Top 10 common cover letter mistakes

The first thing you think about when launching a job search is writing a resume. However, it is the cover letter that entices the recipient...

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The first thing you think about when launching a job search is writing a resume. However, it is the cover letter that entices the recipient to decide whether to review your resume or not. Your cover letter shows employers how well you express yourself. It can also demonstrate that you are savvy in the ways of marketing yourself and selling your best qualifications. A good cover letter can get you screened in for an interview. Many job seekers still underestimate the importance of writing a cover letter. They even omit the cover letter from application package, assuming their CV is enough. To ensure that your cover letter is effective, avoid these 10 mistakes:

1.      Failing to address the letter to the specific name of the recipient. 

Addressing the letter to "Dear Personnel Director/HR Director," "To Whom It May Concern," "Dear Sir or Madam" instead of a named individual are all lazy and unresourceful approaches that show the employer that you were not truly concerned enough to find out the name of the person with the hiring power. Try to make a phone call to the company or do some online research via the company’s website to get the name you need.

2.      Starting off not strong enough

The first paragraph in the cover letter should draw the employers’ attention right away.  Avoid simply saying, “I am applying for the receptionist position advertised at,” Instead, express your genuine enthusiasm and suitability for the job like this, “Your need for an experienced professional is a good match for my three years of experience as a 5-star hotel receptionist.” If you've been referred to the hiring manager, make sure to point out the mutual contact in your lead. This may encourage him to read further.

3.      Writing a too long/short letter

A standard cover letter submitted by email should be limited to two paragraphs within the body of the email, while the one sent by fax or mail should aim for three to five paragraphs.

4.      Failing to specifically tailor your letter to the job you're applying for

The most common mistake in cover letters is using a generic approach and sending the same letter to every employer. It could be a little bit time-consuming but worthwhile to customize each cover letter for the specific job and company. A survey showed that only 44% of personnel managers polled said it’s common for job seekers to take advantage of their cover letters to show that they have carefully consider the job requirements. Put in some effort will definitely help you be ahead of half of your competitors.

5.      Simply repeat your resume

Instead of rehashing your resume, you can use your cover letter to highlight the aspects of your resume that are directly relevant to the position such as qualifications, training, awards, etc. Take advantage of the covering letter to justify anything that might be vague or questionable on your CV, such as a change in career paths or a gap in employment history.

6.      Deflate your talents

Use your cover letter as a persuasive reason for hiring managers to get you screened in for an interview. Using such clichés as "I have strong communication skills" would waste precious space. Write a letter that will make the employer want to get to know you better by providing examples: "I recently led a training session on a new database application and received significant praise for my ability to relay complex information to a non-tech-oriented audience."

7.      Pretend to have good sense of humor

Trying to be witty can cause adverse effects, so it’s better to adhere to a business letter format, even with an email cover letter. A professional yet conversational tone and salutations such as "Mr." and "Ms." will help you be taken seriously.

8.      Making It All About You

Despite the fact that you are selling your talents, don’t just taking about yourself in the cover letter. A letter full of “I” needs to focus more of its content on the prospective employer and the value you can contribute to the company. In other words, you need to tell the employer about yourself, but do so in the context of the employer's needs and the specified job requirements.

9.      Forget to mention your personal contact information

Assuming that your cover letter and resume can become separated, remember to include a current phone number and a frequently-used email address so that the recruiters can reach you in case they just have your cover letter only.

10. Submitting a Cover Letter With Errors

Submitting a letter full of grammar and/or spelling errors is a sure way to get screened out. Use spelling and grammar checking tools is a good way of proofreading. Get additional help by asking a friend to double-check your letter for you. Here are some examples from real cover letters showing just how important proofreading can be: "I'm attacking my resume for you to review." "I like working in a fast-paced environment." Or "I never accept anything for free."

An effective cover letter gives candidates a chance to impress the employers at the first glance, giving them a pen-picture of who you are and encouraging them to find out more about what you can really do for their companies. Keep in mind that appearance does really count. Therefore, ensure that you use simple font, break the paragraphs appropriately and make it easy to read. A good start with a good cover letter will lead you move further on in the employment process. 


Contact Information

The first section of your cover letter should include information on how the employer can contact you.

If you have contact information for the employer, include that. Otherwise, just list your information.

This section should be single-spaced and left-justified, with a space between your contact information and your employer’s contact information.

Your Contact Information

Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address




Employer Contact Information

City, State, Zip Code




Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:


First Paragraph:

Each of your body paragraphs should be single-spaced, with a space between each paragraph. The first paragraph of your cover letter should include information on the position you are applying for, including the job title. You should state how you heard about the job, and (briefly) explain why you think you are an ideal candidate for the position.

(space between paragraphs)

Middle Paragraph(s):

The next section of your cover letter should describe what you have to offer the employer. Mention why you are qualified for the job and how your skills and experience are a match for the position for which you are applying. Provide specific examples to prove your skills and experience; these examples will “pop” on the page if you provide them in a bulleted format.

(space between paragraphs)

Final Paragraph:

Conclude your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow up with them regarding the status of your application.




Sincerely yours,

(double space)


Handwritten Signature (for a mailed letter)

(double space)

Typed Signature

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