5 Common Cover Letter Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

There’s no one, singular “right” way to craft a successful cover letter, as each should be uniquely tailored to the writer and the position.  But there are plenty of common mistakes that you can avoid to help ensure that your cover letter is more impactful:

1. Sending a generic or template letter

It’s easy to spot a template or generic cover letter from a mile away.  Rather than sending out a higher quantity of generic cover letters, you’re better off sending fewer customized letters. Take the time to think about what is unique about your skills as well as the organization you are applying to.  Use my cover letter worksheet to help you craft a targeted letter.

2. Addressing the letter “To Whom it May Concern”

This also sends a signal to an organization that you haven’t taken the time to do your homework and research the organization.  Is there a contact on the job description?  If so, address the letter to that individual.  If not, can you do a bit of networking or other research to find out who the point of contact is?  If not, use a greeting such as “Dear Human Resource Manager” or “Dear Hiring Committee.”

3. Focusing on what you’re going to get out of the job

It’s easy to begin thinking about the benefits you are going to gain my obtaining the position. You’ll likely earn valuable experience, learn new skills, or make many professional connections. The employer knows this.  What are they going to get out of hiring you?  That’s the real question they want answered.  Essentially, think what’s in it for them instead of you.

4. Restating your resume

Your cover letter should be different from your resume.  You don’t want to simply repeat your list of experiences or duplicate the phrases from your bullet points.  Instead, look for patterns or themes in your experience that will resonate with that employer.  

5. Concluding in a lackluster way

A common mistake is to bow out by simply ending with “I look forward to hearing from you.” Consider other statements about following up, offering your ability to speak over the phone, or if you will be traveling to the local area in the near future.  Express your appreciation, but don’t forget to be proactive.

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Once you've got a draft written, don't forget to get as many eyes on it as possible. Let friends and family take a look to help you catch grammatical or spelling errors.