Seven Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid
The student's resume was impressive. The formatting was impeccable, the content was excellent, and he did a great job of focusing on accomplishments instead of job duties. If I were an employer, I would have been impressed.
Then I looked at his cover letter and imagined the employer tossing that perfect resume into the trash bin.
Many college students and recent grads destroy their resumes by accompanying them with halfhearted or downright terrible cover letters. While some employers don't bother reading cover letters, most do. And they will quickly eliminate you if you make these cover letter mistakes:
Using the Wrong Cover Letter Format
The student's cover letter looked more like a cut-and-paste email than a business letter. It had no recipient information, no return address and no date. The letter screamed unprofessional.
Be sure your cover letter uses a standard business-letter format. It should include the date, the recipient's mailing address and your address.
Making It All About You
It may seem counterintuitive, but your cover letter, like your resume, should be about the employer as much as it's about you. Yes, you need to tell the employer about yourself, but do so in the context of the employer's needs and the specified job requirements.
Not Proofing for Typos and Grammatical Errors
Employers tend to view typos and grammatical errors as evidence of your carelessness and inability to write. Proofread every letter you send. Get additional cover letter help by asking a friend who knows good writing double-check your letter for you.
Making Unsupported Claims
Too many cover letters from college students and recent grads say the applicant has "strong written and verbal communication skills." Without evidence, it's an empty boast. Give some examples for each claim you make. Employers need proof.
Writing a Novel
A good cover letter should be no longer than one page. Employers are deluged with resumes and cover letters, and their time is scarce. Make sure your cover letter has three or four concise but convincing paragraphs that are easy to read. If your competitor's letter rambles on for two pages, guess which candidate the employer will prefer.
Using the Same Cover Letter for Every Job and Company
Employers see so many cover letters that it's easy for them to tell when you're using a one-size-fits-all approach. If you haven't addressed their company's specific concerns, they'll conclude you don't care about this particular job.
It's time-consuming but worthwhile to customize each cover letter for the specific job and company.
Not Sending a Real Cover Letter
Some job seekers -- college students, recent grads and even those with years of work experience -- don't bother sending a cover letter with their resume. Others type up a one or two-sentence "here's my resume" cover letter, while others attach handwritten letters or sticky notes.
There is no gray area here: You must include a well-written, neatly formatted cover letter with every resume you send. If you don't, you won't be considered for the job.
Let an expert write you a job-winning resume and cover letter.
How to Include Your Contact Information in a Cover Letter
When you write a cover letter or send an email message that includes a cover letter, you will always need to include your contact information. You'll use the same basic template every time to share your contact details — this isn't the time to get creative.
You don’t want to make the recipient have to do any work at all to figure out how to get in touch with you. However, the way you include your contact information will vary based on the method you use to send your cover letter.
Clue Your Reader In
In your cover letter, no matter what contact information you include — street address, phone number, email — indicate to the recipient the most expeditious way to contact you. If you're sending a paper cover letter, for example, you can write, “You can reach me during business hours at the phone number above.”
Or in an email message, you could say, "I look forward to hearing from you — my email address and phone number are in my signature below." A simple sentence in the conclusion of your cover letter will make it clear to employees both where to find your contact information, and the best way to get in touch.
Contact Section Template - Paper Cover Letter
When you are writing a cover letter to mail or to upload to a job board or company website, the first section of your cover letter should include information on how the employer can contact you. If you have contact information for the employer, include that.
Otherwise, just list your information.
For a cover letter printed on paper, put your contact information at the top left. Use single-spacing and a consistent font, formatting it as a block of information that belongs together. On paper, you will always include your full mailing address (after all, you’re including the recipient’s full address as well, since you’re mailing the letter).
Additional contact information should include your phone number and email address.
Leave a space, add the date, and then type the recipient’s name and address, single-spaced. Include both the name of the person you are sending the letter to and that person’s title, as well as the organization name.
Experts strongly recommend doing your research so that you know the name of the person who's receiving the letter. You can use the company website or LinkedIn to try to determine the hiring manager's name. Or, call up the company's main line, and see if the receptionist can help.
If you cannot determine a contact's name, simply leave off the "name" and "title" in the employer contact information section. Instead, you can put a department. (For instance, "Editorial Department" or "Human Resources.") Here’s how the beginning of your letter should look:
Your Contact Information
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
Employer Contact Information
City, State, Zip Code
Contact Section Template - Email Letter
Email communication is a different story. When you send an email cover letter, you should not include the contact information of the employer.
And instead of listing your own contact information at the top of the message, include it in your signature, after your name.
You can include your full contact information, such as street address, or just your name, email address, and phone number. You might also include relevant links to your social footprint, such as your LinkedIn profile or professional website, if that will provide additional helpful information or add to your stature in the profession that you work.
Here are examples of email signatures:
Email Signature Example
Email Signature with Full Address Example
City, State, Zip
Email Signature with LinkedIn Example
Now that you've got your contact information squared away, the following links will help you write the rest of that cover letter.