Cover letter mistakes you should avoid
Nix these things and make sure your first impression isn't the equivalent of a limp handshake.
Avoid these common mistakes when writing your cover letter.
Your cover letter is like a handshake—it’s how you introduce yourself to employers when you apply for a job. Like a good handshake, you want your cover letter to be strong, succinct, and make a great first impression.
This isn’t a part of the job application process you want to skimp on, either. A cover letter allows you to go into more detail than your resume allows, explain gaps in your employment history or your need for a career change, and make a case as to why you would be a great fit for the position. And a great cover letter can open the door to scoring an interview and, ultimately, landing a job.
Make sure your first impression is a good and lasting one by avoiding these common mistakes below when writing your cover letter.
1. Overusing “I”
Your cover letter is not your autobiography. The focus should be on how you meet an employer's needs, not on your life story. Avoid the perception of being self-centered by minimizing your use of the word "I," especially at the beginning of your sentences.
2. Using a weak opening
When writing a cover letter, job seekers frequently struggle with the cover letter's opening. This difficulty often results in a feeble introduction lacking punch and failing to grab the reader's interest. Consider this example:
- Weak: Please consider me for your sales representative opening.
- Better: Your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match to my three-year history as a top-ranked, multimillion-dollar producer.
3. Omitting your top selling points
A cover letter is a sales letter that sells you as a candidate. Just like your resume, it should be compelling and give the main reasons you should be called for an interview. Winning cover letter tips include emphasizing your top accomplishments or creating subheadings culled from the job posting. For example:
- Your ad specifies: Communication skills
I offer: Five years of public speaking experience and an extensive background in executive-level report.
- Your ad specifies: The need for a strong computer background
I offer: Proficiency in all MS Office applications with additional expertise in website development and design.
4. Making it too long
If your cover letter exceeds one page, you may be putting readers to sleep. A great cover letter is concise but compelling, and respects the reader's time.
5. Repeating your resume word for word
Your cover letter shouldn't regurgitate what's on your resume. Reword your cover letter statements to avoid dulling your resume's impact. Consider using the letter to tell a brief story, such as "my toughest sale" or "my biggest technical challenge."
6. Being vague
If you're replying to an advertised opening—as opposed to writing a cold cover letter—reference the specific job title in your cover letter. The person reading your letter may be reviewing hundreds of letters for dozens of different jobs. Make sure all of the content in your letter supports how you will meet the employer's specific needs.
7. Forgetting to customize
If you're applying to a number of similar positions, chances are you're tweaking one letter and using it for multiple openings. That's fine, as long as you customize each letter. Don't forget to update the company, job and contact information—if Mr. Jones is addressed as Ms. Smith, he won't be impressed.
8. Ending on a passive note
When possible, put your future in your own hands with a promise to follow up. Instead of asking readers to call you, try a statement like this: I will follow up with you in a few days to answer any preliminary questions you may have. In the meantime, you may reach me at (555) 555-5555.
9. Being rude
Your cover letter should thank the reader for his or her time and consideration.
10. Forgetting to sign the letter
It is proper business etiquette (and shows attention to detail) to sign your letter. Err on the side of formality, and if you need any help figuring out how to close your cover letter, consider these possible sign-offs.
However, if you are sending an email cover letter and resume, a signature isn't necessary.
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How to Sign a Cover Letter With Signature Examples
What should you include in your signature when you're writing a cover letter to apply for a job? It varies, depending on how you are applying for the position. The format and information included in your signature is different for mailed, uploaded, and emailed cover letter documents.
How to Sign a Cover Letter That's Uploaded or Mailed
If you're uploading your cover letter to a job site, your signature will simply include a closing and your full name.
Place a comma after your close (e.g. Best, or Sincerely yours,) and then put your name on the line below.
When you're sending a written letter, include a closing, your handwritten signature, and your typed full name. Leave several spaces between the close and your typed name. That way, you'll have room for your signature when you print out the letter. Sign using either blue or black ink.
For uploaded or mailed cover letters, you do not need to include as much information as you would in an email message. That's because the heading of your cover letter includes your contact information.
A paper cover letter is a formal business style letter of application which includes a heading, salutation, the body of the letter, closing, and your signature. Review these guidelines for what to include in your letter.
How to Sign an Email Cover Letter
If you are sending your cover letter or inquiry letter by email, end with a polite sign-off followed by your full name.
You do not need to sign a cover letter that is being sent electronically. Write out your full name in the same font as the rest of the letter (no need for italics or a handwriting font).
The formatting here is very similar to an uploaded cover letter. However, emails do not have a header with your phone number or other contact information.
It's a good idea to include these details in your closing paragraph or after your typed signature. This makes it easy for the employer or networking contact to get in touch with you.
You can also include links to online portfolios (if appropriate) or a link to your professional social media account (LinkedIn, Twitter). You don't want to make this section too cluttered, however, so restrict yourself to the most relevant information.
Here's how to set up an email signature, along with more advice on what to include in it (and what to leave off).
Cover Letter Document Signature Examples
Here's how your signature should look:
Closing, (see sample closings)
Handwritten Signature (for mailed letters only)
For example (signed letter):
Janet Dolan (Your Signature)
For example (uploaded letter):
Email Cover Letter Signature Examples
When you are sending email cover letters, it's important to include contact information so the hiring manager can easily view how to contact you. At the least, you should include your name, email address, and phone number. Other information, like your street address, online portfolio, or social media accounts, is considered optional.
Sample Email Signature
Sample Email Signature With Full Address
City, State, Zip
Sample Email Signature With LinkedIn
LinkedIn Profile (Optional)
Sample Email Signature With Twitter
LinkedIn Profile (Optional)
Twitter Account (Optional)
Quick Tip: Don't use your work email address for job searching. Use your personal email account or set up a unique account to use just for your job hunt. There are many free online email services, like Gmail and Yahoo mail, you can use to set up a new email account for your job search. Even though you are using your personal account, your email address should still be professional. Your best bet is some variation on first initial, last name (e.g., email@example.com) or first name, last name (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here's how to set up an email account just for your job search.
How to Write a Cover Letter
Get information on how to write a cover letter, including what to include in your cover letter, cover letter format, targeted cover letters, and cover letter samples and examples.