11 Mistakes in Writing a Cover Letter and their Quick Fix

A simple way of submitting a cover letter can instantly help you to stand out among the other candidates for a job. Typically, the importance of cover letter is being ignored and some job applicants opt to submit their resume without it, however, your chance to go to the next step – the interview, might just depend on your cover letter. 

A cover letter is a good opportunity for you to present your  professional brand to the people whom you would like to hire you. How you present yourself in this letter is important because it determines how you will be perceived and how your application will be initially decided. It provides the hiring manager a glimpse about you, and why you would be the right person for the job compared to the other candidates. Your cover letter must be carefully crafted to ensure that it would help and not hurt your application, so it is important to make it reading worthy and avoid the following mistakes that make hiring managers cringe. 


Casual Greetings and Closings (The Hello and Bye Greeting)

Using the informal greetings of ‘Hey’ or ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’ for closing are mostly used for casual greetings for friends, family or someone you are already acquainted with. Since you are writing for someone you haven’t met and you are applying for a serious job, it would help if you would use an acceptable formal greeting as well. Remember that business letters should reflect a sense of professionalism.

Quick Fix: Instead of using “Hey or ‘Hi’ you may use ‘Dear’ followed by the person’s family name. For closing, you may use, Best regards, Respectfully and ‘Sincerely’ followed by a comma.


Non-customized (The Dear Anyone)

Reading a letter that seems to have been sent to others as well loses your interest, and the same applies for Hiring managers who receive cover letters that are not customized. Some candidates only write “Dear [Name of Company]”, which gives the reader an idea that this might have been sent elsewhere as well and just to make it a bit more customized the name of the company after the greeting was written. Also, you are not writing for the entire organization, but you’re supposed to be writing for a specific person who is in charge for the recruitment. If you do this, your cover letter might just end up being tossed in the trash bin, since it is not addressed to a particular individual or department in the company.  Avoid sending the message that you did not do your homework before applying, because it will give them an impression that you are not really serious in applying to not even know to whom your letter must be sent to.  

Quick Fix: Research the name of the hiring manager then use it to customize the opening of your document. Instead of writing “Dear ABC Company’  change it to ‘Dear’ [Surname of the Hiring Manager] followed by a comma. If you are unable to find the recruiter’s name then you may use ‘Dear [Hiring Manager],’ instead.


Beginning with a Name (My Name is….)

The best way to start the body of your cover letter is not by telling your name. This works when you are introducing yourself face to face but if it’s for a cover letter or even any kind of business letter, this would make the reader really cringe. Think of other ways to introduce yourself that would make them interested about you. 

Quick fix: Instead of saying my “My name is Peter’ you may start introducing yourself by stating your profession and your years of experience on a certain industry. For example, if you are an IT professional you can say “I am an IT consultant with 5 years of telecommunications industry experience. On the other hand if you are a fresh graduate you can say ‘I am an IT graduate with a passion for photography’ 


A Resume’s Photocopy

Your cover letter is not supposed to be your resume in paragraph form because your cover letter should not repeat your entire resume. Let your resume fulfill its purpose, and make use of your cover to explain why your relevant experiences make you a good fit for the position they are looking for. Remember that a cover letter is a supporting document to your resume. 

Quick Fix: Instead of rehashing your entire work history on your cover letter, make some tweaks to your resume. Choose one up to three experiences you have that is relevant to the position you are applying for.


Spotlight on you (‘About Me…’) 

Since the company is hiring someone to do a specific job for them what they are interested to know is why you are a good match to the job position they are looking for, what can you bring to their company and how the company will benefit from hiring you. Therefore, the content of your cover letter is not supposed to be talking about your life story, your needs, wants and preferences.

Quick Fix: When writing your cover letter, put yourself on the viewpoint of your prospective employer on how he would choose the right person for the role, Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on explaining why you are right for them, why you’re able to fill the void that they have in place.  You may mention the experiences and skills you’ve acquired and used over the years that match the job description of the position you are applying for. Convince them by showing that your focus is on them and not only on you.


