Common Mistakes People Make When Writing a Cover Letter

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By Kaleem Ullah

Have you been looking for a new job opportunity and can’t really put your finger on what exactly has been going wrong? You give your best to put together a killer application and, yet, you haven’t been hearing back from employers. The answer may be secretly lying on your cover letter.

A cover letter is a very important part of your profile as a job applicant. Sometimes companies require one, other times it is optional and, in some cases, it is not required all together. Truth is: frequently, your cover letter can say a lot more about you than your resume itself. That is because it allows recruiters, once they have read about your experience on your resume, to take a deeper look at your character, interests, motivations and the way you see things. It really can be your opportunity to show them why you can excel at that job and be just what they are looking for.

A cover letter can either boost or ruin your application and, with it, the chances of getting the job you so badly want. So this article puts together a few tips on what to look out for when writing your cover letter, so you can avoid hurting it without even knowing. That way, you can increase your chances of getting an interview and the job you want.

Check out the most common mistakes people make when writing a cover letter:

Being Too Formal or Too Informal

Being overly formal, such as using terms like “Dear Sir/Madam…” can be awkward and end up hurting your cover letter, depending on the type of jobs you are going for.

For instance, if the place you are applying for is a trendy creative company, start-up or agency, it might be better to avoid too much formality, because that can show them a possible inability to fit into the company’s culture. The important thing is to do your research on the culture of the place that you are applying for to make sure you match their tone and their culture in your cover letter.

On the other hand, you can never let yourself be too informal because that can send a message that you may not be serious or professional about the job. Remember: you can be friendly without sounding unprofessional.

Using the Same Cover Letter for Multiple Jobs

Using a stock cover letter may seem quick, easy and efficient, but recruiters will, most likely, be able to tell if you wrote a unique cover letter for that job or if you are just sending out the same document to all job applications. And, if you are, it doesn’t look good for you during a hiring process because it can suggest laziness or that you are not really bothered about that job opportunity.

The tip here is to keep a document where you have a “cover letter foundation”. You can write a list or a paragraph about your main skills, experiences and opinions that you believe make you a good professional. But, for every job application, be sure to sort out which parts are relevant for that specific position and develop a unique cover letter from that.

Including Too Much or Too Little Information

When writing a cover letter, always ask yourself if that information is entirely relevant to the job opportunity you are applying for. If the answer is no, it’s best you leave it out, especially if it is personal information. The reason for that is because recruiters are oftenly short on time and it can make them distracted, missing out on the important information.

On the other hand, cover letters that are way too short will fail to give recruiters a good snapshot on who you are as a professional and will, most likely, make you seem unprofessional or not interested enough on the job.

As a general rule, your letter should focus on telling the recruiter why you can be the best-qualified person for that specific job, and everything you have to offer the company. Try to get that message across while aiming to fill about 2/3 of an A4 document.

Talking Too Much About Yourself and Your Skills

This one can be an easy mistake to make. After all, it’s your cover letter.

For starters, that can easily sound like bragging, especially if you use exaggerating terms to describe yourself like “amazing at excel ” or “I have superior time management skills’ ‘. This will not look good for you. Try to focus on finding the balance between selling yourself and bragging.

On a second note, at this point, employers are not that interested in understanding how the role or the company can fit your personal needs. They want to know how the company will benefit from hiring you. Keep in mind the employer’s point of view and talk about yourself and your skills relating to what you can positively bring to the company.

Writing Anything That Is Not True

Your cover letter should be as honest as your resume. Under any circumstances should you mention anything that is not true because facts can be checked and, if you end up getting hired, you can come across a situation that will ask for a skill or experience that you mentioned on your cover letter and you can find yourself in a tough spot. And, again, any of the situations mentioned above happen, it will not look for you.

Mentioning Salary Expectations

Unless applicants are directed to do so, you should never include salary requirements on your cover letter. By doing so, you can make it look like you are only interested and motivated by the money. Remember that this is the moment to show the employer your interest on the position itself.

Mentioning Negative Comments About a Current or Past Job/Employer

Including negative comments about a job or employer can come off as rude, inappropriate and an indication of a possible bad attitude or problems with performance or with team work. So always make sure to leave negative comments out of your cover letter.

Forgetting To Proofread It

You should always check your cover letter for grammar errors and/or misspelled words. Use an actual word processor program to make sure the process is thorough and will not let any mistakes slip.

If your cover letter is presented with grammar errors it can send the recruiter a message that you can be sloppy or lazy. So check, recheck and check again before turning in your cover letter.

Presenting a Bad Layout

Even if you are not applying for a job that requires design skills, presenting a cover letter that shows a poor layout will cause the recruiter the same impression as not proofreading it: that you may be sloppy, lazy or even, are not taking the position seriously.

A good tip is to avoid colors and unprofessional fonts, and remembering to divide your cover letter into short paragraphs.

Showing Exaggerated Interest in the Job

While you need to show interest in the position and sell yourself, showing exaggerated interest can make you look desperate. And showing desperation can make the recruiter lose interest in your application.

Keep your cover letter professional, avoiding exaggerated terms and exclamation points.

Feel free to use these tips to review your most recent cover letters and check if you have made any of these mistakes. Keep this list in mind for the next ones you send out and they will, most likely, perform a lot better!