11 Common Cover Letter Mistakes That Cost You a Career

Author —
Astley
April 7, 2021
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It’s always reassuring to have a plan B in case things don’t always go as planned. These common cover letter mistakes happen since they don’t get the same amount of attention as CV’s do. While they’re not as important and don’t always get read like your resume, it’s still a decisive factor. 

In fact, 83% of recruiters have claimed cover letters were crucial in making their hiring decisions.

You might’ve heard that cover letters are outdated and won’t make a huge difference. 

There’s some truth to it. Despite that, it’s still worth putting the effort into writing one up. Whenever you have an opportunity to make yourself look better and improve your chances of getting hired at your dream company, why not?

When hiring managers need to make a tough decision, they’ll refer to everything they’ve got about you. 

However, not everyone will have a perfect cover letter. There’s bound to be some errors, and there are common cover letter mistakes to avoid. Otherwise it’s going to cost you a potentially new career.

1. Showing No Real Value 

It’s common for applicants to lose sight of the purpose of a cover letter. 

After that happens, their cover letters end up showing no real value or meaning at all. Instead of talking about why you’re the best person for the role, job seekers tend to make the mistake of focusing on themselves.

Of course, you should be talking about yourself.

But, it goes wrong if you're not relating that back to the company’s needs. What happens is, the candidate will not show any real value to their prospective employers about how they’re able to make an impact.

2. The Wrong Tone of Voice

By this, I’m referring to the level of formality you’re using on your cover letter.

The extreme ends are just as bad as each other, there needs to be a balance. Recruiters aren’t someone you know personally and they’re not your best friend. At the same time, they’re not part of the royal family either.

Being too formal or overly casual will reduce the chances of landing your new career.

You shouldn’t address the recruiter on your cover letter the same way you would address your friends. For example:

  • “John!”
  • “Hey John!”
  •  “Hello!” 

On the other hand, you shouldn’t address them too formally either. E.g, “Dear Sir/Madam”...

The best tone of voice should be semi-formal. Keep a casual yet formal tone - it’s professional and keeps the reader engaged.

3. Jargon & Fancy Language

This is another common mistake on a cover letter that happens on resume applications too. 

It’s okay to use one or two words of jargon as long as the context is understandable. Usually, it’s best to include these terminologies on your ATS resume especially when they’re specifically mentioned on the job advertisement you saw at the start.

As long as it’s in a context where recruiters understand what you’re saying, there’s no problem.

However, adding jargon and fancy language unnecessarily will leave a bad taste in your recruiter’s mouth. It’ll have the opposite effect you intended since it’s so difficult to understand and a tongue twister.

Just don’t overexert when it’s absolutely unnecessary. It’s cringe. 

It’s better when it’s simple. If the reader has no idea what you’re saying, it’s a fast track to rejection. 

Remember, it’s a cover letter. Not a poem, essay, or a novel.

4. No Personalization

Personality is key. One of the main purposes of a cover letter is demonstrating you’re an ideal match to the company’s values. 

To do this, your cover letter needs to be tailored precisely for that one company and job title alone. Also, it’s effective to inject your own voice and personality to show you’re more than just a robot.

Unlike your CV, you can go a bit more personal about yourself on your cover letter. 

Again, that doesn’t mean you can be overly casual. The main point is to use this chance to impress the recruiter with your traits and values that make you the best candidate from everyone else.

Don’t always stick to the traditional words or phrases like:

  • “I’m making this application because…”
  • “I believe I’m the best for this job because…” 

And so on.

It’s basic. In other words, generic. Like everyone else.

This is a chance for you to show you’re different. It’s the best opportunity to describe yourself further to stand out even more. 

Figurative language and metaphors are allowed too. As long as you do it sensibly and professionally, it’s acceptable. However, don’t use slang. 

If you can add a “you” element that makes you distinguishable from the others, it shows a lot about you. Having your own unique personalization shows creativity and leaves a lasting impression. 

You shouldn’t have to keep literally saying you’re the best for employers to understand that.

If it’s done right, they’ll come to that conclusion themselves because of the way you’ve presented yourself on your cover letter.

Recruiters want to see you’re more than just a worker and someone worth working with. 

Show you’re self-motivated and committed to improve and provide the best success possible. Don’t just let the money and salary be the only factor for you that makes you want to work with them.

5. You’re Showing No Results or Examples

Are you talking about your typical day to day routine? 

Or perhaps, how you learned to stand up and how that perseverance relates to being the best applicant? 

Going back to the first mistake on this list, these things won’t show much to the employer since no real value is being shown. The only thing really shown is what you’re familiar with, which means you’ve got work experience. 

But, it’s not compelling enough to be a dealbreaker and secure the job. How did things become different once you were onboard?

