Want a Cover Letter That Hits the Jackpot? Don’t Do These 9 Things!

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

After revising and perfecting your resume, including tailoring it for the position you’re pursuing, you’ll need to craft a cover letter that is specific for each job you apply for. Only after you do this should you send out your resume and cover letter to recruiters.

Even though not all hiring managers tout the importance of a cover letter, a well-written one can help you get a job, offsetting any mistakes in your resume and making you stand out. If there are equally qualified applicants, a superior cover letter could put you at the top of the interview list. It can show your personality and enthusiasm and convince the reader that you have the skills they are looking for. It will also showcase your writing skills if those are relevant to the job. Additionally, if you have a gap in your work history or anything else that a hiring manager may not like to see on your resume, a cover letter gives you the perfect opportunity to explain it.

To reach the interview stage, it is important to construct a cover letter that will impress recruiters and improve your chances of getting the job. By avoiding the don’ts below, you can feel confident that you are putting your best foot forward. Find out how our experts can help.

1. Don’t forget the importance of research

You should always conduct background research on the company and the job you’re applying for and do your best to find the name of the hiring manager. Since this information is somewhere out there (Hello, internet!), they will appreciate the extra effort you made to dig it up. In addition, if others have neglected this step, it may put you at the top of the list. You can always search for the recruiter’s name on LinkedIn or Twitter. You might also find some type of personal connection that you can use to your advantage. Just be careful about information you may have gleaned from a tweet or another more temporary source—it’s a good idea to mention where you got it lest you creep out the hiring manager. 

Researching the job and the company also allows you to tailor your strengths to the position and stress why you’re the best candidate for it. This personalization can maximize your chances of securing the job you want. In particular, look for what the company wants from its new hire and explain how you can provide that.

There may be times when it’s impossible to find the name of the hiring manager online. In that case, it is acceptable to reach out to the company via phone or email and ask to whom the letter should be addressed. If this fails, no one else will be able to name the hiring manager on their letter, either, so it won’t put you at a disadvantage. You can always find specific information about the company and the job and refer to these things so that your letter is not generic.

2. Don’t disregard instructions

If you are responding to a job advertisement, check to see if they require any specific information in the cover letter. Do they ask that you provide certain certifications or qualifications you might not have included in your resume? Make sure you add these to your cover letter. You want to show that you are conscientious and can follow instructions. 

If you neglect to provide the required information, you may have lost the job before you even get a chance to interview. Some job postings may also specifically state that you shouldn’t include a cover letter, which is the only situation in which you should forgo this step. If there’s no information about cover letters in the job listing, send one anyway.

3. Don’t mirror your resume

You want to complement your resume, not repeat it. Don’t waste the reader’s time by regurgitating what’s already in your resume. The cover letter is the place where you can showcase your personality, expertise, and character. Elaborate on your resume by adding more details about why your skills are exactly what the company needs. Try to show the recruiter that you are someone who will make a good team member and fulfill any duties assigned.

Explain why you will be a good fit for this job and what you like about the company. State that you are aware of its needs and excited to take on the challenge of helping it grow and succeed. It’s fine if a sentence touches on your feelings or thoughts when it’s really about benefiting the company.

The cover letter can also be a good place to explain in detail what others may see as negatives on your resume. Was there a time when you were not working? It makes a big difference if this was due to a hospital stay or illness or if you were laid off and had trouble getting a new job. Did you quit a position after a short time? Again, leaving because you didn’t feel you were growing in that position can be very different from not being able to get along with your boss or coworkers.

4. Don’t make every cover letter the same

Do not use a generic template for your cover letter and the same information for each job application. You can start with a template if you find that easier, but the end result should feel like something you made from scratch, something exclusively created for this particular employer. The recruiter will pick up on a generic letter and may see it as a sign that you aren’t serious about the job and the company. Let them know how you intend to fulfill the role, with customized text that touches on the company’s goals and the desired skills in an employee.

