What Not To Do: Cover Letter Edition


When it comes to job applications, many people dread preparing a cover letter.

The stakes are high! Your cover letter is a one-page document that can make or break your application.

You may find yourself struggling to decide what information to include and how best to communicate your skills.

While every cover letter is unique, avoiding some common mistakes can improve your chances of getting to the top of the pile.

Avoiding these errors will help you submit a polished and professional cover letter, every time.

Your letter is addressed to no one 

Sometimes you have no choice but to address your cover letter, “To whom this may concern” or “To the Hiring Manager.”

Try your best to avoid this.

Personalizing a cover letter shows that you did research and sought out the person who would be reading your application.

Many job listings include contact information for a given position under the application instructions. If that’s missing, it’s time to seek it out yourself.

Go on LinkedIn or the organization’s website and look for a team member responsible for hiring or human resources-related functions. You can also use LinkedIn to see if you have a personal connection with anyone who might be able to direct you further – a 2nd connection, for example.

You’re using a form letter

You may think you can get ahead by reusing a cover letter template. You can’t: employers can tell when you haven’t tailored your cover letter to that particular job.

recycling icon
Recycling is great thing to do – just not with cover letters.

The more versatile (and reusable) a cover letter is, the less likely it is to lead you to success.

Employers want to understand the relevant skills you have and how you will apply them to the job.

Go through the job description and match up your skill set and experience with an employer’s requirements and job responsibilities.

Show them that you have a good understanding of this job, and why you would be the perfect fit for it.

Avoid restating your resume on your cover letter – use it to go more in depth about your experience.

You don’t proofread – or you only do it once

This is so important that it’s worth repeating three times.

You may be missing simple, small details in your cover letter and not even be noticing it.

Remember, your cover letter is often the first thing an employer reads. Make basic mistakes, and they probably won’t even make it to your resume.

Try and finish your cover letter with enough time to take a break before reading it over. You’ll be more likely to spot mistakes with fresh eyes.

A good rule of thumb is to get at least one person to proofread it as well. Got a friend who is on the job hunt too? Work together!

You’ve got mismatched documents

You are submitting your cover letter and resume together as a package deal.

Take a break before proofreading your cover letter.

That means your font, font size, colour scheme and format, should all go hand-in-hand.

If you create your own resume from scratch, make sure your cover letter matches it in overall appearance (and vice versa).

If you’re using a template from the Internet, be careful to imitate the style on both documents as closely as you can, or use a template that includes examples of both.

This consistent formatting is more engaging and memorable!

It also shows that you are detail-oriented and appreciate style as well as substance.

You’ve gone overboard

Just like your resume, your cover letter should be short and to the point.

While you need to cover your bases and provide a good account of your skills, providing too much information may overwhelm a reader, or make it look like you’re over-selling your qualifications.

Careful use of line breaks and bullet points can help make your resume friendly to the eye without cutting corners on detail.

Use paragraphs, bullet points, whatever you need to do to make your cover letter easy to read and straight to the point. Get your point across as clear and concise as possible, and try your best not to ramble.

Avoiding these missteps can help you maximize your chances of making the top of the pile – and landing an interview for your dream job!

What’s your #1 piece of cover letter advice? Share it in the comments!