What to Leave Out of a Cover Letter

A good cover letter spotlights a candidates strengths and how he or she would fit into an organization. Unfortunately, too many applicants fail to write a good cover letter, which generally can be attributed to these three reasons:

  • They don’t include enough information.
  • They include too much information.
  • They don’t include the right kind of information.

Making these mistakes can lead to few or no job interviews, which will harm your career prospects. To improve your chances of getting a phone call from an employer, learn what to leave out of a cover letter.

Generic Language

A cover letter is not simply a one-paragraph statement of your interest in a position. It is a place for you to sell your qualifications to an employer. To do this, you need to write a unique cover letter for each job for which you are applying. Yale College recommends that you explain how your experience meets the qualifications of the job and how your skills could benefit the organization. This is also a good opportunity for you to show your knowledge of the company, a move that always impresses a hiring manager.

Excessive Wordiness

Corporate recruiting strategist John Sullivan says that a company receives an average of 250 resumes for every job opening. Hiring managers do not have time to read all the cover letters that are included, and they appreciate ones that that are short and to the point. If you send a cover letter that exceeds one page, it is more likely to end up in the trash bin rather than in the potential interview pile.

Summarizing the Resume

In Forbes, veteran writer Seth Porges says that many people mistakenly assume that a cover letter is just a repeat of the resume in letter form. Because the employer already has a copy of your resume, summarizing it will not improve your chances of getting an interview. Porges recommends that you use the cover letter to show your personality and knowledge of the field and the company for which you are applying. You can choose to reference an experience or event listed on your resume, but do so only to explain how that that event provided you with the skills or experience that would make you a better candidate for the position.

Talking About College

Katherine Goldstein, innovations editor for Slate, has reviewed hundreds of resumes and cover letters during her tenure with the online magazine. One of her biggest pet peeves is when the cover letter talks about college, especially after the applicant has graduated. Like most employers, she is only interested in experience that will help her company. Goldstein’s advice is that if you’re not currently a student, do not mention your GPA, your Ivy League education, your college coursework or your senior thesis in your cover letter. And definitely do not attach a chapter of the thesis to your application.

Not Following Instructions

When Goldstein posts job openings, she frequently includes specific instructions for applying to the position. She does this, in part, to gauge respondents ability to follow instructions and see how detail-oriented they are. If they fail to follow instructions to the letter, they may be disqualified. To avoid having your cover letter and resume thrown in the reject pile, Goldstein recommends that you read the submission instructions very carefully and follow them.