Common cover letter mistakes

Don’t give a perspective employer a reason to discount your CV before they even read it. Your cover letter is the first impression an employer will have so it’s important to get it right. Barry Whelan reports



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17 June 2015

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A job application cover letter is an opportunity to sell yourself and stand out from the crowd. It gives you a tool to highlight the unique skills and experiences you have that suit what the employer is looking for. It is an opportunity to put your best foot forward.

An impressive cover letter can easily land you an interview but a generic or rushed one can send your application straight to the no pile. Here are some simple errors to avoid.

Not having a cover letter at all

Statistics tell us that 50% of recruiters read cover letters, yet the other half don’t read them at all. While job seeking, it is always advisable to hedge your bets. The only time when this is not advisable is when applying for a position through an online portal. If there isn’t an option to upload a cover letter or write anything to support your application, then don’t. There’s no point in taking the time to carefully craft the document if the application won’t accept it.

Using a general cover note

Sending a general cover letter with every job application that is exactly the same is pretty pointless, if not as bad as not sending any cover letter at all. If you are using the exact same cover letter for every job application and simply swapping out the company name, you’re wasting your time. Your cover letter shouldn’t be an after-thought or look like you’re painting by numbers. This generic letter will make it look like you’re just firing out applications. You need to customise each cover letter you write. Remember your cover letter is your opportunity to sell yourself specifically for a role.

Not personalising your cover letter

Opening up your cover letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ is lazy. Figure out exactly who you’re sending your cover letter to and address them by name. Do a little online research or phone the company and ask the name of the recruiter in charge of the recruitment process.

Sometimes you will not be able to get that information, but only use the generic opener after you have tried your best to find the appropriate person.

Not carefully proofreading

Carefully proofread your cover letter. Then read it again. Then have a friend proofread it. There is nothing worse than spelling and grammatical errors on a ‘carefully’ crafted cover letter. These type of errors will make a very poor first impression.

Make it personal, but not too personal

While it can be beneficial to show some personality in your cover letter, be wary of going overboard or delving into irrelevant information. Recruiters want to understand why you’re interested in this position and more importantly, why you’re qualified for the role. They are not overly interested in your passion for music or interest in socialising! Use your cover letter to focus on explaining how your experience and skillset will meet the employer’s needs.


It can be tempting, but resist the urge to shower the recruiting manager with compliments in your cover letter. Don’t tell them you love their company; instead, specifically mention something about their brand, company mission or strategic direction that you strongly support. Take the opportunity to prove that you’ve done your homework and know something about the company or industry.

Sending long winded letters

Recruiters love brevity. Keep it short and to the point. A good cover letter should be a paragraph or two, not a couple of pages. There’s no need to rehash your entire work history all over again. Instead, use this opportunity to highlight your qualifications that matter most for this role.

Not having a call to action

You want to end your cover letter with a bang by reiterating your enthusiasm and creating a call to action. Rather than just thanking the employer for their consideration, take a more proactive approach; let them know that you will follow up within a week and encourage them to reach out with any questions that may arise. Create the next step in the process so you have the opportunity to follow up.




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