Dear sir/madam… you don’t know who you are addressing it to?
… then find out. Work experience letters are so impersonal when you don’t know the name, let alone the sex of the person that will be reading it. Sometimes it will state on their website, or on the advertisement for work experience who to address it too, so make sure you read it properly. If not, FIND OUT who to address your cover letter to. It takes less than five minutes to call up and ask who deals with work experience, and if they haven’t made this clear, then they will be impressed.
A vague description of the publication (I like celebrities, beauty and fashion)
Anyone knows that in a cover letter, you have to show why you love the magazine/website/newspaper. Why does it suit you, why should you be working there, and how much do you know about it? Being vague shows the opposite of that. If you are writing to a woman’s glossy magazine applying for work experience, saying you love celebrities, beauty and fashion will get you no where, because it isn’t specific about the magazine. What specific features do you enjoy, what works best in their magazine, and why does it suit you? If you can, refer to the last three issues of the publication.
ANY errors whatsoever
A given, but it had to be included in my top 5. When hearing editors speak at conferences, answer interview questions on the topic, or blog about it, an error that is always mentioned is spelling mistakes. Read it, read it again, don’t look at it for a day, and then read it again. Give it to your mum, dad, brother, auntie and friend to read. Don’t let any spelling or grammatical error that is unlike you, decide whether or not you will be successful.
Not saying what you can bring to the team… so you’re a graduate but what can you actually do?
This is something I failed to do on work experience – so you have told them what you do (graduate/intern/NCTJ qualified, etc.), you’ve told them why you like their magazine, but have you said what you can bring to the team? What qualities do you have that could work well, how will you utilise what you already know? If you’re a social media boff and a serial blogger, say that. What could you help with, what will you bring to the team (apparently for the stereotypical and obvious)?
Not attaching your CV
If they ask for it or if they don’t… ATTACH IT. If they like your covering letter, which should make you stand out, they will go on to find out more about you on your CV. Make your covering letter less wordy and repetitive by saying refer to your CV for more information. If they don’t ask for it, and you are applying off your own back for work experience, attaching your CV will make you look professional. They are able to get an overview of your experience and won’t be left wanting to ask more questions.