Common Cover Letter Mistakes

Fall is well underway, which means its recruiting season for the KGSB! In order to be prepared to apply for your dream job (and get an offer), it’s important to have a well written cover letter to support your application. To review, a cover letter can add value to your application by allowing one to connect the dots from previous experiences to the skills needed in the position.  To do so successfully, let’s review three common mistakes made by students when writing a cover letter:

  • Opening paragraph common mistake: Not addressing why you’re interested in the position. Too often do I review cover letters that neglect to explain why the student is interested in this position with said company. Think of it this way, if you’re an accounting student, you could apply for accounting positions at a Big Four firm, a small local business, a school, you name it. However, what is it that makes you want to be an accountant for this specific company/institution? By researching the employer and listing what it is that really drew you to this opportunity, you will sound more genuinely interested and appear more attractive. Remember, it’s about the employer. They want to know why you want to work for them, so give them your answer!
  • Middle paragraph common mistake: Re-writing your resume. In my opinion, this is one of the easiest mistakes to make when writing a cover letter for the first time. With that being said, it is also the worst ones to make! Don’t get me wrong, it is important to narrate your past accomplishments and transferrable skills. Employers will want to know what skills you bring to the table to better understand the value you could add to their team. However, this ‘value’ piece is usually what is missed. After explaining the skills you have, be sure to connect it back to the position.  Make is easy for employers to see that you have the skills they’re looking for!
  • Closing paragraph common mistake: Making the focus about you instead of the company. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but employers are looking for people that will make them better- not candidates that will become better professionals by working for them. For example, by using phrases such as, ‘this position will allow me to build my skill set’, or ‘this company would help me grow as a professional’, the focus is then on your own personal growth. These types of phrases can be re-worded to showcase the impact that you would bring to the company instead, which will make your cover letter much more powerful. Try and put yourself in the place of the employer. If you were hiring a candidate, which type of phrase would sound more appealing to you as the reader?

For more information on writing and constructing a cover letter, please check out the Kellstadt MBA/MS Career Strategy Guide on Handshake.

This blog post was written my Kathleen McDonald, graduate intern in the CMC who provides support to our International students.


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