The first impression is the most important.
Yet, job seekers often wing their cover letters and try to assure themselves that it’s good enough. And often because they’re winging it hoping for the best, it leads to common cover letter mistakes being made in the process.
So in this article, we’re going to go through 13 common errors in total made up of:
- The 8 deadliest mistakes that lead to a bad cover letter
- The 5 mistakes that keep your cover letters mediocre
Let’s get started!
8 Deadliest Cover Letter Mistakes That Lead to Instant Rejection
We’ll start with the worst and biggest cover letter mistakes anyone could make. Any of these will prevent you from writing an effective cover letter.
1. Showing No Signs of Research
The purpose of cover letters is to explain why you’re the best candidate. And the best candidates are those that have done their research on the company. So if you haven’t done any research, it brings into question your interest in the role.
Here’s how to show that you’ve done your research:
- Reference some of the company’s core values
- Use keywords from the job description
- Mention company news
2. Writing More Than 380 Words
A good cover letter format is one that’s concise.
Hiring managers are reviewing thousands of job applications and won’t have the time to read through your entire backstory. They want to know why they should hire you, so only highlight specific parts of your career timeline that are relevant. And as you’re writing, just get straight to the point.
Even with a compelling introduction, not all potential employers will read through your cover letter if it’s too long.
3. Spelling and Grammar Errors
I get it, we all make small mistakes from time to time. But that’s not a good enough excuse for recruiters to overlook a typo on your application.
Your perceived value as a professional goes out the window when a recruiter spots spelling or grammatical errors. It leads to instant rejection precisely because you allowed yourself to make such a minor mistake.
Before sending off your cover letter, triple-check your writing. Use tools like Grammarly to help you spot typos and grammar errors. Or, ask someone to check your application.
4. Using Clichés
Clichés are one of the worst resume mistakes and cover letter mistakes that a job seeker could make.
The reason why clichés are so bad is that they show no real value. It gives the impression that you haven’t taken the time to write a thoughtful application because you’re using phrases that lack originality.
Here’s some examples of clichés to avoid:
- I’ve always wanted to be an engineer. Ever since I was a young kid I…
- To whom it may concern…
- I can think outside the box…
- As you can see…
5. Repeating Everything From Your Resume
There’s no point in a cover letter when you’re adding nothing new to the conversation. Reintroducing a few points from your resume is okay but not if you’re only going to repeat what’s already been said.
Expand on your resume by sharing your own personal perspective on why you believe your work history is relevant to the job requirements.
6. Writing an Autobiography
Cover letters give you the opportunity to write more about your professional background, not your life story.
Hiring managers don’t care about your life experiences unless it directly relates to helping them achieve company goals. Writing about things that have nothing to do with the company shows no real value.
The next time you think about including something, ask yourself if it’s the best thing you could mention. If not, leave it out. Prioritize information that would be useful to a prospective employer.
7. Using the Wrong Tone of Voice
A friendly tone of voice isn’t the same as an informal tone of voice.
Resumes are formal whereas cover letters are semi-formal. However, semi-formal doesn’t mean casual everyday language. The tone of this blog post you’re reading is casual but the tone of a cover letter would be friendly yet professional.
Here’s an example below to show the difference. The first example being in an informal tone of voice whereas the second example being in a professional tone of voice.
- Hey Hiring Manager,
I’m interested in the Engineer position at your company. I’ve got a bachelor’s degree and years of experience that make me a good fit for this.
- Dear Hiring Manager,
I am interested in the Engineer position at your company. I believe my education and employment experiences make me a good fit for the position.
8. Greeting the Wrong Person
Addressing your hiring manager with the wrong name is embarrassing. It’s also embarrassing if you greet them with the wrong honorific or job position.
Check the company’s about page and LinkedIn page to find the names of a company’s hiring managers.
Still not sure? Then stick to either of the following:
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear Hiring Team
5 More Common Mistakes That Make Your Cover Letter Mediocre
You can also check out our cover letter examples guide for key takeaways on proven applications that helped candidates land a job interview.
1. Including No Results or Accomplishments
Direct explanations can be good for exuding confidence. But without showing any evidence to support your points, it comes off as arrogant.
Let’s say you’re a sales professional in the retail industry.
You dedicate a paragraph on your cover letter to write about how you developed your negotiation skills. A couple of keywords have been included and it’s somewhat clear that you’re knowledgeable about sales.
However, it would be more compelling if you can commentate on past results that you were responsible for as you were on your journey of developing your skills.
Here’s some example sentences:
- I led a team of 6 software engineers to develop our company’s app, which surpassed over 24 million users
- I implemented promotional tactics that led to a 12.6% growth in social media engagement
2. Poor Flow of Writing
This can happen for a few reasons:
- You haven’t planned the cover letter structure
- Too much repetition
- Lack of word variations and transitions
All of which can be minimized by outlining your cover letter before even writing a single word. That said, make it simple and easy to understand. Don’t make your writing more complicated than necessary.
3. Not Showcasing Your Personality
Unlike a resume, cover letters give insight into your personality by showcasing:
- Fields of interest
- Personal examples
- Tone of voice
Not including any of these means missing the opportunity to position yourself as a good match for the company culture. This is also another way to add new information without repeating your resume by sharing a bit about your personal background.
4. Highlighting the Less Important Details
Only go in-depth on what’s relevant to the job responsibilities.
Cover letters do indeed allow you to share more details about yourself. However, it must be directly related to why the company would benefit from working with you.
Think carefully about what information to prioritize. For example, the backstory of how you developed a particular technical skill that’s a priority for the company would be more important to write about than your personal interests.
5. Being Too Specific
Most times, being too specific happens by including too many details about previous positions which you’ve already mentioned on your resume.
Give a general explanation of your interest in the company as well as your work history from your point of view. The interview is where you can go in-depth about your personal reasons for your career choices and certain work experiences.
With that in mind, it’s not an excuse to be vague in your cover letter. Make your points clear enough for the reader to understand how you would be valuable to the organization.
How to Go From a Good Cover Letter to a Great Cover Letter
Here’s a few more cover letter tips to improve your application:
- Use keywords in the context of your achievements
- Include personal examples that show you align with the company’s values
- Keep your writing simple with occasional buzzwords
- Spend more time refining your introduction
- Suggest the next steps for moving forward
AI Cover Letter Generator: Write a Cover Letter 10x Faster
Writing a cover letter doesn’t have to take hours.
You might’ve had enough of sending cover letters with one eye open hoping that there’s nothing wrong with it…
The better alternative? Use Rezi’s AI cover letter generator to create cover letters for you based on the best practices.
Here’s how it works:
- Enter the company name.
- Write the job position/title you’re applying for.
- Select a previous job position/title to highlight.
- Press “AI Writer Ready”.
And you’re done.
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As long as you’ve not made any of these common cover letter mistakes, you can rest assured that you’ve got a pretty good cover letter in your hands.
We understand the temptation of wanting to send a cover letter as soon as possible to get your application over and done with. But if you’re going to write a cover letter, try to use the same amount of effort as you did for your resume. Otherwise, a bad cover letter ruins the assist that a well-written resume has set you up for.
And if you do want to write cover letters faster, start using Rezi AI. It’s free and easy to use with nothing to lose.