Commonly Repeated Mistakes

Nancy Anderson
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While many job seekers treat an emailed cover letter as a simple casual note, in reality, it is a chance to make a great first impression. Avoid these common cover letter mistakes to stand out from the crowd and increase your chance at landing an interview.

Being Too General

Sending a generic letter to an unnamed person leads the list of common mistakes. Always take the time to figure out who to address your cover letter to, and include a proper greeting with that person's name. Add details in the email to show an understanding of the position you are applying for and how you mesh with that position. Include information about the company and how you see yourself benefiting the organization. These details show your passion for the company and the position, and keep hiring managers reading to learn more.

Expressing Creativity in All the Wrong Places

A cover letter is not the place to show your creative side. Stick to standard formatting to ensure the reader sees everything properly. Avoid colored text, background images and nonstandard fonts that may not display correctly on all screens. Keep lines to 40 characters or less, and never ever include emoticons or text-speak. Avoiding this common cover letter mistake ensures your carefully crafted email looks exactly as you intend it to regardless of the viewing environment.

Ignoring Keywords

Busy hiring managers increasingly use applicant-tracking software to screen job applicants. These programs quickly search cover-letter emails for important keywords related to the position. Ignoring the importance of keywords is a common mistake that is easy to avoid. Your best bet is to use keywords from the job description as you write your letter. For example, when describing your skills, use the exact phrases used in the job description to increase the likelihood of being noticed by the screening software.

Providing Too Much Information

A cover letter is your introduction to the company. Avoid repeating everything from your resume or adding details that do not support your suitability for the position. It is acceptable to let your personality shine through, but avoid sharing casual details about your life or anything that could come across as unprofessional. Keeping your information brief and relevant helps you avoid the common mistake of making the letter too long. Limiting yourself to no more than four well-crafted paragraphs shows you value the hiring manager's time and increases the chances your entire letter will be read.

The modern cover letter needs to be brief, carefully connected to the job and keyword-rich to be noticed by applicant-tracking software programs and read in full by hiring managers. Avoid common mistakes, such as creative formatting, text-speak and a lack of focus, to stay ahead of the crowd. Not every cover letter gets you an interview, but a lack of common mistakes increases your chances every time.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks. Yes, cover letters are very important. This is not to say that every company will look at your cover letter but, a great cover letter can certainly open the door. Once you get a foot in, it's up to you to close the deal.

  • Patsy W.
    Patsy W.

    This post gives you many great tips to create a professional cover letter.

  • Thomas Rowlands
    Thomas Rowlands

    This post is very informative about cover letters, I understand better the importance of cover letters to a hiring manager.

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