A well-written cover letter is vital to getting your foot in the door. It can be the difference between getting selected for an interview or not. While a polished cover letter can help boost your job application, an unartfully written one can cost you an interview. Don’t believe me? Take a cue from The Worst Cover Letter on Wall Street and see for yourself- everything about it is blatantly wrong. While it’s important to share your skills and achievements to employers, there are some things that are better excluded. Below are five things you should leave out of your cover letter.
Headshot. Unless you’re looking for acting or modeling jobs, including a headshot in your resume or cover letter is unnecessary. Many hiring managers think it’s unacceptable and could increase the possibility of discrimination and bias against the applicant, especially towards POC job seekers. Besides, most recruiters will Google you anyway and check your social media profiles so they’ll ultimately get to see what you look like. However, if you’re looking for jobs abroad, keep in mind that some countries like South Korea expect you to include a professional photo with your resume and cover letter. It’s best to do whatever is customary in your local job market.
Graphics and Colors. Simple is better. Don’t go too crazy with colors and graphics unless you’re applying for a creative position. Be careful though- even some creative industries aren’t keen on crazy colors. I learned this the hard way. I used to work as a professional singer, and in an attempt to stand out; I submitted a matching resume and cover letter with small orange colored stars bordering around the page. The casting director took one look at my cover letter, snickered, and quipped, “How Old Are You? Are you nine years old?” I never got the job.
Salary requirements and expectations. There is a time and place to discuss salary and job expectations during the recruitment process, but your cover letter isn’t it. Lisa Benson, CEO of Mary Kraft Staffing and HR Solutions recommends that job applicants provide no unsolicited salary information in their cover letter unless you’re specifically asked to do so. No one wants to hire someone who seems to only about the money.
Too much personal information. Your cover letter is not OkCupid or your memoir. Do not divulge too much unnecessary and irrelevant information. Hiring managers don’t care about your first job at Dairy Queen, your daily Kundalini yoga practice, or your recent move to the city to be with your partner. Don’t make it all about yourself. The worst cover letters have the word “I” plastered all over it. While it’s important to share your accomplishments, you need to show employers why you’re the right person for the job by highlighting your technical skills, relevant job experience, and soft skills.
Typos. When you’re exhausted or applying to multiple jobs, sometimes writing mistakes happen that end up costing you an interview. For most employers, one typo is an automatic veto, since they often interpret it as a sign of poor attention to detail. A survey found that 63 percent of senior managers eliminate a job applicant from consideration if they submit a resume or cover letter with typos. Double or triple-check your cover letter for grammar and spelling mistakes before sending it to employers. You can use free online grammar and spell-checking tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid to avoid snafus.
Remember, your cover letter has one goal: to get you a job interview. A good cover letter should be concise, short, and focused on what you can offer. Avoid these common clangers and you’ll be a step closer to creating impressive and stellar cover letters.