Using a template can also make you sound insincere. Show respect for the company by demonstrating that you cared enough to do research. By being specific, you are likely to stand out from the other applicants.

5. Don’t be too formal or too laid back

When you write a cover letter, try to get an idea of what tone you should use. You can do this by researching the culture of the company. How? Take a look at its website and social media. Is it a fun-loving, casual organization, or does it seem more reserved and corporate? This will help you determine what style to use. Do you know someone who works at the company? If so, check with them.

Most importantly, you want your personality to shine through. You want the hiring manager to be able to assess how you will fit into the workplace culture. While you don’t want to use rigid or overly long sentences, it is generally better to be a bit more formal than too casual. Even if the company has a laid-back culture, being too casual from the very beginning isn’t necessarily a good look. For example, if the hiring manager’s name is Robert Johnson, you might want to greet him as “Dear Mr. Johnson,” not “Hi Bob!” As long as you adopt a polite, professional tone without going overboard, most employers should be satisfied.

6. Don’t constantly talk about yourself

While it’s fine to let the recruiter know that you are excited to work for their company, don’t make it all about you. Don’t stress how much you want this job or how great your life will be if you get it. By applying, you have already informed them that you want the job.

Instead, let them know how you can help the company move forward. Showcase the specific talents and skills you have that will benefit it. Ask yourself what the position entails and what the company needs and wants and specify how you can fill this role. Your cover letter should be a deep dive into all the ways in which you can add value to the company, not about what you can gain and how it can help you advance your career.

7. Don’t be too wordy or generous with personal details

Keep in mind that hiring managers may be reading hundreds of cover letters and resumes. Don’t waste their time: Be succinct and hit the important points. Your cover letter should never be more than a page long. In fact, it’s preferable to keep it even shorter than that. A concise letter with short sentences and paragraphs will have a much better chance of being read in its entirety. Avoid verbosity and overly complex constructions, especially if they obstruct the meaning. Make every word count!

Keep your cover letter focused and to the point. Don’t share personal information or anything that doesn’t relate to the job you are applying for. If any information doesn’t connect to the company or the position, leave it out—it will only add to the length of the letter and won’t earn you any points. The idea is to keep the text as short as possible while providing all the information the recruiter should know.

8. Don’t stray from your brand

Be consistent with your personal branding, which can include your unique qualifications for the job and your reputation. The cover letter is the perfect place to brand yourself and show why you’re a good fit for the company. Be creative but true to yourself. If you have a portfolio, social media accounts, or a website that showcases work of potential interest to the prospective hirer, direct them to those sites. However, be careful that your social media profiles don’t feature content you wouldn’t want them to see. Carefully review your privacy settings before releasing your handles to a hiring manager.

Furthermore, cement your brand with a uniform format and styling of your cover letter and resume. Stick with the same font and font size. Make sure that you use your current address and the same form of your name. If you have “Susan” on the resume, don’t sign your letter with “Sue” or “Susie.”

9. Don’t make silly mistakes

The best way to avoid typos and silly mistakes is to read your cover letter several times. You aren’t done yet, however! Get a fresh pair of eyes to look over it. Ask a dependable friend, relative, or roommate to give it a thorough reading. Never rely on autocorrect or spellcheck—they may not catch every mistake and may even introduce new ones. Spellcheck won’t flag a word that is spelled correctly but is not the one you wanted to use. Not even “smart” grammar checkers like Grammarly can do the job, even if you have the premium version. Don’t entrust a document as important as your cover letter to a non-human proofreader. For the ultimate peace of mind, consider sending your cover letter (and resume) to professional editors.

When writing the company name or the name of a specific person, double-check that you have spelled it correctly. Misspelling these names can make you look careless and sloppy—not a good first impression! You don’t want to lose the chance of being hired because you spelled the reader’s name wrong.

These tips can help you write the perfect cover letter. Need help crafting a resume that helps you land your dream job? Let our seasoned professionals help!

Improve Your Resume or CV