Sharing Too much Information (TMI)

When writing a cover letter, it is important to know how much information you should include on it. Sometimes, you might be tempted to include extraneous details hoping it would help you to get the job, but sharing irrelevant information might only detract your qualifications and candidacy. 

Quick Fix:  Ask yourself, what experience do you have that’s relevant to the job you are applying for. If you have already written a draft of your cover letter, omit all the irrelevant details and only include those that are related to the job you’re applying for.


Informal Language (Using Poetic or Slang Lingo)

Cover letter is a form of business writing that is supposed to use  formal or polite language. Since you are applying for a job you have to present yourself in a professional way. By using a formal language, you sound more intellectual and professional and sends a message to the reader that you seem reliable and know what you are getting into thus worthy to be trusted for the role. 

Quick Fix: Use appropriate words and phrases that are appropriate for business.  In writing your business letter avoid using abbreviations, acronyms, text-speak,  emojis and slang words. You may as well, refrain from using flowery language which is best used for a specific kind of writing.  Idioms must also be removed as these are better used in conversational english. 


Cover Letter Word and Phrases cliches

Avoid words and phrases that are too trite. Recruiters have seen a lot of cover letters already and using these words again won’t make you stand out among other applicants. Remember, if you haven’t caught the interest of the recruiter on the first screening, chances are you wont get to the interview. 

Quick Fix:  Share your best qualifications in an interesting way by being more specific and provide examples of how you work well. Terms like ‘team player, hard-worker, strategic thinker, are overused words that may describe your qualities, however, output words like trained, mentored, influenced, contributed, achieved, created, negotiated and managed are more powerful and interesting to hiring managers. We are more outcome based nowadays, and simply talking about your qualities won’t impress them as much as knowing your achievements. What they are more interested is knowing what you can deliver, than knowing the description of your qualities.


Bad Layout

Unless you are applying for an artistic role that requires design skills, the layout of your cover letter must follow what is standard. The lay out must be considered because it is immediately noticeable, and even with this little detail you would want to get it right to make a good first impression.

Quick Fix: To make your cover letter look visually pleasing, use a standard plain font and same font size throughout. Your cover letter will also look more presentable if you put proper spaces in-between paragraphs, single space between lines, and aligned left justify your letter.  Your paragraphs must also be broken down into small, readable chunks.


Too short or too long

Your cover letter shouldn’t be any shorter or longer than is necessary. If its too long, your letter will look like a novel that is going to bore the reader, If its too short, it will look too sparse.

Quick Fix: In general your cover letter shouldn’t exceed one page neither too short to only have less than two paragraphs. Keep it concise and to the point to prevent from underwhelming or overwhelming the hiring manager.


Forgetting to proofread

Wrong punctuation, misspelled words, grammatical errors are some of the details that are often overlooked but can actually affect your professional branding. These mistakes can make your readers think that you are less detail oriented and may need to improve more on written communication skills. Due to the number of applications that recruiters receive, they may rule out the cover letter even for the slightest mistake to shortlist candidates easily. So even at this initial phase, you have to present your best version even in writing. The least thing you want to have at this point is to have an image of being sloppy just because of minor details. 

Quickfix: Since mistakes are unavoidable proofreading your letter is important. Nowadays, you can use digital writing tool to correct your writing, however, remember that you still need to check your work again. If you are still not confident about your writing then you may ask someone you know that is good in writing to proofread your letter.  


Whether you are currently employed or searching for a job, it is helpful to have a cover letter. It’s good to have one ready as a backup just in case you need one. Start writing it now and don’t forget to avoid the mistakes listed above to make your cover letter get a lot of love and avoid costing you the interview.

Kaycie Gayle is a freelance content writer and a digital publisher. Her writings are mostly about, travel, culture, people, food, and communication.