A cover letter should strengthen an applicant's chances of landing a job, but if done carelessly, it can be the reason your resume ends up on the rejection pile. Your cover letter should be professional, concise, and informative. Here is a list of common mistakes that you should avoid.
Common Cover Letter Mistakes:
1. Submitting the same cover letter for every position.
If you're going to send a generic cover letter to every hiring manager, you might be better off not sending one at all. Even if you're in a rush, include the name of the company or organization you're applying to in the cover letter.
Never submit a cover letter that does not show your interest in or knowledge of the company you're applying to.
2. Using the incorrect company name.
Never copy and paste sections of one cover letter into another. If you're applying for several jobs, double-check that you've included the correct name of the institution and that you've addressed the letter to the relevant hiring manager.
3. Not conducting sufficient research.
Unless you don't know the name of the company you're applying to, there's no excuse not to conduct research on them. Before constructing a cover letter, you need to look into the company or institution, as well as its key staff members.
Once you have an idea of the company culture, and the initiatives and projects they do, you'll have an idea of the value you can add to their ventures.
4. Embellishing or lying.
It's one thing to repackage your skills and experience so that they work in your favor, but lying about your abilities and work experience to get a position is not okay. If you're hired, you'll be required to make good on the promises you've made.
5. Using an inappropriate tone.
Being too formal can be just as bad as being too casual. By conducting in-depth research on the company or institution, you'll be able to express yourself appropriately.
6. Repeating everything in your resume.
A cover letter should supplement your resume, but it shouldn't be a summary of it. Don't speak at length about yourself in the cover letter; rather use the space to impress the hiring manager with your knowledge of the company and how you plan on adding value with your skills and experience.
7. Drawing attention to your shortcomings.
If you don't have all the qualities or skills specified in the job posting, highlight the strengths you do possess, but don't mention your shortcomings.
8. Misreading the job posting's instructions.
Make sure you've read and re-read all the job posting's instructions and underlined the keywords and phrases before starting your cover letter. If there's specific information they've asked you to include in your cover letter, ensure you have done so.
9. Submitting a cover letter riddled with errors.
You may be the best candidate for the job, but sending the hiring manager a sloppy cover letter won't get you an interview. Make sure you've used tools like Grammarly to double-check for spelling and grammar errors. It is also advisable to get someone else to read over your cover letter before you send it off.
10. Incorrect formatting.
Refrain from using color, graphics, or fancy fonts in your cover letter. Stick to a tried-and-tested format.
11. Having a cover letter that's too long.
Your cover letter should span half a page to one page. Remember, hiring managers receive hundreds of applications and they don't have time to read your essay.
12. Going off-topic or providing too much information.
Keep it short and sweet. Brainstorming your cover letter and mapping out each paragraph before you begin will help to keep you on track. Using a template as a guide is also a good idea.
Don't know where to start? Read our article on How to Write a Cover Letter.
Need to clean up your resume? Read our article on How to Write a Resume.
What are the most common cover letter mistakes?
- Using the incorrect company name.
- Embellishing or lying.
- Using an inappropriate tone.
- Repeating everything in your resume.
- Drawing attention to your shortcomings.
- Submitting a cover letter with spelling and grammar errors.
- Incorrect formatting.
- Providing too much information.
Will a bad cover letter hurt my application?
Yes, a poorly written cover letter can result in your resume not being read or put to the bottom of the pile.
How long should your cover letter be?
A cover letter should not be longer than a single page.
What shouldn't be included in a cover letter?
- Informal greetings.
- Overly personal details.
- Text abbreviations.
What makes a strong cover letter?
- Keeping the letter concise and informative.
- Addressing the hiring manager by name.
- Showing relevant achievements.
- Targeting the needs of the employer.