What You Should Not Write in a Cover Letter

Most companies require a cover letter along with your application and resume. Recruiters want to know why they should consider granting you an interview, and your cover letter is an opportunity to point out which aspects of your past experience best qualify you for the job. 

Your letter is your official introduction to a company, so it must make a positive impression.  This is especially true if you’re trying to showcase business skills such as project management, critical thinking, or communication. The cover letter demonstrates your ability to write; therefore it should be well-written, addressed properly, insightful and interesting. Learn to avoid the following mistakes and your cover letter could help you land your dream job.

Improper spelling and grammar

Hiring managers always keep a sharp eye out for errors. Cover letters are like a test for corporate communication, so recruiters are looking for basic mistakes like misspelled words or improper punctuation marks. All missteps are strikes against you that will negatively influence how a potential employer thinks of you.

Be sure to edit and proofread your letter before sending it to a company. Read it multiple times and look for any small mistakes that you may have missed. Ask your friends and associates to read the document as well, because they may find errors that you didn’t notice.

An old-fashioned salutation

A common problem job seekers face is deciding to whom to address the cover letter. Some people choose “Dear Sirs” as a generic salutation, but that one should be avoided, according to the James W. Stuckert Career Center at the University of Kentucky. They point out that the phrase excludes women and can hurt your chances of landing a job.

Search for a recruiter’s name so you can directly address them in your letter. If the name is not included in the job listing, then call the company and ask. Because many businesses may not divulge that information, feel free to use a generic greeting like “To whom it may concern.”

Overused cliches

If you’ve written your share of cover letters lately, it’s easy to use similar wording in every one. It’s important to make your words stand out in a way that makes you stand out without giving the wrong impression.

MSN recently reported on a Robert Half study in which they asked 1,300 managers about the overused verbiage on resumes. They include descriptive words like “hard worker,” “”team player” and “people person”.  You should avoid these in your cover letters as well.

Bragging can backfire

Many job seekers write about how they are the ideal candidate for a job. This strategy has some merit at first glance, but bold claims are impossible to prove and may be completely untrue. CBS News notes that unless you know every other applicant, you don’t know if you actually are the best person to fill a specific position.

Write about your skills and qualifications without tooting your own horn. Present the necessary information and allow recruiters to form their own impressions about you.

Inaccurate information about the company

Cover letters should always include information about the company. This section cannot be taken lightly – all information about yourself and the potential employer must be entirely accurate.

Research what a business does before writing your cover letter. The document should reflect that you understand the company’s products, objectives and culture. Not researching a business shows that you aren’t willing to prepare yourself adequately for a task.

Scott Murray is the Social Learning Evangelist for TrainUp.com, the web’s largest career marketplace.  He is also a contributor to the Training Insights Blog, a series of blogs dedicated to career and professional development.