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10 Cover Letter Mistakes You Didn't Know You Were Making

The cover letter is usually the first thing a hiring manager sees. Make sure yours stands out for the right reasons with help from OfficeTeam.

1. You address someone as “Dear Sir or Madam."

The hiring manager has a name, and it's on you to find out what it is. Addressing the letter to a specific hiring manager shows them that you've done your research and are detail oriented where it counts.

The Fix: If you can’t find the person’s name with a search or by browsing the website, give the company a call and ask who the hiring manager is for the position you’re applying for.

2. You're playing defense, not offense.

Courtesy of BuzzFeed

If you're using your cover letter as a way to explain certain things about your résumé (i.e. a gap in employment or education), you're only drawing attention to the negative; it's not necessary to address.

The Fix: Always focus on what you've done when writing your cover letter — don't feel the need to explain things. If there were an employment gap, perhaps consider mentioning career-related volunteer work you've done during that time, and update your résumé accordingly. Remember, it's about what you can do for their company!

3. You're using the same cover letter for every opening.

Universal / Via

If you're just copying and pasting the same cover letter for every position you're applying for and only making a few word changes, you're most likely not coming across as someone who wants to work at that specific company, doing that specific position.

The Fix: Take the time to customize each cover letter you write. Think about what exactly this company is looking for and how you can best convey that you are the right fit.

4. It’s basically your résumé’s replica. / Via

Recruiters often look at the résumé first anyway, so while the cover letter and résumé should complement one another, the cover letter shouldn’t rehash the résumé.

The Fix: Use the cover letter as a means of highlighting your unique personality, voice, and talents — only reference past positions that highlight how you exceed certain requirements mentioned in the job description.

5. You're not matching the company's culture.

BuzzFeed Video / Via

Or maybe you try to by waxing poetic about your personal interests or hobbies — but you should be reflecting values, not activities.

The Fix: Proving that you “get” the company culture is more about the overall voice and tone of the letter, not about irrelevant information.

6. You're focusing on your training vs. your experience.

United Artists / Via

You went to a top school? Have a master's? Took classes? Awesome! But don't spend your cover letter talking about your training.

The Fix: You're applying to work, so even if your work experience is limited (or even nonexistent in this field), the company wants to know that you have experience putting training to use.

7. You're not addressing points made in the job description.


The hiring manager has an outline of what he or she is looking for in mind when reading the letter, so don’t neglect specifically touching on those things.

The Fix: Personal anecdotes, detailing past experience, and showing a passion for the position should work to hit every one of their marks for the position, and it's good to actually use some of the phrases/keywords from the job description.

8. It’s a two-pager.


Consider how many cover letters the hiring manager is reading a day... Do you think their initial emotion will be eagerness if they see your cover letter had to be stapled?

The Fix: Devote time to the art of editing and simplifying; think of your cover letter as an acting reel, highlighting the best parts of your career as it pertains to this position!

9. You get negative.

You can convey personality without expressing a bunch of your opinions that might conflict with the hiring manager's.

The Fix: Stick to facts and qualities about yourself that can be underscored by your work experience and hobbies; your cover letter is not the place to complain, vent, or throw shade.

10. You're not being assertive in the next step.

BuzzFeed Video / Via

You want them to know that you're committed to proving you're the best person for this job, so be clear about the next step you want to come from this!

The Fix: Nix the "I look forward to hearing from you" and specifically mention that you'd love to meet in person to discuss this position at their earliest convenience.