15 Biggest Cover Letter Mistakes You Should Avoid

Writing a Cover Letter is like crafting an art. You should know the rules. An insignificant mistake can ruin your art. Similarly, a simple mistake in cover letter can ruin your career. Moreover, it is important to impress your recruiter before you enter the interview room, and your cover letter can serve that purpose elegantly.

A cover letter is one of the potent tools to excel in today’s competitive job industry. But, most of us take it lightly while applying for the job. We make numerous mistakes in a cover letter, which consequently increases the chances of rejection.

Do you make your cover letter at the last moment?

If yes, you are not on the right track. When you apply for a job, your focus should be on improving the cover letter, not just resume. A cover letter helps you to showcase your experiences, qualities, strengths and written communication skills. It helps you to tell your employer why you are an excellent fit for the job. According to Joyce Lain Kennedy, you should focus on the future of your potential employer while writing a cover letter. Here is an excellent article on cover letter writing. I’m sure; it will help you improve your writing.

Are you ready to make an impactful first impression? If yes, make sure you read this article till the end and avoid following mistakes while writing your cover letter.

15 Biggest Cover Letter Mistakes You Should Avoid

Mistake #1. No Research Work

Research is an integral part of any job application. A well researched cover letter will always outshine the generic template that all your competitors might be using. It even boosts your inner confidence and makes you aware of the trends of your recruiting organization. It shows your dedication and interest in the position. Go through the job description, surf the company’s website, and incorporate points that can benefit your recruiter.

Lack of research is one of the biggest mistakes while writing a cover letter.

Mistake #2. Not Using ATS Keywords

Who has time to read thousands of applications for a single post? It is better and less expensive to employ bots. These bots are called Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Most of the large companies use ATS to shortlist applications. Often you need to beat these bots to get it reviewed by human eyes.

One hack to beat these bots is to include relevant keywords in your cover letter and resume. You must be aware of these keywords related to the advertisement. Not using the right keywords could be one of the common mistakes.

Mistake #3. Incorrect Greeting

Don’t be very casual or very formal. Both can have the wrong impact. If you are too casual and using ‘Hi, Hello’ etc. it might show a lack of professionalism. And, if you are using too formal greetings like, ‘To whom it may concern,’ it can be very boring and non-conversational.

Try to explore company’s culture, people, and environment, as it will help you know how to proceed. Greetings should also be based on the type and designation of the person you are reporting to. If you still have confusion, go with ‘Dear Ms. /Dear Mr.’ it will work perfectly for you.

Mistake #4. No Catchy Introduction

Writing an introduction that creates a hook is very tough due to which most of us end up with a weak opening, which ultimately leads to losing the interviewer’s interest.

It is imperative to draw the recruiter’s attention to your Unique Selling Points (USP) right at the beginning of the cover letter. Make sure you sell yourself with impeccable introductory lines. Here is an example, “With remarkable five years of experience in telesales and a tag of a top-performing employee, I believe I am a perfect fit for the telesales executive in your organization.”

Look, how impactful this sentence is. It is a strong statement and tells more than enough to get called for an interview. Don’t start with a weak statement like, “I saw an opening for a Telesales Executive, and I want to apply for it.”

Mistake #5. Too Long or Overwritten

Writing a long cover letter is another common mistake. Do you write a long cover letter and mention all your skills?

If yes, you are doing it the wrong way. The reader is not interested in reviewing long and overwritten letters; you have a resume for that. Impress your interviewer with short and straightforward paragraphs, including bulleted points about your skills and talent.

Don’t try to fit your entire employment history in a small piece of cover letter. Keep it neat and sufficient for the interviewer.

Here is our DIY visual cover letter guide. Download it as a reference. I am sure, it will help you to remove the clutter.

download Visual Cover Letter for quick reference

Mistake #6. Non-specific and No Customization

Can the cover letter for a teacher and an assistant professor be the same?

No! They both belong to a similar category. Still, it is important to write job-specific cover letter. Another mistake that most of the applicants make is sending the same letter to all the companies. Any data or template available for reference cannot be 100% accurate for your profile. It demands significant customization. Make sure to change your letter when applying to different organizations. Also, don’t forget to update the contact details, name, and salutations.

Mistake #7. Summarizing Resume Content

This is probably the most common mistake. People think that a cover letter is a miniature of a resume. If you also think that, then definitely you are on the wrong track.

The purpose and the style of writing of a cover letter are entirely different from a resume. Your cover letter is your conversation starter. If you provide a summary of your resume, then it will be boring. And, I am doubtful whether the hiring manager will go through it. There should be a bang in your cover letter. State your top-selling points only.

Rather than merely summarizing your resume content, write your cover letter professionally. Use business letter format.

