By Bayside Group

Sep 1, 2020

Six cover letter mistakes to avoid

Writing the a great cover letter can be a challenge for a lot of job seekers, and it’s something that many don’t take the time to learn. While it does take some effort to get right, a cover letter is the best opportunity to give the hiring manager a glimpse of who you are and why you would be a perfect fit for the company.

There are a few common pitfalls we see time and time again when it comes to cover letters. Here are the 6 most common mistakes to avoid if you want to make the best first impression on your potential employer.


1. Using a generic greeting

Although you may think it’s acceptable to address a cover letter with, “Dear Hiring Manager or “To Who It May Concern,” it doesn’t start your cover letter off on the best foot. Typically, the hiring manager’s name will be on the job add, usually located at the bottom, and it’s safe to say this is the best person to address your cover letter to.

Occasionally a name might not be provided, in which case it can be helpful to use LinkedIn to find the name of the relevant person. You can even call the company and ask who the letter should be addressed to. If you can’t find a specific name, make sure you follow the application instructions.


2. Making it all about you

A common mistake people make when writing a cover letter, is focusing too much on themselves. You may be the subject of the cover letter, but you need to remember that an employer is looking for someone who can best help them. They want to know what you can do for the company, if you can do what the position requires, and if you will fit into the company’s culture.

While it’s great to share your accomplishments, make it clear how your prior skills and experience will translate to the position and the employer’s needs. Explain how you’re able to fill the skill gap they could be experiencing and help the company fulfil its objectives.


3. Rehashing your resume

Repeating what is already included in their resume is one of the most common mistakes our Consultants see job seekers make. To avoid doing this, remember that you have already provided the employer with your resume, and that the purpose of the cover letter is to expand on information you weren’t able to include within your CV.

This is your chance to draw direct correlations between your experiences and how they will assist the employer. In other words, reference information in your resume, then expand on it. You should explain how the skills and experience you’ve listed in your resume apply to this position, and how it sets you apart. This will give the hiring manager a better sense of who you are and why they should hire you, without repeating your entire work history.


4. Presenting an essay

While your cover letter should expand on the points in your resume, it should also use clear and concise language and never be more than one page in length. Hiring managers won’t have the time to sit down and read a lengthy cover letter. In fact, 83% of employers report that the average length of time they spend reading a cover letter is under a minute. This doesn’t mean your cover letter is unimportant, but instead emphasises the importance of keeping it concise; be specific and keep it relevant. Only include essential information that relates to your work experience and skills.


5. Forgetting to proofread

It may sound obvious, but not proofreading your cover letter is a big mistake when it comes to crafting an effective cover letter, as it can result in spelling mistakes and grammar missteps. This is more likely if you type the cover letter directly into the online application form. But with 70% of hiring managers saying they'd automatically dismiss a cover letter with a typo, it pays to check over your work – no matter how many cover letters you’ve sent out.

We recommend to always triple check that your spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct, and that you’ve addressed your cover letter to the right person.

It may also be helpful to get a family member or a friend to check over it if you need that extra reassurance. You wouldn’t want a simple spelling error being the reason you don’t get hired.


6. Not providing a cover letter at all

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, you should always include a cover letter with your job application. No matter how well your resume is written, a cover letter is your opportunity to give the employer a sense of who you are, and provide specific examples of why you should be hired. There may be some exceptions where a cover letter is not needed, but if this is the case, it will usually be stated in the job application or the online platform in which you apply. Otherwise, a cover letter is always necessary.  


A well written cover letter could be the difference between landing that job, or falling short, so it’s important to take the time to make sure it represents you in the best possible way.

If you are looking for further assistance in writing an effective cover letter, download our cover letter guide, which also includes a cover letter template. If you wish to access any of our other useful tools and resources, check out our careers resource page.


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