Ten Mistakes to Take You Out of the Running

Nancy Anderson
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A well-written cover letter can make the difference between landing an interview and never getting a call-back. Some employers filter a sample of your writing through an online system that digests keywords and vets candidates. At the very least, prospective employers review it for quality of writing and content. Common cover letter mistakes may leave the wrong impression from the get-go and force you do re-do your job search.

Avoid these ten simple cover letter mistakes in your initial correspondence to prevent dooming your chances before you even get call-backs from prospective employers.

Grammatical Errors and Typos

Errors with communication skills make you seem as if you cannot relay information correctly. Most job descriptions list "great verbal/written communication" as a must. Failure to demonstrate this the first time you communicate with a company represents one of the easiest ways cover letter mistakes land your application in the Delete folder.

Write Too Much

A cover letter should be a concise, one-page, three-paragraph note explaining your intentions. Any more than that and job recruiters spend too much time reading.

Address the Letter to the Wrong Person

Find out to whom you need to send the letter. Perform an Internet search to discover someone's name, or make a few brief phone calls to the company's human resources department. If you cannot find a name, address the cover letter to the HR manager, recruiter or "To Whom It May Concern."

Lack of Personalization

When you write 20 cover letters a week, one of the most common cover letter mistakes becomes a lack of tailoring your correspondence to each company. Customize each letter to the posted job description by including relevant keywords.

Forgetting to Rewrite

You run the risk of using the same job title for multiple companies when you repeatedly copy and paste the same cover letter. Rewrite the document from scratch rather than using a generic format to save time. Otherwise, your efficiency turns into an embarrassing mistake of forgetfulness.

Too Much Humility

Showing too much humility in a cover letter bespeaks a lack of action. Use action words throughout your text.

Too Much Confidence

Having a go-getter attitude is great, but do not boast or gloat about your accomplishments. Write about fact-based achievements since that's more effective than sounding egotistical and superlative.


Believe it or not, lying is one of the common cover letter mistakes. Employers are likely to discover that one little lie you tell eventually, either through your lack of knowledge or someone contacting a person in your network.

Justifying Quitting Your Previous Job

If your future employer wants to know why you left your previous job, interviewers ask that question further along in the job search process. Your correspondence should tell a success story, not a failure.

Listing References

Unless you were referred to a job by one person, your cover letter doesn't need a list of references. HR managers ask for those when they call you for a potential interview or at the interview itself. No one at a potential employer knows all the people anyway, and references waste space on the page.

One or more cover letter mistakes could create problems as you attempt to land that dream job. Avoid costly errors, and take a few minutes to fine-tune your document.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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