The 10 most common mistakes found in job search letters

Avoid these common errors and you will be well on your way to achieving an effective, attractive, professional letter.

1. Not sending a covering letter in the first place. 

    Always send a letter highlighting the main points in your favour. Don’t expect a prospective employer to   plough through your CV or application form and work out your merits for themselves. They probably don’t have the time. 

2. Dwelling on negatives. 

   Tell people what you can do, not what you can’t. If you don’t have the major qualifications or experience that the employer is asking for, consider whether you should be applying at all.

3. Sending letters to a job title instead of a name, and starting ‘Dear Sir or Madam’.

   Always send letters, CVs and forms to named individuals. Don’t leave it up to the company to decide whose responsibility it is; the chances are it will end up as nobody’s. Take the trouble to find out the name and position of the person you should be writing to.

4. Poor spelling and grammar. 

    If you don’t take trouble over your application letter, why should they expect you to take any trouble over your job?

5. Irrelevant information. 

    Unfortunately, it’s tempting to put your most impressive credentials in the letter when applying for a job, even when these are not strictly relevant to the position. An employer is looking for the most suitable person for the job, not necessarily the most highly qualified. With only one page in which to make your case, get directly to the point, and leave everything else for your CV or application form.

6. Overwritten. Write as if you were speaking clearly and naturally to a colleague.

    There is no need to use special 42 Readymade job search letters language or elaborate phrases when writing business letters. The simpler and plainer your style, the more likely it is that your letter will be read and understood.

7. Badly presented.

    Present your letters on plain, white, good quality A4-size paper. They should be printed unless a handwritten letter is specifically asked for. Avoid ordinary small-sized writing-pad paper, coloured or patterned paper and coloured inks, as they look unprofessional.

8. Too long. 

    Everything that you need to say you can usually fit on to one page – or a page and a half in exceptional circumstances.

9. Difficult to read. 

    Long paragraphs, dense text and convoluted sentences make letters look unappealing. Keep your letter clear and concise, with a short, straightforward structure, and lots of white space. Use wide margins and leave a line space between short paragraphs.

10. Inappropriate style. 

     Don’t feel you need to adopt a ‘dynamic’ or ‘hard sell’ style of writing for your letters; the result can often seem arrogant, tactless or flippant. Stick to a friendly, natural, businesslike approach.

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