The 7 Biggest Mistakes Applicants Make On Their Cover Letters

Robin Schwartz

Composing multiple cover letters during an ongoing job search may prove challenging for some. It can be very time consuming to write a specific cover letter for each job you’re applying to. Applicants may often wonder whether a cover letter is really necessary, especially if the posting doesn’t mention one being required.

Cover letters should be an assumed part of your application packet unless a company directly requests you not include one. Before you click “submit”, make sure your cover letter isn’t guilty of some of the biggest mistakes hiring managers see.

1. Not Providing A Cover Letter

Unless the application materials for a posting clearly request you not submit a cover letter, you should always submit one. The cover letter, or cover email as it sometimes becomes now, is often the first hiring material a potential employer sees when reviewing your candidacy.

Providing a cover letter shows a potential employer that you spent time crafting your application and are serious about your interest in their open position.

2. Failing to Proofread Your Cover Letter

Reading a cover letter riddled with spelling or grammatical errors is one of the worst mistakes potential applicants can make. To hiring managers, it can create a perception that the candidate:

  1. Isn’t attentive to detail.
  2. Has poor written communication skills
  3. Lacks education/skills necessary for the job.

Read your cover letter from start to finish multiple times to make sure you’ve not missed anything. After you’ve done that, read it out loud to yourself again! If you know you aren’t the strongest grammatical wizard, have a trusted friend or family member read it for you. Providing potential employers with a cover letter filled with errors is a sure way to be dismissed in the early stages of an applicant review process.

3. Providing Generic Cover Letters

Failing to edit each cover letter to specifically match the job posting is obvious to hiring managers reading your letter. While it’s okay to start with a basic form or template, make sure you’re editing your letter to address the requirements of the position you’re applying to and how your skill set matches those requirements.

When a cover letter crosses the hiring manager’s desk that states “I’m interested in a position with your company”, it’s clear that little thought was put into the cover letter for the application packet. It almost feels like candidates are throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.

4. Forgetting to Replace Hiring Manager, Company Name or Job Title

Almost as bad as providing generic statements of job interest is stating your interest in incorrect companies or job titles because you forgot to change and edit your cover letter before applying to another position.

If the name of the hiring manager is available, it should be used to address the cover letter. If it is not available, a general “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Sir or Madam” may be sufficient. Make sure you’re reading the job posting thoroughly to ensure you don’t miss who the letter should be addressed to.

Often a recommended sentence within the cover letter is a statement indicating your interest in a specific job posting at the company. You should be verifying that each cover letter states the accurate title the company used when posting the position. If you’re applying to a Civil Engineer position, don’t just state you’re interested in “the engineering” position with “your company”. Use the job title they advertised and use the name of company specifically.

5. Writing Too Much

A cover letter should highlight how your skills and qualifications are compatible to that which the company seeks. There’s no need to provide so much detail that your cover letter runs on for pages. One of the biggest mistakes applicants make is to provide a cover letter that’s so long and contains so many unnecessary statements/words that the hiring manager is immediately turned away.

Your cover letter is meant to entice a hiring manager to continue viewing your application packet in total and to bring you in for an interview. The interview will be the proper place for fact finding so there’s no need to provide every bit of information in your cover letter.

6. Repeating Your Resume

Hiring managers already have your resume. The cover letter is an additional application material which is supposed to make them want to continue on to read your resume. It’s not helpful if companies see the very same information provided on both documents.

Make sure your cover letter is expanding on skills and qualifications that might be addressed in your resume, but don’t repeat them verbatim. Use the cover letter to discuss, in your own words, why you’re a great candidate for the position.

7. Providing Personal Information

The cover letter is not a place to tell potential employers about you personally. Providing personal information about yourself doesn’t belong in the cover letter nor in the resume. Stick to discussing your professional accomplishments.

The cover letter is also not a place to address decisions to depart past employers or any former layoffs or terminations. If a potential employer wants this information, they will seek it out during the interview phase.

Is there any personal information that benefits you to provide in the cover letter? The answer is very little. One appropriate example might be if you are about to relocate a far distance. If you’ve applied to a job in Colorado but live in Florida, it might be beneficial to note towards the conclusion of your cover letter your impending relocation. This could possibly strengthen an employer’s decision to continue with a candidate in the hiring process.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

Leave A Comment