Eight cover letter mistakes that could cost you your dream job

Think about the last time you applied for a job – how much effort did you put into your cover letter? Did it get as much love as your resume, or was it a hastily copied-and-pasted-at-the-last-minute offering from a previous job application? In today’s competitive job market, cover letters are your chance to stand out from the crowd, yet many people don’t take the time to get theirs right. Make sure yours doesn’t cost you your dream job.

Here are eight mistakes to avoid:

1.  Not writing one

You need to write a cover letter every time you apply for a role – every time – unless the application process specifies not to. This is your first chance to impress the reader – don’t tell them you are someone who cuts corners, especially on the first requirement.

2.  Wrong name, wrong title or wrong company

Always take the time to find out who is responsible for filling the position, then address your cover letter to them specifically, including the title or reference number of the role you are applying for. You can do better than “To whom it may concern”.

Read over your cover letter again before you hit submit to ensure you are sending it to the right person and place – missing crucial details like the name of your potential employer’s firm is not going to make them want to hire you. Worse still, putting in the name of their competitor, who you previously applied for a job with, and then forgetting to update the letter is unforgivable!

3.  Spelling and grammar mistakes

Use spellcheck, proof read it, come back to it later and proof read it again. Get a friend to look over it, do whatever you need to do, but don’t submit a cover letter with spelling and grammar mistakes. A prospective employer isn’t going to believe you about your attention to detail if your initial contact with them proves otherwise.

4. Using an embarrassing email address

Your may have seemed sweet or funny when you were in high school, but if you are applying for a job it’s time for a professional email address.

Keep it simple: will suffice. And an additional tip – if you don’t want people to know how old you are, don’t use your date of birth as part of your email address. Most name combinations have been taken so if you must choose a number to add to your name, make it either a single or three digit number that can’t be confused with a date of birth or actual age.

5. Not addressing the criteria in the job ad

Prove why you’re a great candidate for this role – refer to the specific aspects of the job mentioned in the ad and the experience you have in these areas. Too many applicants write general responses like “I believe I have what it takes to excel in your company” or “My resume will show why I am a great candidate.” Maybe it will, but the reader may not get that far if you don’t give them a reason to.

6. Giving them your life story

If the person receiving your cover letter sees massive blocks of text on a page, they are likely to skip straight over it to the next one. Keep your cover letter succinct – preferably four paragraphs or fewer – and focus entirely on the job at hand. This is not the place to discuss every job you’ve ever had and every subject you’ve ever studied. Your cover letter is the place to tell your potential boss why they should hire you, or at the very least, meet you.

7. Not using the correct tone

Jokes and casual language have no place in a cover letter. You don’t want to come across as someone who doesn’t take this job seriously, nor do you want to seem disrespectful. Keep your cover letter professional, concise and formal.

8. Focusing on your career dreams rather than their bottom line

Don’t tell your potential boss that in hiring you they’ll be making your career dream come true. It might be, but think of it from their point of view – they want to know that they’re hiring someone who will ultimately contribute successfully to their business. Your cover letter is your chance to show them what’s in it for them if they were to bring you on board.


In today’s competitive job market, cover letters are your chance to stand out from the crowd, yet many people don’t take the time to get theirs right.

Make sure yours doesn’t cost you your dream job.