Cover Letter Mistakes Candidates Make

7 Cover Letter Mistakes Candidates Make (And How To Avoid Them)

Cover letter mistakes happen. But, they often can be avoided with some attention to detail and knowing what to look for. 
To help candidates avoid common cover letter mistakes, we asked employers and recruiters a simple question: 

What is a common mistake that you see candidates make when it comes to a cover letter?

Here are those seven common cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them.


It’s Too Long… Try 1 to 2 Pages

The biggest mistake is that it is too long. Job seekers are taught to keep their resume to 1 to 2 pages then want to cram everything they have done since the second grade. A cover letter should be a brief introduction to what is revealed in the resume. It’s like a trailer to a movie; provides a glimpse of the plot but shouldn’t give everything away. 

LT Ladino Bryson, vCandidates

It Repeats Your Resume…Instead, Focus on Your “Why” and “How”

Cover letters can be a confusing aspect of the job application process and often this is noticeable when candidates turn their letters in. A common mistake in cover letters is simply repeating what your resume already tells the employer. The cover letter should focus on the “why” and “how” aspect of your experience. Tell the employer how your previous experience equipped you for the position and why you will be a good fit for the position. Focusing on those aspects will help candidates better compose their cover letters.

Max Hansen, Y Scouts

Not Personalizing…Have a Template That you Edit For Each Application

The most common mistake I see candidates make is not personalizing their cover letters. The easiest fix is to have a template that you edit for every different application you submit. Tailor your skills and experiences to each company, including matching the requirements they listed in the posting. Each cover letter should be specific and addressed to a person at the company!

Rex Murphy, American Pipeline Solutions

“To Whom It May Concern”…Dig to Find the Hiring Manager’s Name

A small detail but a big mistake is addressing a cover letter “To Whom It May Concern.” This address shows that a candidate did not personalize the letter or take the time to seek out a name of someone in the company, like a hiring manager or CEO. “To Whom It May Concern” sounds very apathetic and detached. To fix this, research the company and job listing to find the name of a hiring manager or recruiter to address the letter to.

Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional

Lack of Research…Try Reflecting Your Findings in Your Cover Letter

Creating a generic resume that doesn’t indicate that you did any research into the company, the position, or the person responsible for hiring won’t cut it. With the ability to get results to search queries at the palm of your hand, there is no excuse to not do your homework. If you care about getting the job, conduct sufficient research for your cover letter and make sure it shows! 

Kayla Centeno, Markitors 

Only Having One Cover Letter…Pretend You’re Curating Content for that Company

The biggest mistake I see in cover letters is employees creating a single cover letter that they submit to every employee. It’s like getting a form letter. You may as well address it to “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To whom it may concern”. The resume is what is standard and doesn’t change. The cover letter is where you curate your content for the company to which you’re applying. Take the time to actually speak to me. Find out my name and what my company does. This little bit of effort goes a long way towards moving your resume in the “call back” stack.

Phil Strazzulla, SelectSoftware Reviews

Me Me Me…Focus on How You Fill a Void in the Company

It is important to remember that the company you’re applying to is hiring because they need someone to do something for them. Meaning that above all else, they want to know what it is that you can do for the company. While it’s key to share your accomplishments, get in touch with why you’re able to fill the void that they have in place. Then make your achievements known in a way that lends well to the duties of the position. Too many candidates only talk about me, me, me, and not what they can do for “YOU” the employer.

Ron Kubitz, Forms+Services

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