Instead, talk about how your responsibilities and duties have made a difference.

For this, you should be including examples and the results you’ve been responsible for. Doing this makes your cover letter twice more powerful. This packs your cover letter with meaning and value. The recruiters will get a good idea of how you’d be a useful asset and a big benefit to have.

6. No Company Research

Without company research, you won’t be able to do the basic things such as:

  • Include your recruiter’s name 
  • Tailor your cover letter to the job posting
  • Meet the company’s expectations
  • Highlight your strengths
  • Beat the applicant tracking system
  • And more...

Skipping out on this is like missing the key to the lock.

It’s a key part of the puzzle. Without it, it’s clear you haven’t made an effort to do the background research. This comes to the conclusion you’re not taking this seriously because you don’t really care. 

There’s no excuse. Google exists and you have access to the internet.

7. Two Page Cover Letters

A cover letter works best if you stick to the format of a one-page cover letter. Another page isn’t needed and does more harm than good.

It’s not just about what you say, but how you say it and what you show behind that. You could tell a story by writing a thousand words. Likewise, you could tell that same story by using one image.

Have clarity and get straight to the point. Respect your recruiter’s time and don’t add anything unimportant.

8. Typos & Not Proofreading Properly

When you’re not proofreading and double checking your resume, you’re vulnerable to making a small mistake. 

These include typos such as:

  • Spelling errors
  • Grammar mistakes
  • Word choices
  • Punctuation

It won’t matter how good your cover letter is. A minor error like this throws your credentials and good impressions straight into the trash can. 

“Howcome? It’s just one tiny miniscule mistake…”

You’ve answered it yourself. 

It’s exactly because it’s one tiny miniscule mistake - and it’s embarrassing. The hiring manager won’t take your cover letter seriously after seeing a rookie mistake like this. 

Make the effort to double check again and again until you’re certain there are no typos or spelling mistakes.

When checking for grammar mistakes and word choices, avoid overused words and constant repetition. Common examples of this include personal pronouns, e.g. “I” and “My”. Rinsing words out and repeating yourself every so often will bore your reader.

9. Going Too In-Depth 

There’s a borderline between showing value and over explaining. 

Although your cover letter is supposed to be one-page, you shouldn’t have to feel limited and force yourself to include everything as humanly possible. 

If you are, chances are there’s a lot of fluff.

There’s not a problem having a short cover letter packed with valuable information. Actually, this is how it’s supposed to be. 

When you over analyze something small however with little significance, it’s a waste of space and time. If the same meaning can be shown through one sentence, then do it like that. No need to add another paragraph or two on that same point, keep it simple.

10. You’re Vague

So far, we’ve discussed how overanalyzing something is a common cover letter mistake. In contrast, you could be under-explaining something.

Within both sides, there’s an underlying problem - which is, being vague.

Most importantly, you should be specific when going in-depth on a certain detail or point you’ve made. If you’re not being clear, you may as well not talk about whatever you wanted to talk about in the first place.

11. Weak Editing & Customization

This is like an overarching point for all the cover letter mistakes we’ve discussed until now.

Sure, your cover letter isn’t always going to be perfect when you draft it the first couple times and that’s okay. It’s absolutely normal. Novelists won’t have the perfect novel from their first few drafts either.

The secret lies in the editing process. 

Without a solid customization process to your cover letter, you won’t make the best impression you could've. Most applicants tend to stick to a basic strategy by checking the company website and job description over and over. 

Guess what though? Nearly everyone does this. 

If you’re similar and doing the same thing like everyone else is, it’s more likely your cover letter is going to be less unique than what it could be.

So, the next question you’re probably thinking of is:

How can you customize and edit your cover letter in a way that separates you from everyone else?

This is where Rezi’s speciality comes in.

AI Cover Letters With Rezi

We all know how difficult it is to write the perfect cover letter without making any of these mistakes. 

The reality is, it’s a commitment. The process will require a lot of time and attention from you. 

But, what if I told you that you could create an entire cover letter tailored to your job title and company in less than a minute?

It’s become possible, thanks to Rezi’s AI cover letter writer

All you have to do is enter three things:

  • The company name
  • Your position/job title
  • Position and skill highlights

Then, press the magic button “AI writer generate”. Here’s how it looks in action:

Could you believe how much time this is going to save you? In no time, you’ll be able to create tailored cover letters without having to worry about missing a single thing.

As the saying goes though, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.

We understand you’re probably in a position of wanting to work someplace else that’s better than where you are now. And I can relate because we know you deserve it, so we’ve launched our new AI cover letter feature to speed up your job hunting process!

It only takes a few seconds. You can get started for free by using the link below!

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follows best practices employers look for


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