Cover Letter: Avoid Irritating the Hiring Folks with These 3 Tips! Part 1

A cover letter is still one of the most important pieces of your career communications dashboard, even in today’s world of Twitter and bullet points! It goes without saying that your cover letter should be error free. Yet, some slip-ups are more subtle than others. They occur more often than one might expect. Here are a few examples adapted from real-world job candidates; and tips on how to avoid them.

While the following examples may seem no-brainers, they are all taken from my client files—true BEFORE letters!

Cover Letter: Oops #1

Declared Limitations. Some job seekers wrongly mention their weaknesses in their cover letters, hoping to avert an employer’s intent. This is not a good move, because the letter emphasizes your shortcomings rather than your strong suits. More importantly, it takes away from the fact that you should be trying to specifically mirror back qualifications relative to the job criteria.

Examples of what not to say:

“Although I don’t have related experience, I know I can do the job; and remain very interested in the store management position.”

“I may not be your most qualified candidate, but I have heart and desire to work in the world of websites.”

Cover Letter: Oops #2

Distortion . Whether you are starting your job search or in the final candidate pool, never, ever falsify anything about yourself. If discovered, this will likely be your end with most organizations. Prevention is key here. Stick to the facts. You’re selling your talents and success stories in your cover letter. If you accomplished something, tell it (if relevant to your goal) and in the best possible light! Don’t be modest! At the same time, don’t inflate to the point of misrepresentation. There is a difference. And in this age of technology, hiring folks can most often easily find out that you twisted the truth; let’s face it; you lied.

Examples of what not to say:

“In May, I graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota. During that time, I held down three jobs while concurrently serving on two student boards and playing varsity soccer.”

The above candidate in truth worked two hours on Saturdays in three offices at her church; joined two clubs in name only, and practiced one time on the team before being cut. Come on!

“Since beginning my sales career six years ago, I have received hundreds of recognitions; and am considered by those at the top to be the best salesperson on the West Coast.”

All I can say about the above, is, well … just … really???

Cover Letter: Oops #3

Insistent & Self-Centered Assertions. Your cover letter should show what you can do for the employer, not what he or she can do for you.

For example, instead of stating “I am looking for  an exceptional opportunity in which I will be adequately challenged,” say “I am confident I could immediately contribute to ABC Company’s continued success, specifically by as much as doubling your East Coast Region, positioning you as the #2 player in the U.S. market.”

Examples of what not to say:

“Bringing me on board will be the best hiring decision you make this year.”


“I’m in town and available for an in-person interview next Tuesday around 10:00. Let’s meet to talk about my candidacy in greater depth.”

Both the above statements are very presumptuous. Would any hiring manager be impressed? I don’t think so. Would it likely squelch the candidate’s chances of getting to first base? Probably.

I’ll share three more common killer cover letter bloopers in my next post! If you’d like to share some, I’d love to hear from you. If you are struggling with cover letters or resumes, I can help!

Photo: dingler1109

FREE Email Course

High-Powered Resume Writing

Craft a resume that gets interviews!

Just 1 week to a new resume

Get Personalized Career Help Fast!

Email a career expert with your questions

Get personalized expert advice within 24 hours