What NOT to Put on Your Cover Letter

Did you know that a cover letter is the first impression you leave on potential employers? It’s the first step in the door for you if you get it right, therefore, knowing the art of writing a cover letter is critical to the success of your job application. Unfortunately, most candidates do not take out the time and effort to craft an effective letter and carelessly mail a generic, poorly-written cover letter believing it to be a mere formality. If you really want your cover letter to be successful, here’s what not to put on your cover letter. 

1. Salutations & honorifics you’re unsure of

Avoid this trap! If you’re not sure whether the receiver is a male/female or even their post, it’s best to avoid using Sir/Madam. Simply write, ‘Greetings!’ or, ‘Hello,’ is suffice if you do not know the name, the gender or the position of the recruiter. Nothing turns employers off than a cover letter that has the wrong salutations – worse, using wrong honorifics is also considered unprofessional. Always try to opt for a neutral term when writing salutations in the letter.

2. Corporate-filled jargon & generic sentences

“I am writing to express my interest in working for your prestigious organization…” Sounds boring already? Employers and recruiters read through plenty of such lines every single day and none of them stands out. If you don’t want to be lost in the crowd, avoid using the same old sentences and boring jargon. Your cover letter should be able to bring out who you are as a person and the value you bring to the organization. Be authentic, be real and you’ll have higher chances of being noted.

3. Repeating everything that’s already on your resume

Where you studied, how long you worked for, your position, your achievements etc are already listed on your resume. Repeating the whole thing in your cover letter is wasting the chance you have to make the first communication with the employer. Compliment your resume with your cover letter by letting the employer know about why you are best suited for this job above all others. Make the employer curious enough to open your resume and go through it, instead of giving them all that information in the letter.

4. Lengthy paragraphs with repetitive points

A cover letter should not be more than three paragraphs. Remember, employers have a short attention span and they are simply going to skimp through your letter. So if you’re writing lengthy paras, you’re already irking them in the first look. Keep sentences brief and to the point, use spacing between sentences and avoid more than four lines for a paragraph.

5. Typos and wrong grammar 

Employers often judge a candidate’s competency based on the accuracy of the language used. If you have typos, wrong grammar, and unclear words, you’ll find it hard to be considered for the position. Use grammar and spell check tool like Grammarly to ensure that you do not have weird typos or bad grammar.

6. Anything about your current employer negative or positive 

Your cover letter is about how well you fit the job description given by the new employer, therefore, you do not need to go into details about your current job. There’s no need to write anything positive or negative about your experience with your current employer and why you want to make the move. Simply limit the letter to why you are the best candidate for the job.

7. Using excessive flattery, needy or overly enthusiastic language

Most cover letters come off as being needy and desperate especially where you’re almost imploring the employer to grant you an interview by overtly praising or showing excessive enthusiasm for the job. It’s very important to maintain a healthy balance of your emotions when writing a cover letter even if it’s a dream job that you’re really enthusiastic about.

8. Asking/talking about the salary and perks/benefits

These are questions/topics to be discussed when called for an interview. Do not ask about the package/perks etc while writing your cover letter. This is a big NO-NO and could really present you in a bad light.

9. Talking about your limitations

Honesty is good, but talking about your limitations in your cover letter is not considered positive. Unless you’re asked specifically during an interview, you should avoid talking about things you don’t know or are still learning. ‘Despite my lack of design skills, I have good experience….’ The moment you mention a limitation, you drop your chances of being called for an interview. Keep your doors open with your cover letter!

10. Personal information, emojis and unnecessary humor 

Sometimes, enthusiastic candidates mistake the need for being original to being casual. The use of any form of emojis in a cover letter is frowned upon and unnecessary humor is definitely not encouraged. More importantly, any personal information about your life (you’re unemployed, you lost a loved one, you’re battling a mental ailment) etc should not be discussed in the cover letter.

Although this list may sound extensive, you’ll easily manage writing an effective cover letter and know what NOT to put in it if you understand that it’s the first asset you have to convince the employer to have a meeting with you. Your goal is not to get the job, but to get to the interview where you will then give your best to get the job!