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COVER LETTERS: Common Mistakes to Avoid in your Cover Letter

Written by A. Woelk-Webb, Employment Specialist with Next-Steps Employment Centre – Dundas-Dixie

Many employers request a cover letter as part of your application when applying to a job.  A Cover Letter provides you an opportunity to explain how your skills and experience will allow you to be the right candidate for the role, while also demonstrating your professionalism and communication skills.

When writing your cover letter, make sure you avoid making these common mistakes.

Design of cover letter is different from resume

Consistency looks professional.  Keep your cover letter and resume format the same for contact information; use the same font style & size.

Don’t focus on negative points

The cover letter is your opportunity to promote yourself for the job; by discussing the skills that you don’t have or bringing attention to your gap in unemployment, you are drawing attention to reasons for the employer to not consider you.  Focus on the positive and promote the skills and experience that you have.

Employer’s contact information is missing

Add to the top, left side of page.  Include name of contact at the company or the department (e.g. Human Resources or Hiring Manager), the company name, email or physical address depending on method of delivery, by email or by mail/fax.

Repetition of resume content

The purpose of the cover letter is to demonstrate you can do the job by providing concrete examples from past work experiences, OR selecting a few brief points from your resume and expanding on those points to showcase a particular skill set needed for the job.

Outdated language

Such as using “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” as your cover letter greeting.  Expected greetings would be to use “To: Human Resources” or “To Mr. or Ms. Last Name”. You might come across specific job titles of departmental staff (e.g. Staffing Administrator); use it. It customizes your cover letter & shows you’re paying attention.

Vocabulary confusion

Handled multiple inquires (inquiries), strong costumer (customer) service skills, relative (relevant) experience.  You will be viewed as careless and inattentive to quality work when your resume has these errors.

Misrepresenting/exaggerating your qualifications

Facts are checked and easily accessed thanks to technology.  Employers communicate with each other and will share information about candidates.  Make sure you are truthful; your integrity and reputation cannot be replaced.

Too long

A page is your maximum with few exceptions.  Government job postings may give you the option of writing a two page cover letter, but most private companies and not-for-profit companies require a cover letter be no more than one page in length.

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