You’re doing everything you can to carry out a successful job search and land the position of your dreams, but could your cover letter be sabotaging your chances without your knowledge?
There’s a slight possibility that you might be sending the wrong message, despite your intention to do the opposite. Words and tone can be tricky, and in written messages, you don’t have the benefit of your voice and facial expressions to clarify a confusing statement or correct a misleading one.
Watch out for mixed or damaging messages like the ones below that can potentially cause more harm than good:
1. Disparaging your company’s competitors.
Be careful before you make any negative remark—no matter how offhand or lighthearted—about your company’s competitors. You don’t really know anything about the relationship between these two organizations, and you don’t know how your readers feel about the company you’re mocking or dismissing. It’s possible they may have worked for the competitor company in the past, or they may have friends and colleagues who work there currently. Remember the rule your grandmother taught you: if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.
2. Accidentally disparaging your previous employers.
Most of us know better than to trash our former employers outright in a cover letter or job interview. But there are subtle and accidental ways of sending the same damaging message. For example, don’t suggest that your tenure with the former employer taught you nothing. Don’t imply that you were unhappy while you worked there (that’s TMI for a cover letter). And don’t let your letter become a laundry list of the excellent workplace qualities that your former employer didn’t have or couldn’t provide.
3. Accidentally disparaging yourself.
It’s okay to be humble (though employers don’t really expect or require this trait in the context of a cover letter). And it’s okay to describe your accomplishments in a straightforward, unembellished way. In fact, this makes your claims easier to believe, and therefore easier to respect. But recognize the line between unadorned honesty and the suggestion that you’re anything less than awesome in every way. The first is okay, the second is not.
4. Emphasizing qualities that aren’t actually positives.
You’re desperate to win at all costs. You have an intense, blind drive to compete. You know more about everything than everyone else. These qualities sound like positive traits that employers will want, right? Actually, no. There are some traits that might seem marketable in theory, but don’t actually lead to great hiring decisions in real life. Employers don’t usually love the idea of hiring a relentless robot. After all, they have to work beside you every single day.
5. Trying too hard to spin, hide, or sugarcoat the truth.
Of course there may be elements of your past that you’d like to gloss over in a job application, but be careful. When you try too hard to do this, employers can’t see what you’re hiding, but they can definitely see that you’re hiding something—and that’s no good.
Show Off Your Best Side
Be yourself in your cover letter…but be your BEST self. Let employers know what you have to offer and what makes you the perfect choice for this position. For cover letter help, use LiveCareer to create a cover letter in just a few minutes.