10 Common Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid

Lately I've been writing a lot of cover letters, like a lot a lot. I'm in the early stages of my clinical training, so basically I spend my days writing letters to employers begging them to trust me with their patients. In return I promise them months work of free work and to not get in the way.

Thankfully I'm not half bad at this stuff, with all credit going to the career advisers at my university who drilled into my brain how to write a cover letter that won't get tossed into the trash. My first job out of college was helping individuals apply to jobs and create resumes, which helped tremendously when it came to moving on to my next position.

If you're having trouble writing a cover letter that shows why they'd be wrong not to pick you, read on to see if you could be making any of these ten common cover letter mistakes. With employers receiving more applications than ever thanks to websites like Indeed and Monster, you want to do everything you can to pair your resume with a cover letter that will make you stand out from the others in the pile.


1. Beginning with your name

A cover limited has very limited space, which means none of it should be wasted in stating information the employer already has. Your name should be listed on your resume, application and will be signed at the bottom, so skip stating your name and start off with something stronger than "My name is xyz."

2. Repeating everything that's on your resume

It can be tempting to repeat your resume in the form of a cover letter, but it's a complete disservice to you and redundant to the person reading your cover letter. Instead of rewording your resume, try highlighting one of the skills or experiences mentioned on your resume, or discussing how your past experiences are applicable to the position you are currently applying to.

3. Writing more than one page

Just like resumes, employers prefer you keep your cover letter at a one page maximum. Be careful to not submit something less than half a page, with three quarters down the page being the happy medium. Typically I discuss the job I am applying for, how I meet the qualification, what I can offer, and my interest in discussing more during an interview.

4. Focusing on any negative aspects of your work experience

Employers understand people have gaps in their work history and don't always enter a position knowing everything they need to, so there's no need to focus on the negative. Skip talking about how you were out of work for a few months or lack training in a specific area, instead talk about your eagerness to learn and past abilities to adapt to new work environments. You can address any inconsistencies or obstacles once you are being interviewed, but until then stick to the positive aspects of your resume and experiences.

5. Sharing information not relevant to the job position

This one totally gets me every time. It can be so tempting to mention a skill or job you totally rock at, but unless it applies to the current position steer clear of talking about it. With space being limited, you want to highlight one experience and/or a few skills to focus on, all of which you should be able to tie back to the position you are applying for. 

6. Submitting the same cover letter for every job

So many new job applicants make this mistake. Actually, scratch that, all types of job seekers make this mistake. And why? Literally every cover letter article tells people to not reuse cover letters, yet people still do it. Taking the time to write a cover letter specific to the job makes the difference when it comes to your application being reviewed, plus it's so obvious (and slightly annoying) to hiring managers who are taking the time to review your application.

7. Undermining yourself in any way

This is me officially telling you to not apologize for a damn thing in your cover letter, so now you have no excuse for making this mistake ever again. I don't care if they asked for you to have three years experience and you only have two, do not apologize! Focus on your strengths and explain any areas for improvement in your interview, anything before that is you reducing your chances of being hired before getting in the door. 

8. Using the wrong format

When you're a beginner, no one really tells you what employers are looking for in regards to format, so here it is. At the top should be your contact information, followed by theirs, a greeting, a paragraph on the positions your applying for, why you're qualified, and a conclusion that states your eagerness to be contacted for an interview. All of this should be within one page, Times New Roman, and size 12 font. 

9. Forgetting to proofread 

Just how resumes should be typo free, the same goes for your cover letter. Besides the occasional misspelled word, you don't want to accidentally submit a cover letter with the wrong company name or contact person. Doing so shows potential employers that you are recycling cover letters, which again you should not be doing even if the positions are similar. 

10. Stating your salary requirements (when not prompted to)

The hardest part for me when writing a cover letter is stating my salary requirements, which is why I'm always surprised people bring it up with no instruction from the employer. Unless you are specifically asked, leave the salary negotiation until you are being interviewed, or better yet, once you've been offered the position.


Tell me, what's the hardest part of cover letter writing for you? Or, what's the best advice you've received to write a cover letter that stands out?

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