What NOT to do on a cover letter

Posted October 13, 2011, by Helen Isbister

There are plenty of things you can do on your cover letter to guarantee it will go straight into the recycle bin. Here are some of those things.

A cover letter is intended to accompany and complement your resume. Making mistakes on it can be fatal for the future of your job application. See also an example of a bad resume:

Don’t forget to put your contact details at the top of the cover letter as well as the date and the address of the recipient.

Dear Sir, 

Don’t write a generic introduction and especially don’t make it gender specific. Try and find out who will be reading your application and address it to that person, e.g. ‘Dear Mr Jones’.

I would like to apply for a position at your company. 

Don’t forget to say which position you are applying for. If the job has a reference number, include it. Many companies advertise more than one position at a time.

My attached resume shows that I have fulfilled all the required elements for employment: I am an Australian citizen, I have a clean criminal record, a degree and experience. 

Don’t have a boring first paragraph.

I am of the professional opinion that my attributes as a human being are perfectly suited to the paradigm of this occupation. 

Don’t use jargon.

What’s not to like? 

Don’t use rhetorical questions.

I am exceptionally gifted at everything I turn my hand to. I have won numerous awards and all my friends would vouch for the fact that I’m a good bloke. 

Be specific about your skills and how they will benefit the company.

Between 2004 and 2005, I worked in a fast food outlet where I was in charge of serving people and handling money. Between 2006 and 2009 I worked in a clothes store where I exceeded quotas. I am a member of the following professional associations: The Black Hawk Motorbike group, Clean Freaks anonymous and the Jane Austen Fan Club. 

Don’t just repeat your resume. Use the cover letter to expand on and illustrate things you have covered in your resume.

I was sacked from my previous job for not agreeing with the boss on some ethical components of what we were doing, but I’m happy to look for a new job because my career was massively stuck in a rut there! 

Don’t be negative.

Im not shore 

Don’t send a cover letter that has not been thoroughly proofread. Incorrect spelling and grammar create a poor impression.

exactly what your company does but I know exactly what I want in a job. 

Don’t send a generic letter. Tailor the cover letter for the job you are going for and do your research on the company.

I am looking for job with flexibility, competitive salary and a company car. 

Don’t focus on what you want and what you’ll get out of the job. Tell them what you can offer them.

I have sent my resume to numerous organisations and am really keen to secure a position shortly. 

Don’t appear desperate.

Catch you later alligator, 

Don’t be too informal.



Helen Isbister

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