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Cover Letter Mistakes Examples Of Figurative Language

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I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: I dread writing cover letters. Or at least I used to. Probably because I always felt like they were so stilted and formal and just not me. Why would anyone want to hire me when I came across as the world’s most boring person? Especially since I’m supposed to be a writer??? Shouldn’t a cover letter be child’s play for me?

Then I figured out that the boring old cover letters I learned to write in high school are not the standard anymore. In fact, cover letters aren’t always letters anymore—often they’re emails. And you don’t need to stick to the old format of listing a bunch of adjectives to describe yourself and your qualifications.

Instead, you get to make your cover email engaging, personal, and memorable. All you have to do is avoid the ten things below that you might be doing in your cover letter to totally blow your chances of landing an interview!

Psst! I pulled all of these pointers from one of our most popular ebooks, The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Email Cover Letter! Real people have used this guide to land interviews! Don’t miss out—get your copy here.

#1: You’re using it to introduce yourself

When cover letters first appeared in job listings in the 1950s, it was was often the only chance you had to convey your personality, experience, or personal connections when applying for a job prior to getting an interview. (The Atlantic)

These days, your personality and identity is everywhere online, from your Twitter profile, to your personal blog, to your LinkedIn page. All an employer has to do is type your name into Google to see exactly who you are and what you’re about. You don’t need a 350-word cover letter to introduce yourself in detail.

#2: It’s a giant block of text on the page (or screen)

Your cover letter should be short. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your reader won’t have to scroll (much) to read your whole email.

Don’t assume that just because you’re applying for a job that the person reading your initial email isn’t going to be doing so from a mobile device. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep it down to around 5-6 sentences to minimize the amount of scrolling your reader will need to do. (Slate)

#3: You’re attaching your cover letter rather than including it in the email

Unless you’re applying for a job writing formal correspondence, you probably don’t need to demonstrate your qualifications in a letter. A lot of hiring managers skip the attachments anyway, so the body of your email should replace the cover letter.

Use the email itself to communicate who you are, what you can do for the company, and what experience you have. Treat it like you would a cover letter, but eliminate all of the usual formal business letter formatting (like putting the recipient’s address at the top).

#4: It has zero relevant links

We’ve already covered that hiring managers and recruiters hate clicking on multiple attachments. They’re too busy for downloads! If you want them to see what you can really do, including links right in your email makes that way more likely.

Go through your résumé, portfolio, and other relevant materials with a fine-tooth comb, searching for the projects that have the most direct connection to the job you’re applying for. Include links specifically to those projects to make it easier for the reader. That said, don’t go overboard; a handful of links is sufficient!

#5: It’s vague and boring

Old style cover letters were used as introductions to you and your accomplishments. A lot of the time they were super general (and vague). But since your cover email is only a few sentences long, you certainly don’t have space for your memoirs.

Instead, you want to focus on specific parts of your experience and skills. The parts that qualify you for the job you’re applying for. Let’s say you’re applying for a job designing WordPress sites. Your experience with PHP is relevant, but save the story about transitioning out of the real estate industry for the interview.

#6: It’s super formal

If your cover letter sounds like it could have been written by a character on Downton Abbey, it might be time to rethink your tone. When a lot of us learned to write cover letters in high school, we were taught to be super professional and formal.

It’s a red flag when a cover letter comes across a hiring manager’s desk that starts with “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern”. It’s almost a guarantee that the rest of the letter will be equally as painful.

The best cover emails match the tone of the company they’re written to, rather than defaulting to formal 12th-grade-book-report language.

#7: It’s way too casual

While being too formal is certainly a no-no, so is being too casual. That can show that you aren’t taking the job opening seriously, or that you’re immature or unprofessional.

Save the slang, emojis, and other super informal language for texting your BFF. And it shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: certainly leave out the cursing!

#8: You did no research on the company you’re applying to

Being informed about what a company is all about is the key to getting from cover letter and resume to interview (and job offer). Read up on the company’s history, the specific position you’re applying for, and the company’s other employees.

When it comes to cover letters, though, be sure to focus your research on figuring out the appropriate tone and voice for your email. Setting the perfect tone can make the difference between getting an interview and getting your resume tossed in the virtual reject pile.

There’s way more info about how to figure out tone and voice in The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Email Cover Letter!

#9: It’s totally a form letter

Most hiring managers can spot a form letter a mile away. It’s the exact same letter you sent to fifteen other jobs you applied to this week, with no indication that you even read the job description.

Customize each cover letter based on who the hiring manager is and what they might want. Do this before you sit down to write the first draft. If you know what she’ll be interested in, then it will make it much easier to make sure you include what she’ll find important and leave out what’s not.

#10: You aren’t selling yourself

Your cover email is a chance to really shine by explaining how YOU are qualified for the job you’re applying for. Don’t blandly list adjectives that describe who you are. Instead, make it engaging and memorable. Include an anecdote that shows how you’re uniquely qualified. Explain how a project you’ve done or a goal you’ve accomplished makes you the perfect candidate.

The more specific you can be here, the better. Don’t forget to keep it short, but include interesting and memorable details, and especially any numbers or stats as concrete proof that you make results happen.

