The topic of discussion at my friend’s bridal shower shifted to the job market since two people present had experience in recruiting. The bridesmaid next to me started telling a story about how she once made a huge mistake on a cover letter – one that we could all relate to because we’ve probably done something similar before.
In the midst of applying to multiple jobs, she put together what she thought to be a great cover letter. She slightly altered it to fit the three different companies she was applying to and then proceeded to proofread it “about a hundred times.” She sent it off. That was that.
A few weeks later, she hadn’t heard back, but pressed on and decided to apply for a few new jobs she was interested in. When going back to use the same cover letter, she noticed something slightly alarming. Instead of talking about all of her “great work with various public schools” she actually referred to her great work with “pubic schools.”
We all started laughing definitely an embarrassing, but easy to make, mistake. Since she hadn’t received any feedback from the companies, she wondered if her typo was to blame. “Is this typo preventing me from getting calls?” Will general cover letter mistakes be a deal breaker?
The recruiter at the table jumped in.
“It’s probably okay. It’s possible no one even noticed, or read it.” I quickly agreed, “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s an innocent mistake and I think most recruiters care about your experience way more than a typo.” However, I know there are people out there in the opposite camp, who believe grammar, attention to detail, and cover letters in general are a big deal.
In my opinion, making small mistakes on your cover letter is not a big deal.
Many times, cover letters are not even read
If you ask a group of recruiters, you’ll realize that very few of them read cover letters at all. I think the primary reason for this is that, due to time constraints, recruiters have to pick and choose what is most crucial to them in other words, the resume. When a recruiter sends candidates’ information to the hiring manager, it is pretty common for them to only send along resumes or bundles of resumes with many candidates at once, rather than including cover letters.
The recruiting process is already extensive enough without having to read a cover letter as well. Oftentimes, the resume provides sufficient information for you to make a decision, so the cover letter gets tossed aside.
When they are read, cover letters are often skimmed
Although this is not always true, many people still read cover letters. If not, why bother asking for one? That being said, due to time constraints, scanning a cover letter is more likely than reading it in its entirety. The reader is likely searching for the key points and anything that the resume can’t tell them, like passion for the company or why they chose to take their current path. Although they will scan a cover letter quickly to get an overview of who you are, the hiring manager is really looking for the personality and context that a resume can’t always provide.
Because of this, small errors usually go unnoticed. It’s worth mentioning that writing the wrong company name in a cover letter is not minor—this is a careless, big mistake that anyone can see.“Pubic schools” however, could easily be missed.
Your actual skills and past experience outweigh almost everything
In my opinion, the recruiting process favors those who have actual skills and work experience over everyone else. I can give you all the advice I want, but it won’t mean as much if you don’t have any prior skills or experience. Although companies are looking for certain qualifications, you may still get an interview even if you don’t meet all of them or have made a mistake in your cover letter.
Cover letter mistakes can happen in a second—we’re all busy. Experience and skills take years to build, and trump a piece of paper.
This is a tricky topic when job searching, as you will come across people who disagree and may critique someone based on a small mistake in their cover letter. While I don’t believe this is crucial, writing a noteworthy cover letter and checking it for spelling errors multiple times could give you an edge. Sometimes all you need is a second opinion. Ask someone you trust to read it over.
This post was originally published in The Prepary.
What do you think about small typos in a cover letter? Do you have any advice for spotting tiny mistakes, or a story of something going wrong because of them? Let us know in the comments section below!
If you want some tips on how to keep your cover letter clean, ask Levo Mentor Sallie Krawcheck. She’s the Past President of Merrill Lynch, US Trust, and Smith Barney!