6 Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid

Published: Oct 26, 2023

 Job Search       Resumes & Cover Letters       
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An effective cover letter has the potential to be one of the most powerful tools in your job search arsenal. It can provide a strong introduction that grabs the hiring manager’s attention, and may provide further details that aren’t necessarily included on your resume. On the other hand, a hastily thrown-together cover letter can actually hurt your chances at landing a job. Here are some cover letter mistakes you should avoid.

Overcomplicating Things

Your cover letter should highlight your unique personality and achievements, but it should also be concise and easy to read. Flexing those vocabulary muscles isn’t very important here, as the use of flowery or otherwise overly-complicated language might be distracting for the hiring manager. Along with this, keep your paragraphs short. The hiring manager won’t take more than several seconds to skim through each candidate’s cover letter, so brevity is key.

You might be thinking that the use of graphics or vibrant colors will help make your cover letter stand out, but the philosophy described above still applies. Flashy imagery and colors will only serve as a distraction. If you’re applying for a job in the creative industry, let your portfolio do the talking. Otherwise, keep your cover letter short and impactful, and let your personality and achievements be what set you apart from other candidates.

Not Conducting Research

You might have noticed that the idea of conducting research makes its way into almost all of our advice on job seeking, interviewing, and resume building. Yes friends, conducting research is incredibly important when it comes time to write a cover letter. First and foremost, job descriptions often provide specific instructions for submitting applications, which might include particulars about your cover letter. Always follow these instructions. If you don’t, it’s quite likely you won’t be considered for the job.

Your research will also allow you to make connections between your skills and achievements, and the responsibilities outlined in the job description. If you notice certain keywords in the job description, use them in your cover letter. Lots of companies use applicant tracking software that will identify such keywords, and if the hiring manager recognizes these connections in your cover letter, it will greatly increase your chances of being selected for the role.

Using a Generic Cover Letter

When applying to a lot of jobs in succession you might think that recycling your cover letter will help you save time, but most hiring managers can spot a generic cover letter a mile away. When preparing your cover letter, you can rely on your trusty research to provide you with details such as the job title, company name, values and mission, and perhaps even the name of the hiring manager. Including such details or referencing them in your cover letter will show the hiring manager that you’re thorough and thoughtful.

Revealing Unnecessary Details

You should always be honest on your resume, during a job interview, and when writing your cover letter. That said, you don’t want to reveal any unnecessary information that could potentially damage your candidacy. For starters, don’t include any irrelevant work experience, and if you’re lacking one of the skills outlined on the job description, don’t go out of your way to highlight that fact. If the latter is the case, take the time to develop any necessary skills whenever possible.

Other things to avoid are telling the story of why you left your last job, why you’re leaving your current job, the reasons why you and your boss don’t get along, or making any negative comments about previous employers and coworkers. None of these topics will win you any points with the hiring manager, and will absolutely ruin your chances at landing the job in question.

Talking About Money

A good cover letter will demonstrate your value to the company and role you’re applying for. If you include any mention of salary expectations in your cover letter, the hiring manager might see you as being more interested in what you can get from the company, rather than what you can do to help the company succeed. Very rarely does a job listing ask you to include your desired salary in your cover letter, but if it does, provide a range rather than a specific figure.

Not Proofreading

This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised. If you’re in a frenzy with applying to multiple jobs, you could completely forget to proofread your cover letter. This can happen to anyone, so it’s best to take your time and be deliberate with each application. Read over each cover letter very carefully, make sure you’ve included all the relevant information, and ensure that superfluous details have been excluded.

A good tactic for effective proofreading is to take a step away from your cover letter after you write it. After some time, you’ll be less familiar with your writing, making it easier to spot spelling and grammar mistakes. If you send out a cover letter that’s full of errors and silly mistakes, it will make you seem uninterested or even lazy—this is precisely what we don’t want.

Like any other aspect of your job search, a good cover letter takes effort and patience. Always take the time to tailor each cover letter, letting your excitement and enthusiasm shine through. Keep it short and simple, don’t be too flashy about it, and exclude any irrelevant information. Eventually, you’ll be a pro at writing concise, impactful cover letters.