5 Mistakes Never To Make on a Cover Letter

Career concept in word tag cloud

When you are writing your cover letter, it is important to remember that your reader will likely have read dozens just like yours – all of which were trying to stand out just like you.  This reader will likely be bored and crabby, which means that they will probably be looking for excuses to weed you out.  In this situation, the worst mistakes are the kinds that make your letter boring or difficult to read.  Here are 5 such errors to avoid at all cost.

1.  Affect vs. Effect

If you’re writing a good cover letter, chances are that you will be discussing how you affected your past teams or what effect you had on a particular project.  The ‘affect’ your work had on the rising number of users will stand out like a sore thumb and hurt you rather than help you.

2.  Poor Salutation

Think back to those letters you get in the mail that start with Dear Resident.  Think about what your first impression is of a letter that starts out like that.  Probably that it is trash, right?  Well that’s what recruiters and hiring managers think when they see Dear Recruiter or Dear Hiring Manager.  Not only does it feel like a form letter, it also shows that you didn’t bother to figure out who you were supposed to address it to.  If you absolutely can’t find a name, don’t resort to a completely generic title.  It would be better to address the letter to Company Name Team or format your letter so that it does not need a salutation at all.

3.  Too Long

Unless you have truly world-changing experiences, your cover letter should never exceed one page.  In fact, the shorter the better.  This article from The Muse even says that the most successful cover letter in a job search experiment was only 150 words long.  Your cover letter is just your hook.  Save some for your resume and the rest for the interview.

4.  Repeating Your Resume

You already have your Resume to list your past jobs and education.  Spending valuable space on these things in your cover letter is redundant, and most importantly, a huge loss of opportunity.  Your cover letter is your opportunity to make the hiring manager like you.  Use your strengths to woo them.  Telling a story about a specific instance where your work made a big difference is a good strategy to use.  If you are writing a creative cover letter, you could even try out some humor (but be careful – you want them to laugh with you, not at you!).

5.  Cliches

Your game changing use of synergies or the sheer motivation you put forth is cliched and usually doesn’t even mean anything.  Can you prove to an employer that you are motivated?  Probably not.  Only claim things you can eventually relate back to an experience in your cover letter.  Throwing out buzzwords will make the reader’s eyes glaze over, and the next thing you know, your letter is in the ‘no’ pile.

Of course, always use your judgement.  Maybe you know for a fact that your cover letter is going through a buzzword scanner before your application goes further than a machine.  Maybe the company is too formal for a creative approach with the salutation or nontraditional letter formatting.  The most important thing to keep in mind is your audience: who are you writing to and how can you make yourself interesting to them?