If you are familiar with filling out job applications, you are probably wondering if writing a professional cover letter is even necessary. Online job applications have been killing off cover letters for years. But companies still ask for them, so you should know these cover letter mistakes to avoid.
1. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar
This always tops the list of what not to put in a cover letter. There are apps like Grammar.ly that help to point out spelling and grammar errors or at least warn you when something needs checking.
Get a professional colleague or English teacher to scrutinize your grammar. The extra pair of eyes to check your work will help you avoid any common cover letter mistakes.
Poor grammar and spelling are one of the biggest cover letter mistakes to avoid. Why? Your grammar and spelling are indicative of your level of written, verbal, and communications skills.
2. Covering topics that make others uncomfortable
At your last job, you may have had some uncomfortable scenarios that required an amazing effort on your part. Still, writing about uncomfortable situations is a common cover letter mistake you want to avoid.
For example, a Vice President at an insurance company sets up a claims processing unit due to a hurricane that costs billions of dollars in property loss. She dealt with an overwhelming amount of work under very sensitive circumstances. It was a PR disaster because her office denied hundreds of claims and it made the news. As a professional, she handled it with grace and professionalism.
The example above is a true story. If it made you uncomfortable, perhaps you feel why writing about it is a cover letter mistake to avoid. Keep the uncomfortable stories of trials and tribulations out of the professional cover letter. Stick to brief facts and numbers.
3. Making it all about you and no one else
One of the best pieces of career advice I received for writing a professional cover letter was this:
Instead of writing about, ‘Here I am!’ write about ‘There you are!’
A common cover letter mistake is to write “all about you and what you do”. That is definitely what NOT to put in a cover letter. The company reading your cover letter needs to know what you can do for them. They have your resume and know your experience already.
4. Writing a professional cover letter and autobiography
A big cover letter mistake to avoid is writing a cover letter that turns into an autobiography. If you have more than a decade’s worth of work experience, at some point, the earlier experience becomes anecdotal. A job description of every single job you had since high school is too much.
Everyone at some point in their career had an entry-level admin job, worked in a retail store, or flipped a burger. This all qualifies as “what not to put on your cover letter”. It is irrelevant career experience, especially if you are applying for six-figure jobs at a VP or director level.
5. Starting with “My name is…”
The simplest and most common cover letter mistake is using the first sentence to announce your name.
“My name is [insert name] and I am applying for the position of...”
Think about it: Why announce your name when it appears on your resume, cover letter heading, most likely the file name attached in an email, and the email itself? It is really just a waste of cover letter realty, and if you have a limited amount of time before someone stops reading your cover letter, it is best to use that time and space wisely.