Avoid these costly cover letter mistakes

Someone avoiding mistakes when writing a cover letter at Addison Group

Attach cover letter? That standard box on many applications is often skipped. Cover letters are becoming less important in the hiring process. But there are times when a cover letter is necessary. If you have a gap in your work history, you’re changing fields or industries, or have limited experience in the role but want to share an explanation about why you’re qualified for the role.

For those occasions where you might need one, you should know what to avoid when writing your cover letter.

Here are six costly mistakes to avoid when drafting your next cover letter.

Avoid ‘To whom it may concern’, ‘Dear sir’, ‘Dear madame’

When addressing your cover letter, be sure to make it specific. Generic salutations can come off as impersonal and make it seem like you’re using a cover letter template (and not spending much time on it). Conduct a little research to find the name of the hiring manager to greet directly.

If you’re interested in a position at an organization, check the job description to see who you’ll be reporting to. From there, find the person on LinkedIn by using the advanced search feature and search the name of the organization, the manager’s specific title, and fill in the zip code where the company headquarters are located and click enter. Once you find the person with the job title who you’ll be reporting to, add their name to the salutation of the cover letter to personalize it.

Don’t use unusual vocabulary

Hiring managers look for consistency across your applications, resumes, and cover letters. Keep everything consistent by using the same language that’s used in your other application materials. Craft a cover letter that represents your communication style by using active verbs that you used in your resume.

Steer clear of cover letter mistakes by cutting out cover letter cliches

It’s okay to use clichés over coffee, but it’s best to avoid them in your cover letter. These off-handed phrases can slip into writing far too easily:

  • “You most likely know that…” or similar statement.
  • “Team player” or “heavy lifter.”
  • “Think outside the box” or “seasoned professional.”

Cover letters are meant to highlight your accomplishments, and clichés don’t do that. Give hiring managers what they want—concrete, specific details of your abilities. This means including quantitative data that reflects your contributions to past organizations. Some examples include:

  • Led a team that streamlined financial analysis processes, saving a client 20% on accounting expenditures within six months.
  • Participated in a workplace wellness committee that contributed to a 10% decrease in absenteeism during its first year.

Stay away from cover letter mistakes by not using playful, cutesy language

When writing a cover letter, don’t try to be playful or cheeky.  Instead, prepare a professionally written cover letter that shows your passion and enthusiasm for your work. Below are a couple of important points to address in a cover letter:

  • Describe your commitment to the organization’s success.
  • Summarize accomplishments that highlight your innovation.

Forget flattery; focus on sincerity

Avoid using flattery in your cover letter. This includes excessive amounts of praise for the organization and/or hiring manager. Flattery comes off as insincere and can signal to the hiring manager you have an ulterior motive. Hiring managers are skilled at seeing through insincere language. Instead, show your sincerity by describing your interest in the organization’s values and professional principles.

‘Please feel free’

End your cover letter with a clear and direct call-to-action. Be confident and show the recruiter that you’re right for the position by concluding with a request for an in-person interview rather than a vague sentiment stating you hope to hear from them.

Writing a stellar cover letter can help you land interviews, but the best way to find your next job is by using a talent solutions firm. For more than 20 years, Addison Group has focused on making the perfect match to move your career forward. Check out our jobs page or contact us today!


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