Although it’s rarely given the credit or the respect that it deserves, the cover letter is actually a crucial component of the job search and application process. Not only can it provide a basic introduction to your skill set and details on some of your most quantifiable accomplishments, the cover letter typically serves as your first impression to any potential employers.
However, the cover letter can be a fickle document. Regardless of how impressive your achievements may be, the entire package can easily be destroyed by mistakes in grammar and punctuation. With that in mind, it’s important that you proofread your cover letter, from start to finish, before distributing it to any potential employers, recruiters or job portals. Apart from identifying such issues, the proofreading process can even be used to expand on any concepts or achievements that may be missing from the letter.
Regardless of the method you use when proofreading, it’s important to remember that we all make mistakes. Moreover, it’s especially easy to do so when preparing a cover letter. Since this step is usually done immediately after completing the resume, the author may already be stressed, fatigued or otherwise distracted. If necessary, take some time to step away from the computer, relax and clear your mind before tackling the cover letter. While this doesn’t prevent any errors in grammar or punctuation, it can help avoid such mistakes that are a result of fatigue or distraction.
One of the most common cover letter mistakes comes when addressing the employer or hiring manager in question. As a general rule of thumb, you should never refer to them as “sir” or “madam.” You should also avoid using the phrase “To Whom It May Concern,” as it tends to lack professionalism. Instead, try to use the surname of the letter’s intended recipient along with the appropriate salutation. Not only does it convey genuine interest in the position as well as the company, it ensures that your documents are delivered to the right desk.
When using a hiring manager’s last name, however, it’s absolutely critical that the spelling is accurate. Although this usually isn’t a problem, some surnames may be spelled in an uncommon or unique way. If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, or if you are unsure of who the exact recipient of your cover letter will be, go ahead and address the letter to the company in general. Again, this ensures that your package is delivered to the appropriate official.
Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend, colleague or family member who may be able to proofread the cover letter for you. Not only does this give the grammar and punctuation of your cover letter the benefit of a fresh set of eyes, it also gives you the opportunity to accept a critique from an unbiased and neutral source. Such critiques are even more useful when delivered by someone who also has experience in your chosen area of expertise.
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