While reviewing thousands of cover letters every year from job seekers, in general, most of the cover letters do absolutely nothing to bring the candidate closer to an interview. They are usually generic and filled with non-specific phrases that can be applied to any situation.
There are some, however, that not only don't help – they actually do considerable damage to the writer. They are usually quite funny though – here are some real life cover letter don'ts for those of you in the job search this holiday season.
Misspell the company name or contact name. For some hiring authorities, this may be the worst mistake you can make. Most or all of these names are typically part of the email address you use to send your cover letter. This mistake is a double whammy of a faux pas – first you misspelled things that are near and dear to the employer and you forgot to check your work even when the answer was right in front of you. What are the odds that this same applicant listed "detail oriented" as one of his strengths?
Use the line,"Company X is the leading company in industry X." In theory, starting with a compliment is a good way to go. However, sending a cover letter to a firm complimenting something that isn't actually true is like telling your date what beautiful blue eyes she has, when her eyes are brown. Your highlighted compliment becomes an insult that you thought she'd actually fall for. This is not a good way to start a relationship or cover letter.
Make up words to describe your qualifications. You can't be a "detail orientated" job seeker who has work that "passes mustard." The English language is filled with excellent words that clearly convey an exact meaning and yet are simple enough for everyone to understand. Use those words. In general, the more times a job seeker obviously tries to use a bigger word than is warranted – mistakes will ensue.
Cut and paste from multiple data sources. People use multiple documents to accomplish their job seeking goals including résumés, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters and email correspondence. However, you must incorporate all of these sources into one cohesive document. This action becomes obvious if you have a mix of font types, point sizes or inconsistent formatting within your cover letter. An additional, less known tip, your résumé and cover letter should share the same font and point size. This cohesiveness creates a professional presentation.
Neglect subject verb agreement. Your qualifications shouldn't read, "…while meetings the personal goals and customer needs." Spelling and grammar check offers an initial starting place to catch potential mistakes, but cover letters should be printed and proofread. Twice. It is even better if you have another person to review it for you. Flawless and professional writing continues to lead the list of in demand qualifications. Exhibiting poor written communication skills in your cover letter is a sure-fire way to remove yourself from the candidate pool.
List skills and education not related to the job. While there is nothing wrong with stretching a little for your next position, applying to a technical position that requires 2 years or more experience when you only have babysitting experience is not a good idea. Most hiring authorities would say it is a very bad idea. It shows that you have not read the job description that they took time to prepare and/or you completely disregarded their requests for a specific type of experience.
Misspell your own name and/or have a typo in your contact information in the file(s) attached to your application. If your attachment title is visible to the reader, make sure the title is professional and spelled correctly. Furthermore, triple check that your email address and phone number are correct in your email correspondence, cover letter and resume. The wrong phone number or incorrect direct contact information can cause a candidate to miss the opportunity to interview.
Looking for a job is tough work. Keep in mind these cover letter don'ts and you will have a much better chance of making it to the next step in the interviewing process.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.