With so many PR internship and fashion PR job listings coming through our job board (and oh so many resumes of soon-to-be PR graduates in my inbox), it seems like a good time to pen a short article with several common cover letter mistakes. Most of these hold true for any email you may be sending that is essentially asking someone to give you something you want (a job, knowledge, a business connection, gold Fendi heels).
Using To Whom it May Concern (it's concerning)
If you can't take the time to figure out a contact name, there's really no reason for the recipient of your cover letter to read any further. With LinkedIn, Twitter and dear old Google, there's really no reason why you can't find and use a person's name. Even if you are sending a general "no idea if you are hiring but..." type email, and only have an info or hello email, address it to the CEO.
Telling me what I can do for you (that's not how this works)
Instead of explaining what a great opportunity this job would create for you, focus on explaining how your experience directly applies to the roles and responsibilities listed in the job description. If you are looking for an internships or entry-level position and have little to no experience, focus on the character traits (with evidence/examples) that you possess that would benefit the office. If you are a stickler for detail, color code your calendar and have been editing your small town newsletter since you were 12, I want to hear about it. If you worked at a high-end spa where you were responsible for scheduling and confirming more than 100 appointments a day and making a kick-ass cappuccino at a moment's notice, tell me about it.
Your cover letter should make me absolutely convinced you are someone I want on my team.
Writing an essay (creates unnecessary work for both of us)
A cover letter should be no more than 3 short, carefully edited paragraphs. Use subheads and bullet points to make it easy for me to scan the highlights of your accomplishments.
Sending a Miss America moment (soapbox not required)
Save any emotional hyperbole, impassioned speeches and long-winded takes of passion, desire and perseverance for late night deep talks with your besties. I do not need your life story, or your current stress levels or challenges. I do need to feel like you are potentially capable of solving my challenges with competent, enthusiastic solutions.
Your cover letter should not read like the beginning of a novel, love story, creative writing assignment or multiple Pinterest inspirational quotes strung together. Instead answer the following questions:
- Who are you?
- What are your qualifications?
- What makes you unique?
- Why should I hire you?
Ah, that feels better. In contrast, a great cover letter is personalized, personable and focuses on the amazing gifts and talents you bring to the table. Focusing on results, creative thinking, and using straightforward business writing is absolutely key toward moving out of the trash can and into the interview pile. Good luck!
PS: For a few more ideas on how to write emails that get a response, check out our Pitch Templates for Job Seekers and this article for new grads looking to land that first PR job.
Photo Credit: Victor Bezrukov