job seekers are tempted to exaggerate their skills or experience to improve their chances of obtaining an interview.
This is a big mistake.

Whether the prospective employer asks you about it during an interview or calls your previous employer to ask them, you will nearly always be found out.

It is much better to really think about how your actual experience relates to the qualities and key selection criteria being sought after.  Once you have found qualitative and quantitative examples of this experience, aim to express this honestly and in your own words.

If you would like further help in putting together your cover letter, please feel free to get in touch.

We wish you all the best in your job search!
Careers Team, Career Success Australia