Typical Cover Letter Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Because your cover letter is the initial point of contact with a company with which you want to work, you must avoid making any of these cover letter blunders, which can jeopardize your chances of being called in for an interview.

To whom it may concern

If you have a precise contact name, you will be personalizing your letter. This will get the reader’s attention. Be sure you also have spelled that person’s name correctly. Do some detective work if you have to. Check company websites, or even call. You’d be surprised. John Smith could be John Smythe. If someone isn’t interested enough to spell my name correctly, I’m going to assume they don’t want the job.

Reciting your resume

Your letter should convey the energy and attitude that your resume can’t. Here is your chance to say something more tailored to the reader’s needs. He/she can read your resume and get a picture of what your hard skills are, so you do not need to restate them in the letter. 

Instead, you can convey your relevant accomplishments, your enthusiasm, and passion in your cover letter. Convey your brand or your value-add to the reader rather than a boring laundry list that is paraphrased from your resume. If it is difficult to do it yourself, get help from an essay writing service or other professional writers. So, what is your unique selling feature? What is your most salient accomplishment? Why should the employer talk to you? Why do you want to work there? Don’t hold back. Don’t sound like all the other cookie-cutter cover letters out there. And do not recite your resume.

Look how smart I am

The cover letter is not the place to demonstrate your witty banter style or verbal one-upmanship skills. If you are applying for a writing job, then your portfolio will speak volumes, right? Clever and witty do not always sell as well as enthusiastic and motivated. Save your comedic talents for the comedy clubs. In a cover letter, they can be a major turn-off.

The IM cover letter

You figure since everyone texts, or IMs, that you can be brief, that all the reader has to do is read about the wonderful you in your resume, so why waste your time crafting a great cover letter? Well, think again. The cover letter is not a transmittal, and not a text message. “Just read it on my resume” is no longer an option.

You have to work hard to keep your reader engaged. You need to sell, and writing a couple of lines won’t do it. I fight my students on this one constantly. There is a difference between being brief and being concise. Some people short-change themselves by not saying enough. Remember, this is your first opportunity to impress your potential employer, so you need to make a good first impression.

Everything but the kitchen sink

This letter rambles is wordy and wants to convey copious detail to the reader as if leaving anything off would cost the job. Remember this: In front of your reader is a stack several inches thick. 

He/she is human, overloaded, and has already read dozens of badly worded letters. You want to make his or her day by being original, exciting, and different than the others. Also, anyone who has to face a pile of long grey paragraphs on a printed page will glaze over quickly and put you in the discard pile before they doze off. Be selective. Also, if you feel like you can’t do it yourself, you always can apply for coursework writing help and receive appropriate advice. Be concise. Be relevant. Don’t tell your life story. If you bog the employer down in too many details and type, he/she will stop reading after 2 seconds

Me, me, me

You’re looking for a great job, with great pay, great benefits, and great opportunities, aren’t you? Of course, you are, but going on and on about that in your cover letter will not win you the job, and not even an interview. Newsflash! It’s not about you. It’s about the employer. 

It’s about what you have to offer them to solve their problems, increase their bottom line, improve their processes, and in short, save them time or money or both. Self-centered letters are a major turn-off. Watch out for too many I’s or we’s. Focus on “you”, the reader, the employer, and how you can add value to the company. 

I want your job

There’s a huge difference between conveying your accomplishments and the grandiosity that presents an exaggerated version of yourself. So don’t say your goals are to get the manager’s job or to take over the company. Major turn off! Instead, stick with what you can contribute.

The sloppy cover letter

Writing errors including spelling, grammar, wording, and even punctuation mistakes call into question your professionalism. Do yourself a favor. Run a spell-check. Get a second pair of eyes to check your letter. You won’t regret it.

If it’s not too much trouble

This person is meek as a mouse and self-effacing to a fault. Somebody once told this person that promoting him/herself was not a good thing, that it was rude. The cover letter is not the place to tell the employer what you can’t do, or how if “it’s not too much trouble”, you could be a file clerk or something, or that you made a lot of mistakes at your last job. Trust me, we all make them. Get over it. Tell them what you can do, what it is you have to offer.

Selling is not a dirty word

The cover letter is the place to shine, a place to sell. Many career experts are now offering advice that is similar to copywriting techniques (promotional writing), because yes, it is that competitive out there, and employers can pick and choose who they want. Do give your reader a reason to toss your application.