Don’t Make These Cover Letter Faux Pas

cover letterA killer resume might be able to get you the job, but you’ll never have the chance if your cover letter is a dud.

In the world of hiring, there’s a lot of attention paid to writing the perfect resume. Especially for those of us who are better at coding than writing, getting the resume help we need can be a crucial step on our career path. But for every perfect resume in the world, there seems to be at least double the amount of lackluster cover letters. That’s because people don’t understand that a resume isn’t just a resume — the cover letter is part of the package, too.

This is to say: your cover letter should never be an afterthought.

Whether the job you’re applying to has a casual or formal company culture, you need a cover letter that’s somewhere in between the two. Too casual, and you’ll look sloppy; too formal, and you won’t be memorable. Your cover letter needs to strike the right balance between friendly, professional, and engaging to get the hiring manager to actually look at your amazing, perfectly polished resume.

If you’re starting to realize just how many pitfalls there are in writing a great cover letter, you’re on the right track. Doing it well takes time and attention to detail.  Fortunately, some job candidates make the same types of cover letter faux pas over and over again, which means you can learn from their mistakes.

Here are our top 5 cover letter faux pas. Steer clear of these mistakes, and you’ll do your resume justice:

  1. Generic Opening Lines

To Whom It May Concern. I Am Writing To Express My Interest. My Name Is. If you’re currently using any of these in your cover letter, time to break out the eraser and start again. Hiring managers get dozens, even hundreds of cover letters, which means starting off on a bland foot probably won’t get you to the next step. Your opening line doesn’t have to be the written equivalent of fireworks, but it should make the reader want to keep on reading — not stop him dead in his tracks.

  1. Lack of Editing

Spelling and grammar mistakes happen — but not in cover letters or resumes. Any error in your cover letter gives the hiring manager one less reason to keep considering your application. Don’t give him the satisfaction! Proofread like crazy, and have a friend or professional give it a read, too.

  1. Using the Wrong Words

Relying too heavily on jargon, idioms, or slang can make your cover letter appear unprofessional. While some industry speak may be necessary depending on your situation, remember that the person reading your cover letter might very well work in HR, not the department you’re applying to.

  1. Not Using the Right Words

Many companies use software to weed out candidates and reduce the applicant pool. How do they do this? Keywords. This means that it’s absolutely necessary to use the exact terminology that describes what it is you do and what you have to offer. Tip: Look to the job listing for ideas.

  1. Too Much Complexity

Florid language or complicated fonts only make the hiring manager’s job harder. After you complete the first draft of your cover letter, go back through and see how you can make it simpler. Remember, simplicity translates into effectivity, which is exactly what you want. Keep it short, sweet, and simple, and you’ll dramatically improve your chances of showing off that dazzling resume of yours!


Stephen Van VreedeAbout Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (out June 11, 2015). Contact Stephen directly at or send him an invite at To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You? Also, feel free to take his complimentary resume self-assessment quiz, How Certain Can You Be About Your Technical Resume? You might be surprised by what you find out!


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