1. Addressing your letter with “To whom it may concern”
This makes for a rather impersonal starting point. Do some research, and find out exactly who will be reading your cover letter. This is easier than you think. The Muse suggests, “Go to LinkedIn and do a People search using the company’s name as your search term. Scroll through the people working at that company until you find someone who appears to be the hiring manager.”
2. Not being specific
Changing the company name and position title in your generic cover letter is not enough to stand out from other applicants. Hiring managers can tell. If your letter lacks specific examples relevant to the job description or reasons why you are interested in that company above others, you may appear uninterested. It takes time, but writing a tailored cover letter to each position that you are applying for will give you a great return on investment.
3. Omitting examples
Don’t assume the hiring manager will take you for your word when you say you have “superior leadership skills.” Try giving an example, or telling a story that defends your claim. These can give the hiring manager a more vivid and memorable picture of how exactly you’ve excelled in the past, and how you meet the qualifications for the position.
4. Leave nothing to the imagination
Your cover letter does not need to be a novel. It certainly doesn’t have to be lengthy to be effective. Keep it short and simple. Three or four short paragraphs are usually enough. Remember, the objective of this letter is to get you called in for an interview, not to recite every single reason why you would be perfect for the job.
5. Failure to ask for the interview
Your cover letter should always end with a call to action. Your goal at every stage of the hiring process must be to move the process along to the next step. At the end of your cover letter, ask for the interview. Glassdoor has compiled a great list 5 Phrases To Close Your Cover Letter & Land The Interview.
6. Technology Flukes
If you are applying to a position via web, do your best to avoid any potential technology mishaps when submitting your application. Harvard Law School recommends, “If you are sending your materials electronically, and no file format is specified, convert your files to PDF to preserve formatting. Be sure to include both your last name and the type of document (resume, writing sample, etc.) in the filename to facilitate the recipient's ability to store and locate these files.”
Keeping these mistakes out of your cover letter can get you one step closer to landing that dream job.