Two Cover Letter Mistakes That Entry-Level Candidates Make

John Scott
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For experienced professionals and new job seekers alike, the cover letter is a much-feared part of the job hunt. If you are an entry-level candidate, it is important to avoid common cover letter mistakes that can cost you the position. In doing so, you'll get the jump on other recent graduates and increase your chances of securing an interview.

Writing Boilerplate Letters

Every career center offers up sample cover letters as a guide for graduating seniors. Many of these letters use boilerplate language that can be adjusted quickly to suit any job seeker. When faced with the enormity of the first job search, it can be tempting to simply edit the personal details of a cover letter template and send it off—this is one of the most common cover letter mistakes, particularly among graduates who do not consider writing to be a strong suit.

When you stick too closely to a cover letter template, you erase all traces of originality. Chances are, a good percentage of your fellow graduates are making the same decision. As a result, employers receive piles of cover letters that sound robotic and repetitive. When it comes to cover letter mistakes, failure to stand out is one of the most drastic.

Instead, make the effort to craft an original, attention-getting cover letter for each position. Don't be afraid to let your personality shine—after all, an employer is looking for someone who will be interesting and pleasant to work with. Avoid overly formal language and opt for a more clear, direct style. If you are not a strong writer, ask for help at a career or writing center. As an entry-level candidate, your resume is probably light on experience; a strong cover letter can be the thing that sets you apart from the crowd and gets you through to the interview stage.

Lack of Self-Promotion

When you're just starting out, chances are that you won't have a great deal of professional experience. One of the most common cover letter mistakes that new professionals make is the failure to sell themselves. Don't assume that employers will see your recent degree and understand that you don't have experience; the job market is tough, and complacency is a killer.

In a cover letter, self-promotion is crucial. If you don't have experience in your industry, find relevant experience that will make you an asset to the company. Talk about how your experience as a sorority president taught you about negotiating and detail-oriented event planning, or explain how a summer waitstaff job taught you to be an adaptable and professional communicator.

For new graduates, the self-marketing process can feel like bragging. Don't fall into the trap of common cover letter mistakes by underselling your abilities in an attempt at modesty. Never use phrases like, "prove myself," "underqualified," or "not the most qualified." Instead, use specific examples that show confidence. If you were the editor of a tiny college newspaper, explain how you increased ad sales by 25 percent. You'll lose nothing by being bold and brave.

A cover letter is often your one chance to prove to an employer that you are the right candidate. By avoiding common cover letter mistakes made by new professionals, you can get ahead of the pack and find a job faster.


(Photo courtesy of Ambro at


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