Five common cover letter mistakes

Five common cover letter mistakes

By NellFrizzellIdeasTap 04/07/12

A cover letter can be the only thing standing between you and your dream job. So, here’s an idea: take our advice, read our five common CV mistakes and avoid these cover letter clangers…

1. Having one stock cover letter

Do you have one stock kiss? Do you kiss your mother the way you kiss your lover? The same way you kiss a baby? The same way you kiss your French exchange student’s older brother? Well, if you do, then frankly I think we should hang out. But seriously, sending out a stock cover letter, like a carpet bomb of mediocrity, isn’t going to help anyone.

Make sure you’ve read the job ad carefully and tailor your cover letter to fit what they’re looking for. Of course, this doesn’t mean repeating the ad word-for-word, just promote your relevant experience and attributes. It may take a little longer, but by chicory it’ll get you further. 

2. Writing too much

Dude, you're writing a cover letter, not your autobiography. One page is quite enough, thank you.

Keep your paragraphs short and snappy. The employer will have to read hundreds of applications, so is unlikely to read every word – make it easy to scan and for the love of cod, put the best stuff first.

You don’t need to resort to cheap tricks to get noticed, but front-loading a cover letter with your most relevant and impressive stuff is a good way to make someone read the rest.

3. Not checking for typos

My friend Fergus once sent a cover letter to a production company saying that he would do anything to get “some fist-hand experience on a film set.” Don’t be a Fergus.

If you have a computer, a dictionary or friends (or, even better, all three) then there is no excuse for typos. Of course, your ability to spell appreciate has little-to-no bearing on your ability to handle a spreadsheet or talk to a funder, but like a cockroach on top of a tin of beans, while it does no actual harm it just makes things less attractive.

Good spelling, grammar and presentation shows that you’ve made an effort. That matters.

4. Addressing your cover letter to “Dear Sir/Madam”

Do a little research – it won’t kill you. 

5. Sounding smug

Okay, this is a tricky one. On the one hand it isn’t enough to just say what you’ve done – you’ve got to show that you are the best person for the job. Therefore, you have to explain that you’re good at what you do. On the other hand, just making grand claims about your abilities will make you sound like a prick. 

So, say what you’re good at, and then back that up with some evidence. For instance, “I am a very organised person. For example, while working with the IdeasTap touring theatre company I created a system to manage the performers’ costumes and props.”


And a couple more for luck 

Don’t clog your cover letter up with stuff that isn’t relevant to the job. They don’t care that you enjoyed going travelling – everyone enjoys going travelling. It’s travelling. 

Make your cover letter attractive and easy to read. Don’t have a font explosion and if you’re going to include clip art, be aware that you will come across as a primary school lunatic.

Don’t be wacky. Ever.


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Invites: ready to mail by sekhmet1776 via Flickr under a (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license.

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