Career Planning

10 Cover Letter Dos and Don'ts

Navigate writing your first cover letter with our cover letter guide.

Kim Isaacs, Monster Resume Expert

June 07, 2022

10 Cover Letter Dos and Don'ts
Avoid these 10 mistakes and make your first impression a good and lasting one.
So you’re ready to apply for a job, which means it’s time to create a cover letter and resume. This may seem a daunting task to most, but with a bit of help, it can be a painless process.

Cover Letter Guide

Even in today’s world of online job portals, you almost always need a cover letter. It should not be a recitation of your resume but rather, an opportunity to discuss why you’re perfect for the open position. Jodi Glickman, author of Great on the Job, passed along some great advice to the Harvard Business Review on the role of the cover letter:
“While your résumé is meant to be a look back at your experience and where you’ve been, the cover letter should focus on the future and what you want to do. It can be helpful to think of it as the bridge between the past and the future that explains what you hope to do next and why.” With that, use your cover letter to state why you want this job, and why you’re perfect for the role. Keep it succinct and on topic. Research the company, and that includes employee profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter. Learn about the company culture so that your cover letter conveys that you would fit in well with your future teammates.
Above all, avoid the following…

Cover Letter Don’ts

Mistake #1: Don't Overuse "I" Your cover letter is not your autobiography. The focus should be on how you meet an employer's needs, not on your life story. Avoid the perception of being self-centered by minimizing your use of the word "I," especially at the beginning of your sentences.
Mistake #2: Don't Use a Weak Opening Job seekers frequently struggle with how to begin a cover letter. This often results in a feeble introduction lacking punch and failing to grab the reader's interest. Consider this example: • Weak: Please consider me for your sales representative opening. • Better: Your need for a top-performing sales representative is an excellent match to my three-year history as a #1-ranked customer service specialist in my previous work. Mistake #3: Don't Omit Your Top Selling Points A cover letter is a sales letter that sells you as a candidate. Just like the resume, it should be compelling and give the main reasons why you should be called for a job interview. Winning cover letter strategies include emphasizing your top accomplishments or creating subheadings culled from the job posting. For example: • Your Ad Specifies: Communication skills • I Offer: Five years of public speaking experience and an extensive background in executive-level reporting. • Your Ad Specifies: The need for a strong computer background. • I Offer: Proficiency in all MS Office applications with additional expertise in Web site development and design. Mistake #4: Don't Make It Too Long If your cover letter exceeds one page, you may be putting readers to sleep. Keep it concise but compelling – and be respectful of readers' time. Mistake #5: Don't Repeat Your Resume Word for Word Your cover letter shouldn't regurgitate what's on your resume. Reword your cover letter statements to avoid dulling your resume's impact. Consider using the letter to tell a brief story, such as "My Toughest Sale" or "My Biggest Technical Challenge." Mistake #6: Don't Be Vague If you're replying to an advertised opening, reference the specific job title in your cover letter. The person reading your letter may be reviewing hundreds of letters for dozens of different jobs. Make sure all the content in your letter supports how you will meet the employer's specific needs. Mistake #7: Don't Forget to Customize If you're applying to a number of similar positions, chances are you're tweaking one letter and using it for multiple openings. That's fine, as long as you are customizing each one. Don't forget to update the company, job and contact information -- if Mr. Jones is addressed as Mrs. Smith, he won't be impressed. Mistake #8: Don't End on a Passive Note When possible, put your future in your own hands with a promise to follow up. Instead of asking readers to call you, try a statement like this: I will follow up with you in a few days to answer any preliminary questions you may have. In the meantime, you may reach me at (555) 555-5555. Mistake #9: Don't Be Rude Your cover letter should thank the reader for his time and consideration. They don’t owe you the time they have to read your cover letter and resume. Mistake #10: Don't Forget to Sign the Letter It is proper business etiquette (and shows attention to detail) to sign your letter. However, if you are sending your cover letter and resume via email or the Web, a signature isn't necessary.

This article originally appeared on and was written by resume expert, Kim Isaacs.

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