Common Cover Letter Mistakes

Common Cover Letter Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When it comes to job applications, cover letters have long been a mainstay. They provide an opportunity to elaborate on details you couldn’t fit onto your resume and further explain why you’re the best candidate for the job. But what can you do to sidestep the pitfalls that might end up hindering your likelihood of getting called in for an interview? Below, we have eight common cover letter mistakes — and what you can do to avoid them.

Spelling and grammar mistakes

As with resumes, submitting a cover letter with multiple errors could be a red flag to potential employers. We all make mistakes, but hiring managers are looking for candidates who show care and attention to detail. To make sure you highlight that:

  • Read through your cover letter multiple times to catch any mistakes your initial read-throughs missed
  • Have friends, family, and/or mentors or career coaches read your resume to give it some fresh pairs of eyes

Not following directions

In some cases, employers will have specific instructions for what they want included in the cover letter or how they want it formatted. Not following these directions won’t bode well to them when it comes to how you’ll do your work once hired. Show that you can pay attention and carry out instructions correctly by:

  • Re-reading the application to ensure there are no details or specifications you overlooked

Restating what’s in your resume

A cover letter is meant to support your resume and expand on things you couldn’t fully fit in, not be a complete rehashing. After all, the hiring manager already has your resume, so simply putting information from one page to the other won’t do you any favors. Rather:

  • Use the cover letter as a chance to put your cover letter into context and discuss items you only had room to touch on in the resume
  • If you still notice too many similarities between the two, reframe points to showcase how past accomplishments at previous companies will be a benefit at the prospective company

Being too formal — or too casual

With a cover letter, you want to find the right balance between formal and personable. While too much formality (“To whom it may concern”) can be off-putting, using language that’s too casual risks coming off as unprofessional. Find this balance by:

  • Researching the company to match their tone
  • Avoiding slang, nonessential jargon, and vulgarities

Going longer than a page

Hiring managers have to go through several cover letters for each open role, so it’s important to get your point across concisely. Most agree that it should be kept to less than one page, with three to five paragraphs. To get to this length:

  • Pare down your content to only what is essential
  • Research the company’s mission and goals, and focus on what matters to the employer

Submitting the same generic cover letter for every application

Submitting the same letter for all of your applications might save some time, but it can negatively impact your chances of landing an interview. With one generic cover letter, you risk both blending into the crowd and giving the impression that you’re not passionate about this job in particular. So, use this as an opportunity to show how you’re a good fit for this individual position by:

  • Adding details specific to the company that show your application is for this role, not just any role
  • Using the job listing and company website to find language that’s aligned with their mission, values, and expectations for the role

Sharing irrelevant information

As we said earlier, shorter cover letters are better. Going on tangents that aren’t strictly relevant to the job not only takes up valuable space, but also forces the reader to wade through superfluous information to find what’s pertinent. And if what you’re sharing is too personal, you might even end up making them uncomfortable. In order to avert this:

  • Use your edits to cut out anything that doesn’t apply to this role and why you’ll be a great fit for it

Only talking about yourself

Think of the cover letter as your sales pitch — the most effective strategy is not to talk solely about you and your needs, but about how you can meet the needs of the company. Hiring managers will want to know what you bring to the table that will benefit the organization. Ensure your cover letter has the right framing by:

  • Looking at the company’s website and recent news to see how your skills and experience fit into it
  • Putting yourself in the shoes of your prospective employer to write about what they want, not what you want

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