6 cover letter sample mistakes to avoid at all costs

By Robert Half on 4 July 2023

Making a good first impression with your hiring manager goes a long way.

But to land a job interview, you’ll have to first make an impact with words, and that’s where your cover letter sets the tone for things to come.

To entice your potential employer to take a second look at your resume, it is essential that your cover letter be customised to deliver maximum impact. You don’t have to start over every time you apply for a new job opening, but you should tailor your cover letter to the company you contact, rather than churning out a one-size-fits-all document.

While a cover letter sample sourced online can be helpful as a starting point, you will still need a large dose of creativity and input to make your mark. It’s highly unlikely that you’d land yourself an interview if your cover letter is near indistinguishable from the sample you derived it from.

The bottom line is, when it comes to your cover letter, it pays to be meticulous about the details. Here are some cover letter sample mistakes to avoid.

1. My name is…

In a letter, there is no need to start out by introducing yourself. Look at it as a telling a story – your career story.

Think of what would catch the reader’s attention, and say that in the first line instead. Hook the reader and draw him or her in further, rather than indulge in formal pleasantries.

2. Unsolicited opinions

When you’re talking about what you can offer the company, stay well clear of commenting on its practices.

You don’t have to be completely humble, especially when the purpose of the cover letter is to promote yourself as the best person for the job, but there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

3. Long-windedness

Your cover letter is meant to grace your resume with an interesting preface about you. A common mistake is putting your resume in letter form or reciting your education credentials.

Stick to one or two achievements or life experiences, and don't give away all the details - that's what the interview is for. As a general rule, avoid going over one page, and don't be afraid of taking out parts of the cover letter sample that are unnecessary and irrelevant.

4. Using “big” words you don’t understand

It's always best to use words you're familiar with, instead of consulting a thesaurus for buzz words and flowery synonyms that may not hold quite the same meaning.

It may seem like a good idea to impress a potential employer with your command of the language, but excessive verbosity will just be confusing. More often than not, the simplest way to express an idea is the best way.

5. Getting personal

Unless it's somehow relevant to the job, there is no need to mention your personal life. Stick to your skills that make you the right fit for the role and the company.

6. Words without actions

Rather than describing yourself as responsible and hardworking, demonstrate those qualities. If you've served in a role where you had to be innovative or received an award for excellence in your field, highlight those achievements instead.

When you’re finally done writing the perfect cover letter, or so you think, always proofread it first before sending it out. Run your cover letter by a friend, and review it by reading out loud if you have to - it helps catch mistakes and typos you might not have spotted whilst writing it.

When you’re finally satisfied that you have avoided all of the above not-so-common cover letter mistakes, send it out and simply wait for someone to call you up for the interview.

More From the Blog...