Common Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid

Figuring out how to write the right motivational letter takes many trials, as many job seekers usually never learn how to write a personalized cover letter. Additionally, it takes emotional strength and it is normal to feel like a hopeless case, especially if one keeps on getting one rejection after another. The reason for rejection however, is oftentimes not even about the level of work experience or skills but because of common cover letter mistakes that are avoidable. To understand what recruitment decision-makers look out for, I asked friends who work in recruiting to share with me what advice they would give to applicants, who were rejected due to lack of effort and poor communication skills. Learn from their and my mistakes and include the following in your next cover letter.

Express your why

Communicate your intent and motivation when applying for the job role. Think beyond mentioning that you look forward to working with highly skilled team members. It is great that you mention why you believe you are a fantastic addition to the team, but you could say that about all job roles that are currently open in the same company or institution. So mention, why you are applying to exactly that one particular position currently open.

Employers that are expanding, often have multiple open roles in the same field i.e. the same company may have three sales jobs available, or a university may have a handful of research positions open. Also, as recruiters read several applications it is refreshing to come across a motivational letter, where they can get a feeling of an applicant’s personality. Mentioning your roots, family, hobbies, or motivation in life, can make you stick out from the crowd. Of course, only mention what you are comfortable with, but be honest because if you pretend to fit in, you will end up only unhappy once hired.

Explain the impact of your skills

A motivational letter is usually sent along with the CV and yet people often repeat themselves, forgetting that these two are to be viewed separately. Thus, focus on communicating what you were unable to share in your résumé, in your cover letter. Listing your skills is crucial but don’t forget to express how they shaped you, how you landed your previous jobs, how you achieved your promotions, or how you achieved your university degree.

Study the work culture

The more established, or known your employer is, the more resources you will find online. Visit their website but also take advantage of sources that the employer has no control of i.e. forums, social media channels, and job review pages. Employers are aware that information can be found online, not considering their work culture makes them believe that you lack interest. Then, based on what you were able to find online, communicate how you could be an asset to your potential employer.

Don’t reuse your cover letter

As you are applying for different positions it is important to adapt and re-write your motivational letter. Depending on the job role you may want to highlight more or fewer skills. Also, do consider that the workplace culture is different from employer to employer, thus you may have to be more or less formal.

Lastly, although few recruiters have stopped requiring cover letters, it is still advised to send one along with your résumé, as a motivational letter gives recruiters still the best first impression about your personality and motivation.


Your Fortune 500 Résumé – How to write a résumé that sets you apart from the crowd.

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