If you’re ready to be a cover email rock star, then be sure to download our Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Email Cover Letter (where all of these awesome tips came from!) and learn everything you need to know about writing an awesome cover letter! There’s even a template you can customize!

Get our free Guide to the Perfect Email Cover Letter

Learn how to write a cover letter that gets you interviews with our FREE 30+ page ebook.

You can unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. We won't use your email address for anything else, promise!

Cameron Chapman

Cameron is a staff writer here at Skillcrush, and spends most of her time writing and editing blog posts and Ultimate Guides. She's been a freelance writer, editor, and author for going on a decade, writing for some of the world's leading web design and tech blogs. When she's not writing about design, she spends her time writing screenplays and making films (and music videos for rock and metal bands!) in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

[Cover letters don’t get a lot of love. And considering how tough it is to write a good one, it’s kind of understandable that people tend to throw them together at the last minute (or update one they wrote last month), attach it to their resume, and call it good.

But this, my friends, is the biggest cover letter mistake you could make. In fact, this document is the best chance you have to give the hiring manager a glimpse of who you are, what you bring to the table, and why you—above all those other candidates—are the one for the job.

Don’t give up your chance to share your best qualifications in a fresh, unique way. And while you’re at it, don’t make these seven other common cover letter mistakes I see all the time.

1. Starting With Your Name

How do you start a cover letter? Let me set the record straight now and say it’s not with, “My name is John Smith.” Unless you’re already famous, your name just isn’t the most relevant piece of information to start with. Not to mention that your name should be listed on your resume, the sign-off in your cover letter, and in other parts of your application.


Start with a relevant qualification as a way to introduce yourself. If you’re a recent grad with a passion for environmental activism, go with that. Or, maybe you’re a marketing professional with 10+ years of healthcare industry experience—introduce yourself as such, and connect it to the position you are applying to. (Here’s a bit more about kicking off your cover letter with an awesome opener.)

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2. Rehashing Your Resume

If your cover letter is basically your resume in paragraph form, you’re probably going to need to start over. Your resume likely the first thing a recruiter looks at, so you’re wasting your time (and the recruiter’s) if your cover letter is a harder-to-read version of something he or she has already seen.


Focus on one or two (OK three, max) examples of your work that highlight what you can bring to the position, and try to help your reader picture you doing the work by really diving deep and detailing your impact. You want the hiring manger to be able to imagine plucking you out of the work you’re describing on the page and placing you into his or her team seamlessly.

3. Not Being Flexible With the Format

Remember those three paragraph essays you wrote in middle school? Your cover letter is not the place for you to be recalling those skills. Rather than fitting your message into a particular format, your format should be molded to your message.


Consider what message you’re trying to get across. If you’re going to be spending the majority of the letter describing one particular relevant experience—maybe that three-paragraph format makes sense. However, if you’re thinking about transferable skills or want to explain how your career has taken you from teaching to business development, a more creative approach could be appropriate. I’ve seen cover letters use bullet points, tell stories, or showcase videos to (successfully) get their point across.

4. Going Over a Page

There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page. Unless you’re applying for a managerial or executive position, it’s unlikely a recruiter would look beyond your first page of materials anyway.


Keep it concise and, ideally, wrap up around three quarters of the way down the page. Remember that you’re not trying to get everything on one page—you’re trying to entice the hiring manager enough to bring you in for an interview. Think of your cover letter as the highlights reel of your career.

5. Over Explaining

Are you a career changer or doing a long distance job search? No matter how complicated your reasons for applying to a job are, it would be a mistake to spend an entire paragraph explaining why you’re moving to San Francisco from New York.


If your reasons for applying to a position would be made clearer with some added explanation, add them in, but keep them short. Limit yourself to a sentence either in the first paragraph or the last paragraph for a location change, and no more than a paragraph to describe a career change.

6. Focusing Too Much on Training

Maybe you just finished your master’s degree or finally got the hang of coding. Great! But even if your most relevant qualification is related to your education or training, you don’t want to spend the majority of your time on coursework. At the end of the day, what hiring managers care about most is your work experience—what you can walk through the door and deliver on Day 1.


Certainly mention your educational qualifications if they are relevant, but focus the bulk of your cover letter on experiences. Even if your most relevant experience is education, present it more in the form of projects you worked on and job-related skills you gained, rather than actually explaining course content.

7. Sharing Irrelevant Information

Cultural fit is one of those big buzzwords in the recruiting world now, and there’s no question that it’s important to tailor your cover letter to each company to show your compatibility. But it starts getting a little weird when you start writing about your bowling league or active social life. (And don’t try to tell me this doesn’t happen—I’ve seen it.)


A better way to show that you’re a good cultural fit for the job is to focus on values—not activities. Mine company websites for the way they describe their company culture, then use that intel to show how your own values align. (Here’s some more on how to show you get the company culture in a cover letter.)

For the companies that have moved away from a cover letter requirement, an additional opportunity to show off what you have to offer is lost. But, for those that require cover letters or at least make them optional, you should absolutely make the most of them—and, of course, avoid these all-too-common mistakes.

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