Cover letter mistakes to avoid

Here are some of the major 'don'ts' of cover letter writing

Cover letter mistakes to avoidA cover letter or email is a vital part of your job application. A well written cover letter will increase the chances of a hiring manager reading your CV and inviting you to a job interview. But a poorly written cover letter or email can have the opposite effect and result in your application going straight in the bin. 

Here are 8 common cover letter mistakes that you should avoid along with some examples of real-life slip ups, where candidates have got themselves in a tangle and ended up missing the mark.

Be vague and generic

You aren't going to impress any hiring manager by forwarding on a generic cover letter you've prepared for a previous job application. Even if the roles are very similar, you need to rework the document to make it specific to the organisation you are applying to. It is also important to address the hiring manager personally, rather than simply writing 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Madam'.

Treat the letter as an afterthought

Job applicants should spend as much time on their cover letter as they do on their CV. This document is more than just an introduction to your resume, it's your first opportunity to connect with the employer and show your credentials. If you throw a few scrappy sentences together in a hurry, it might be the last correspondence you exchange with this particular organisation.

Exude negativity

If you want to be invited to interview, you need to avoid negativity in your cover letter. This is the case when discussing yourself, your credentials, your former employer or the role you are applying to. Failing to adopt a positive tone will set alarm bells ringing with the hiring manager:

COVER LETTER: "I was fired because I told my boss off a few times." - Hmm...this is just what a prospective new employer wants to hear.

COVER LETTER: "Hate my new boss even more than all my other old bosses." - But was it really your bosses that were the problem?

Write page after page

Extending your cover letter to several pages is a sure-fire way to ensure it doesn't get read. Just remember, yours is likely to be one of many applications, and the hiring manager only has limited time to work through them. If you're unable to make an impact in the first paragraph, the contents of the rest of the letter matter little.

Rehash your CV

Hiring managers are looking for something more than the information that is already available in your CV - they want to know about your suitability for the job, attitude and ambitions. The cover letter is an opportunity to tell them something more about yourself, and compel them to invite you to interview. You can't afford to waste this chance.

Make spelling mistakes

This is a sure-fire way to ensure your rejection - nothing is more frustrating for a hiring manager than trying to read an illegible document. It tells the employer everything they need to know about you as a candidate - in terms of your approach to important tasks and focus on quality. If you can't spell, you need to make sure someone who can checks your letter before you send it. Oh, and of course, don't ever resort to text-speak.

COVER LETTER: "Finally, as an overview, I love to collaborate to enlighten direction based on targetted markets." - This candidate was off-target with his spelling

"U think ur the employer for me?" - No, no, no.

Try too hard

If you try too much to get your personality across in the cover letter, this can backfire spectacularly. You're much better playing a straight bat in the application, and saving the jokes for interview.

COVER LETTER: "Qualified printer, reset button presser and ink cartridge shaker." - No, we're not laughing.

Allow the letter to peter out

A strong introduction is important for any cover letter, but it's also vital to craft a solid conclusion. You should use the last sentence or two to reassert your interest in the position and suitability for the role. Grab the bull by the horns and don't let go!

COVER LETTER: "Making me an addition to this workforce will not be a problem." - Oh really? Thanks for your insight.

To make your cover letter stand out for the right reasons, read 5 top tips for writing the ultimate cover letter.