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Avoid These Common Cover Letter Mistakes if You Really Want The Job

Small cover letter mistakes may cost you your dream job, no matter how well written it is. Here are the common mistakes and how to avoid them.

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Small cover letter mistakes may cost you your dream job, no matter how well written it is. Here are the common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Photo credit: Nakaridore

A good cover letter can help you stand out from other candidates and create a good impression with a potential employer. On the other hand, any mistake in your letter can also make the employer remember you, but not in a good way. Sometimes job seekers do not make an effort or take the time to make sure their cover letters are up to par, reducing their chances.

Your cover letter needs to be unforgettable, brief, and powerful enough for the hiring manager to want to talk to you face-to-face and possibly give you the job afterward. This is why you need to be extra careful during this stage of the job application process to ensure your cover letter sets you apart from the crowd. 

When an employer is unsure of your application, they will look at your cover letter to see if you are worth giving a chance. So any mistake could mean the hiring manager will weed out your resume, and you will be out of the race for the role. That said, what are the errors to avoid in your cover letter that could cost you the job?

Your cover letter is generic

If you have used the phrases, “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/madam,” then I’m sorry to tell you that your cover letter probably doesn’t stand a chance. It shows that you didn’t research the recruiter or hiring manager for the company to address them directly. 

You can use the name of the person that posted the job or find out the hiring manager’s details through LinkedIn or the company’s website. It also helps to call the company and request a suitable contact to address in the letter. 

Alternatively, the title “Hiring Manager” also works as a substitute because it doesn’t make any assumptions about the person receiving the letter and it’s direct. 

Also, the hiring manager can probably tell if you used a template and just replaced the company name and your name before sending it. So ensure you tailor each letter to the application in question. Show that you researched the company and the role in question while aligning your skills with the job requirements. 

If you have to use templates, use them to outline what your letter should look like, then customize it to suit the role. This will help your cover letter look more exciting than the rest. 

You’ve focused too much on yourself

Most candidates are guilty of sharing their stories or qualities in cover letters to sell themselves to the employer, but it actually comes across as self-centred and arrogant. Employers want candidates who show they care more about what they can bring to the company. Using lots of phrases with the word “I” in your cover letter can show that you are only concerned with yourself, which can make the hiring manager lose interest.  

Instead, minimize “I” statements and emphasize your best selling points to show why you are a good fit for the role from the hiring manager’s point of view. This shows how you can help to achieve company goals, what you can contribute to the company, and how you can fit into their culture. 

You’re repeating whatever is on your resume

It can be tempting to emphasize your job experience in the cover letter to convince the hiring manager to grant you an interview, but that is not what they want to see. They already know where you have worked before from your resume. 

Instead, refer to the job description to identify what they want in an ideal applicant and customize your language to speak to that. Talk about relevant results and essential skills from your work experience that would be attractive to the hiring manager. Show that you have the necessary tools to excel at the position.

Remember, the resume lists out your achievements, experience, and skills, while the cover letter merely points out how these things relate to the role. 

You’re oversharing

Cover letters should never go over one page. People’s attention spans are growing shorter by the day, including hiring managers. Keep your letter very brief and to the point. You can give out all the essential details during your interview. 

Recruiters receive tons of applications for any open position, so they will scan through most of them to get the main points. This is why you need to briefly emphasize your suitability for the role in the letter without overdoing it. 

An ideal cover letter should have four main paragraphs: one introducing you, two of them highlighting your fit for the role and how your experience relates, then the conclusion. Remember that you should neatly summarize all this information on just one page. 

So this is not the opportunity to share a funny anecdote about yourself or your family’s backstory to get the recruiter to empathize or relate to you. Imagine you only have one minute to talk to the hiring manager about landing this open role and think of what you would say. 

It’s too short

As much as the recruiter does not want to read long paragraphs about your life story in a cover letter, they also don’t want one that is too brief for them to figure out who you are. I’m talking about that 2-sentence cover letter you probably have stashed away in your drafts. Cover letters that are too short show that you do not know how to write them or craft a detailed one. 

As mentioned in the previous point, your letter needs at least four paragraphs highlighting why you are the ideal applicant for the job. The paragraphs can be brief but make sure they are four. 

Even if you don’t like writing cover letters, take your time and write a good one so you can stand out to potential employers.

Your formatting is a complicated mess

Just like your resume, ensure your cover letter is readable by staying away from overly fancy designs and fonts. Use traditional fonts such as Arial and Times New Roman that are easily read by machines and humans. Make sure the font size is also big enough for the recruiter to read, ideally size 12, so the hiring manager doesn’t get a headache just from looking at your letter. 

You didn’t follow the instructions in the job listing

For the people who pride themselves on being rule breakers, your cover letter is not the place to start doing that. 

Most companies and employers include special instructions in their job postings to avoid generic cover letters (see the first point) and to help them weed out candidates. So the recruiter might ask you to include a specific phrase in your cover letter or ask you not to include the letter at all. 

So if you send one anyway or forget to include information they’ve specifically asked for, it can give the recruiter an idea that you don’t follow instructions or didn’t read the job description carefully. 

You didn’t proofread your letter

Sometimes employers can take candidates out of the race for having simple grammar and spelling mistakes in their cover letters. No matter how careful you are, you can forget one small error in one of the cover letters you are sending out for job applications. This mistake could cost you the role of a lifetime. 

You can avoid this by having someone else check the cover letter for mistakes and double-checking again yourself before sending it out. Check that you have included correct contact details and relevant information about the company. 

No mistake is too small because the hiring manager will scrap your application for any minor error. 

A cover letter allows you to sell yourself to your potential employer. Any small mistake can overshadow your experience and skills, leading your application straight onto the “no” pile. Thus, do what you can to ensure your cover letter goes above and beyond the employer’s expectations and lands you the interview. 


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Written by

Sandra Musonge

Sandra Musonge is a part-time writer at Fuzu with over five years of experience under her belt, helping numerous B2B and B2C clients with their content needs. She writes to inspire and not just to inform. Her educational background in Biochemistry has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics. You can find her enjoying nature or trying out new recipes when she isn't writing.

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