15 Cover Letter Mistakes You Might Not Realize You’re Making

Maddie Lloyd
by Maddie Lloyd
Get The Job, Guides - 9 months ago
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Applying for jobs can be stressful. You’ve got to filter through a million job listings, write a convincing resume, and now you’ve got to write a letter that’s good enough to make an employer want to call you in for an interview. When does the torture end?

Here’s the deal:

Writing a cover letter can be both painful and boring, but how good yours is can determine whether or not you get the job. To make matters worse, you could be making a bunch of mistakes that are getting you screened out of the hiring process — and you might not even realize you’re making them!

Lucky for you, we here at Zippia have made easy for you to make sure that your cover letter is convincing and mistake-free. Here are 15 common cover letter mistakes to avoid so you can land an interview and get the job.

1. Forgetting to proofread and submitting a cover letter full of typos and grammatical errors

Sending a cover letter that’s full of typos and errors is a quick and easy way to get yourself screened out of a possible interview. Plus, it pretty much just shouts “I don’t know how to write good and I don’t give a dern about being professional!”

We all know that writing a cover letter can be a painful process, but do yourself a favor and just proofread. Please. We’re begging you. If it’s just too much for you, ask a friend to look over your cover letter and point out any mistakes before you send it in.

2. Sending a generic letter to every job you apply for

This mistake is so common that employers will be able to tell right away if you’re using a one-size-fits-all cover letter when applying for jobs.

Make sure you mention the specific position you’re applying for in your first paragraph, address the company’s specific concerns and desired qualifications, and explain how your skills and experiences make you the best fit for the job.

Yes, this can be time consuming — but it’s a whole lot better than being unemployed and spending your entire life on you parents’ couch.

3. Not getting basic company facts right

Getting basic information incorrect, like referencing the wrong company or addressing your cover letter to the wrong person, basically tells employers “I literally could not care less about this job opportunity and I’m using this same letter to apply for 20 other jobs right this second.”

Double check your cover letter greeting and make sure that you list the right company and the right contact, and mention the company name a few times throughout your letter.

4. Using an outdated greeting that makes you sound 100 years old

Save the “Dear Sir or Madam” cover letter greetings for the grave, you old fart. Instead, just use gender neutral terms like “Dear Hiring Manager,” when you’re unsure of who’s going to be reading your cover letter.

If you know exactly who’s going to be reading your letter, mention their name specifically, and always adress women with the title “Ms.” rather than “Mrs.”

If you don’t feel comfortable addressing your cover letter to anyone, just start with the first paragraph and don’t address anyone at all.

5. Making your cover letter too short

Submitting a cover letter that’s less than half a page will send the wrong message to employers about your work ethic or your interest in the job at hand. Plus, you’re completely blowing off the opportunity to highlight your skills and experience and show off why you’re the best person for the job.

6. Making your cover letter the length of the next Great American Novel

A good cover letter shouldn’t be any longer than one page. Unless you’re applying for a managerial or executive position, there’s really no reason why your cover letter should be any longer. Plus, you risk burdening the employer and losing their interest.

Hiring managers read about a million cover letters and resumes everyday, and you’ll want to make sure yours is concise to avoid wasting their time. Keep your cover letter brief, and only include the most important information need to make an employer want to invite you in for an interview.

7. Including too much information or over-explaining your reasons for applying for the job

Don’t include more information than the employer needs to know. Address their concerns and let them know that you have all of the necessary qualifications.

Some people feel the need to explain career changes or why they’re applying for a job from somewhere far away. Keep your explanations short to make sure that the employer is able to focus on your skills and experiences.

8. Not giving concrete examples to back up the “skills” you “claim” to “have”

The skills and qualifications you claim to have in your cover letter are meaningless if you can’t back them up. Support your statements by giving examples of jobs or roles where you used these strengths.

For example, instead of just saying “I have great organizational skills and I’m a hard worker,” say something like, “I personally organized our annual fundraiser and increased employee participation by 30%.” Much more convincing.

9. Starting your introductory paragraph with your name

Nothing says “rookie mistake” like opening your cover letter with “My name is Joe Schmo.” Your name should be listed in the sign off of your cover letter, in your resume, and elsewhere in your application materials.

Instead, start off your cover letter with a relevant qualification, or mention what position you’re applying for. Say something like, “I am a marketing professional with 10+ years experience in the banking industry,” or “I am writing to you today in regard to your marketing associate position.” This sounds a lot better than “My name is (chicka chicka) Slim Shady.”

10. Making your cover letter a written-out version of your resume

Your cover letter shouldn’t be your resume in paragraph form. Your resume is the first thing most employers look at, so you’re just wasting everyone’s time if you use your cover letter to write out everything that’s already on your resume.

Use your cover letter to focus on one or two examples of your work experiences that show what you can bring to the table. Help employers picture you doing the work by explaining what you’ve done in your previous positions.

11. Using the wrong format, or using no format at all

“Use a cover letter format? Nah bro, I’m just gonna wing it.”

There’s no one-size-fits-all format for every cover letter, and how you write yours depends on your experience and what you have to offer.

If you’re describing one or two particular relevant experiences, it may make sense to go with the standard three-paragraph format. On the other hand, if you’re listing your skills or detailing your career path, a more creative approach like bullet points may be more suitable.

And always remember to include the date, the company’s mailing address, and your address.

12. Focusing too much on education and training instead of what you can actually do

We’re all super proud that you finally finished that college thing and got your degree, but what employers really care about is your relevant experience and what you can bring to the table on day one.

Briefly mention education if it’s relevant to the job, but make the main focus of your cover letter your relevant experiences. If you’re new on the job scene and your education is your most relevant experience, describe projects you worked on and the skills you gained, instead of just the course content.

13. Sharing completely irrelevant information

If you have a good idea of the company’s culture, it makes sense to show your compatibility in your cover letter.

Instead of describing your weird hobbies or your booming social life, talk about your values and how they align with the core values of the company. Check their website to get a good feel for their culture and values and use that information to show you’re the perfect fit.

14. Not showing any actual interest in the job at hand

If you don’t sound genuinely interested or excited for the job opportunity, you’re probably not going to land an interview. Show enthusiasm for the job so the hiring manager knows that you’re highly motivated, and not just looking for a paycheck.

15. Forgetting to address the employer’s concerns

While you’re talking about how awesome and qualified you are, make sure to do so in the context of the job requirements and the company’s needs. If the hiring manager can see that everything about you is perfect for the specific job, you’re bound to land an interview.

Now it’s time to write that cover letter

One of the first things employers notice about a job candidate is their cover letter. A good cover letter shows that you’re an effective communicator and that you have what it takes to get the job done, so you’ll want yours to be effective and error-free.

Many cover letters don’t get the attention they deserve, and a lot of people just write one at the last minute, attach it to their resume, and hope that it gets the job done — and these cover letters happen to full of these common errors.

Make sure to check through your resume and make sure you don’t make any of the mistakes we’ve mentioned in this article, and you’re sure to get called in for an interview!