Your cover letters are your first and best chance to impress hiring managers. You’ll want these cover letter mistakes to avoid losing your job application.

1. Mistake: Sharing too much personal story

You may feel more comfortable sharing personal stories about your connection to the mission as a nonprofit professional. However, it is important to maintain a healthy balance. You can lose your audience if you share too many personal stories.

Don’t be afraid to devote two to three sentences of your cover letter to the reasons you are drawn to that particular organization or role. This is a requirement for every cover letter. It can be very helpful to give a brief description of the reasons that you are applying for the job.

Tip: Having a personal connection with the work can prove to be incredibly helpful to sector switchers.

2. Mistake: Not highlighting important connections

The most common way this mistake is made is in one of these two ways:

1). It is not necessary to explicitly link your work history with the details of the job description.

2). Not identifying the most important elements of the job description and not tailoring your cover letters accordingly.

These are the things you need to keep in mind when writing your cover letter.

  • Take a look at the job description to see what responsibilities and requirements it contains. These details will almost always be in bold or under headers.
  • Choose two to three responsibilities that you want to concentrate on. Your cover letter should make clear connections between your experiences and the requirements of the employer.
  • Write two to three sentences that highlight your volunteer work. You should be able to make a convincing case for why you are a good candidate in this field.

These are just a few examples.

  • Employers may require strong research skills. You can tell them: “I have strong research experience conducting qualitative and quantitative analyses over the past three years.”
  • Employers are looking for a seasoned manager. You can tell them: “In my previous roles, I have managed direct reports, interns and cross-functional team members.”

3. Mistake: Typos, typos, typos…..

You can proofread it and then sleep on it. There is nothing worse than hitting send and then finding a typo.

Once you’ve finished your resume and cover letter, save it and go away for at least one day. You’ll be able to see clearly and avoid making any mistakes.

You want more information on how to write a cover letter that is memorable? Our cheatsheet and guide to spotting formatting errors are great resources.


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