5 Cover Letter Mistakes Job Seekers MUST Avoid

In the early days of my career, I wrote a cover letter that became infamous for all the wrong reasons. Looking back, it's clear that I made five critical mistakes that you can learn from.


Watch it in action

Mistake #1: Not addressing your cover letter to an actual human being

"Dear Deloitte recruiter" - this was the impersonal opening of my letter. It’s a clear indicator that I didn’t do my homework about the company.

But, you may wonder, how do you find the right person to address?

Austin Belcak, a renowned career coach, advises addressing the cover letter to the direct manager of the role, or the most senior person in the team if that’s not possible. And the LinkedIn search bar is a good tool to find these individuals.

Taking the initiative to address your cover letter to a specific individual demonstrates your research efforts and commitment. It shows you're serious about the role, and that's something that recruiters appreciate.

Mistake #2: Grammar mistakes and typos

Don’t underestimate the power of correct grammar and spelling.

Studies show that 80% of recruiters and hiring managers find spelling errors to be deal-breakers. Errors signal a lack of attention to detail, which can cost you the opportunity, even if your skills align perfectly with the role.

You can use a tool like ChatGPT to check and correct your grammar and spelling. It's also a good idea to have a few others read your cover letter before sending it off.

Mistake #3: Not spending enough time on the hook

The opening paragraph, your hook, must capture the reader's interest. If it's generic enough to apply to any company, it's not a good hook.

Spend about 50% of your time crafting a compelling, personalized hook

Instead of focusing on yourself in the opening, try to pique the reader's curiosity about how you perceive their company differently, or a unique insight you’ve gained.

For example, instead of saying “I am applying for this role…,” try something more engaging like:

“Despite common beliefs about entry-level positions at Big 4 firms, I discovered that EY stands out from the rest after attending multiple career fairs and speaking with professionals.”

Mistake #4: Not including tangible results

Rather than using vague descriptions of your abilities, quantify your impact wherever possible.

Show the results of your actions, preferably with numbers attached.

For example, instead of saying "my ability to build and maintain client relationships," try something like:

"Our project achieved a 96% client satisfaction score, significantly higher than the company-wide benchmark of 85%, due to my client relationship management skills."

Mistake #5: Being unaware of cover letter hygiene

Finally, avoid oversharing personal information, such as your full street address, as this can open the door for potential discrimination.

Refrain from using industry-specific acronyms and jargon that could confuse the reader.

And remember to keep it concise - never exceed two pages, regardless of your experience.

Bonus Tip: Don’t start from scratch

There's no need to create your cover letter from scratch. You can use templates, like the one I've linked in the Resources section above, and tailor it to fit your personal details and the job you're applying to.

Now you have an amazing cover letter...

Make sure you're also working on your networking skills. Often, cover letters get read only after a personal connection has been made.

You can check out my LinkedIn playlist on effective networking here!