Mistake #8. Focusing Yourself Only

Your focus should not be on you. Neither you have to praise yourself in the whole cover letter. Talk about things which interest your recruiter. For instance, talk about the company’s latest developments and how can you help to achieve a new target. Then introduce your consistent quality. Let’s say the company is trying to expand its operation in Spain and you are a native Spanish speaker. This could be a decisive factor to beat your competitors.

The relevant information about you is already present in your resume. Tell something which is not in your resume, like; how you can help to sustain the vision of the company, why you are a perfect employee or team player for the company, how will you contribute to the company’s growth, what future plans do you have for the company.

Mistake #9. Not Featuring Your USP’s

Going through the job description is essential before you write your cover letter. You have to bring the spotlight to your top-selling points. For instance, if the advertisement mentions leadership and team-building qualities, don’t include these skills directly in your cover letter. Rather write, “I successfully handled a team of 30 people in my previous company and won the best leadership award.”

Your skills and qualities should come naturally in your letter. So, make sure you don’t repeat this mistake while writing your next cover letter.

Mistake #10. Featuring Your Weaknesses and Soft skills

According to Nancy Spivey, “The worst mistake I see in cover letters is candidates adding too many soft skills rather than focusing on job-related skills.” You might have seen people adding soft skills like; leadership, self-motivated, etc. in their resume and cover letters.

Are you one of them?

Unfortunately, the recruiter is not interested in witnessing your soft skills. Instead, he/she is interested in achievements where your soft skills helped you outperform. So, give prominence to your top-selling points and strengths, not weaknesses.

Mistake #11. Using Generic Tone

6 seconds is the average time that a hiring manager usually takes to scan your cover letter. Shocking! Indeed it is. Here is the reference. Therefore using a boring and generic tone could be devastating for your job application. Write something that might interest your recruiter. Play up with words! Emphasize on the right and confident tone.

Mistake #12. Using Rude Statement

Be polite and grounded while framing your letter. These are very essential traits of an applicant. You should be confident, and respectful to the recruiter for his time and consideration.

Don’t be rude to your previous boss. He/she might not have behaved properly with you, but your cover letter is not a place to express your anger. Moreover, it sends a red signal to the hiring manager. No one will ask such a person for an interview.

Mistake #13. Making False Claim and Exaggeration

Flaunting, False claims, and Exaggeration can ruin your career. Don’t keep on blabbering and lying about your achievements. It creates the wrong and fake image of you in the eyes of the recruiter. Be honest and truthful.

Be what you are. If you want to be associated with a company for long, show your real identity. False claims may land you a good job today but will inevitably affect your future. Be very clear about your writing. Any vague and false statement could be caught during the interview. Avoid them.

Mistake #14. Grammar Errors and Typos

Proofread your cover letter twice before sending it to the recruiter. Imagine yourself walking for an interview with a crumpled shirt and trousers!
What impression will it create in the eyes of the recruiter?

Similar is the case with a cover letter with grammar mistakes. In today’s era, we are highly dependent on software and online tools. Many times, we don’t pay much attention to little mistakes once it is shown clean in word processors like Microsoft Word. Grammar errors and typos can put you down in an adverse manner.

I recommend getting it checked by advanced software like ProWritingAid. It is no brainier that a proofreading software powered by artificial intelligence will detect several mistakes overlooked by a word processor. You get additional 20% discount when purchased by clicking our affiliate link.

Mistake #15. No Call-to-Action Statement

Call-to-action is one of the must have statement of a cover letter. This phrase is more related to advertisement. Marketing agencies use this type of statement to lure customers to take actions like; clicking a button or purchasing products. However, we should use it purposefully here.

Use it as the last hammer you can hit in your cover letter to take you closer to your goal. Often people end up cover letters without giving a chance to continue the conversation. This is a big mistake.

You should end your cover letter in a way where you can take a follow up with your recruiter. Rather than writing, “Looking forward to getting a call from you,” you can write “Expecting a call from you to discuss company’s new endeavor. In case you missed the chance to revert, due to your hectic schedule, I will give you a call next week.” This way, you take control, which is very hard to ignore.

Below is the summary of our article.

  1. No Research Work
  2. Not Using ATS Keywords
  3. Incorrect Greetings
  4. No Catchy Introduction
  5. Too Long
  6. Non-specific and No Customization
  7. Summarizing Resume
  8. Focusing Yourself Only
  9. Not Featuring Your USPs
  10. Featuring Weakness
  11. Using Generic Tone
  12. Using Rude Statement
  13. Making False Claim
  14. Grammar Errors and Typos
  15. No Call-to-Action Statement

15 Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid

If you correct these cover letter mistakes, I am sure you will be shortlisted for the interview. And if you are confident, no one can stop you from getting your dream job.