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Hiring Decision-Makers Cite Top Cover-Letter Mistakes


Continuing our series excerpted from our new, free white paper, Cover Letter Reboot: A Crowdsourced Update of Traditional Cover-letter Advice for Today’s Job Search, which you can download here. If you prefer not to download, you can read the contents here. WhitePaperScreenshot.jpg We asked hiring decision-makers what mistakes job-seekers make in cover letters that are so serious that the employers would eliminate these candidates, even if they seemed qualified. Their responses:
  • Letter contains typos, misspellings, and/or correctly spelled words used incorrectly (such as to/two/too, their/they’re/there, and it’s/its). Some respondents are forgiving of one or two such errors, but eliminate applicants after that. Misspelling the addressee’s name is especially egregious.
  • Letter contains poor grammar.
  • Letter is addressed to wrong person, wrong company, or is targeted at the wrong job.
  • Job-seeker projects a tone of begging or pleading for a job.
  • Letter rehashes past experience — or rehashes resume — instead of showing what the candidate can contribute going forward.
  • Letter is boilerplate, generic, canned — not customized for the targeted position.
  • Letter contains too much detail, is too wordy.
  • Letter offers too much personal information, heart-wrenching sob stories, or is flowery, cutesy.
  • Job-seeker uses emoticons.
  • Letter has poor structure or layout.
  • Letter contains religious references.
  • Letter consists of little more than “See attached resume.”
  • Information in letter is inconsistent with information in resume.
  • Letter contains insincere-sounding statements about how this is the best job in the world.
  • Failure to follow instructions. Sheri Graciano, human resource manager for the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau cites a case in point: “Because I work in the tourism industry, I always ask applicants to submit a cover letter that tells me what they like best about Sacramento. You would be shocked at the number of resumes I receive that either do not contain a cover letter at all, or have a cover letter that does not include the answer to the question I asked in the posting. I will not even look at the resume if an applicant can’t follow basic instructions.”
See also the other parts of the white paper/Cover Letter Reboot package: Cover Letter Wish List: Hiring Decision-Makers Reveal What They Want to See in Cover Letters, and Cover Letters That Wowed: Hiring Decision-Makers Describe Winning Cover Letters.