Cover letters can be difficult to write without the added pressure of trying to impress and bag yourself an interview. But whatever you do don’t fall for the same mistakes these guys did, if these examples are anything to go by take my advice before it’s too late!
Make sure your experience is relevant: “I’ve completed Level 57 on Flappy Bird”
We’ve all fallen at the first hurdle when deliberating what to include in your cover letter from past accomplishments. I mean you begin to question whether being the Captain of your under 12s football team demonstrates your ability to lead and work as part of a team for that graduate marketing job. Scrambling pieces of your childhood together is never a good idea, nor is bragging about a level you’ve reached on an app.
You will always have had some kind of experience whether it’s a project or a hobby, just make sure it’s recent and relevant otherwise… If in doubt leave it out.
If it doesn’t look good when you read it, it probably isn’t: “Only average @ Excel”
Unless stated that the employer wants to know exactly how well you know a skill, don’t necessarily include it. Just by saying you know how to work with Excel is absolutely fine but by adding what you would grade yourself and using @ instead of at, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot there I’m afraid.
As previously mentioned, unless you’re an expert never go into full detail about how well you know a skill if, in fact, you know very little about it. If the role is based on this skill and you’re only average at it, the position is probably not the right one for you anyway.
Don’t apply for jobs for the sake of it: “I don’t read much of the magazine and I know I am not tailor made for the job”
If you already know that you’re not fit for the job, what makes you think the hiring manager or recruiter will think otherwise? I mean there’s one thing knowing that you’re not fully qualified but it’s another thing actually writing it in your cover letter! A complete waste of everybody’s time…
My only advice here is to not apply for a job you already know you’re not going to get. Use this time to either apply for something you are more suitable to or work on mastering your cover letter.
Never quote someone talking about your work: “I received some feedback from the grandfather of a friend of mine”
The only feedback that matters is the person whose reading your cover letter and they don’t care what other people think of your school project 2 years ago. Even if you believe it’s absolutely necessary and you truly believe your cover letter won’t survive without adding a quote, then I hate to tell you, but you’re more than likely not qualified or suitable for the role. Your experience should speak for itself without any quotes.
The one exception to this would be if you want to demonstrate feedback or reviews at the actual job interview itself. Meaning if you’ve developed an app or written an article and you had overwhelming positive responses then you can provide a screenshot of these comments and show your interviewer at the interview if you deem it to be absolutely necessary!
Don’t give an employer a reason to doubt you: “I put a lot of time into cover letters and resumes that never get acknowledged”
Rule no.1, you would never, NEVER tell an employer that you’re not getting any interviews from other jobs you’re applying for. It red flags ‘well if no one else wants to employ them, am I missing something’ giving them doubt to employ you even if they really like you.
Even though it’s the unspoken word that the employer probably already knows you’re applying for other jobs, you always want to look keen and that the job you’re being interviewed for is the only one you’re interested in, otherwise they may not hire you if they think your interests are elsewhere.
Humour doesn’t always go a long way in cover letters: “I am honourable: I am the son of a librarian and a Capricorn”
Don’t get me wrong, I kind of laughed at this but I don’t think the employer who’s looking to hire someone serious about the job you’re applying for will. It’s always good to be different but on this occasion you’d be different for all the wrong reasons.
Try and save all the jokes until after you’ve bagged yourself the job. I mean you don’t need to be deadly serious but it’s better to be safe than sorry when testing the hiring managers comedy values.
Always tell the truth but don’t go overboard: “I am writing this cover letter not because I am desperate to work for an esteemed corporation such as yours, but because I’m just desperate”
You’re never going to get anywhere by lying your way into a job, so telling the truth is obviously crucial. But there’s telling the truth and there’s telling the truth. NEVER tell an employer you just want the job because basically there’s nothing else. You have to make the employer feel special; like their company is somewhere that you would be proud to work at.
My one piece of advice here is do not make the same mistake this person did, always tell the truth but don’t go to the extremes; there are some things best left unsaid.
Don’t speak gibberish: “Today is the first day of my life… This year I want to take the world by storm”
What does this even mean? Remember you’re applying for a job not writing an autobiography. People always make the mistake of going a little off track when writing cover letters and this example; well they have gone so off track there on course to writing a diary.
Always focus and relate back to the role and company you’re applying for. If this means taking breaks and getting a fresh pair of eyes on it then do so. You want to be in the interview pile not in the bin, so always keep your eyes on the prize.
Make sure your punctuation, grammar and use of language is perfect: “I am not a good English user. But when I was in Korea everybody call me ‘Ace, you are a best!’”
Alright you may have an A* French GCSE but it doesn’t mean that you can go and apply for a ‘Fluent in French Java Developer’ position. Sometimes people can overlook their key skills and believe they are better than they actually are, the above being one such example.
Struggling to deliver the correct pronunciation of a second language is one thing but candidates speaking their first language and still not making sense is a whole different issue altogether!
Lastly, here’s a few of my favourite phrases from one cover letter.
Just don’t do any of this…
“I won’t pretend that your company’s mission is my passion… If you hire me, I’ll show up for the hours you expect me to, and do what’s asked, and you’ll like me… I graduated from University and was well liked there… As someone who was voted Life of the Party both in high school and my fraternity.”