5 Cover Letter Blunders You Don't Know You're Making

By Francine Fluetsch on February 13, 2015

This article is brought to you by Dream Careers, the largest global internship program for college students offering all-inclusive programs in 11 cities worldwide. To learn more about Dream Careers, please visit us at SummerInternships.com.

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Are you about to send a resume in for a job or internship? While the body of the resume is important, where you list all your extensive experience (or things that you hope will suffice) as well as schooling and skills, don’t forget about the value of your cover letter.

Many people seem to put it second best in order of importance with the resume, but your cover letter is your first impression, your way of expressing yourself and showing the personality that goes along with all of your impressive skills and traits.

A standout cover letter could help you land a job or internship when you are going up against someone with all of your qualifications. So here are a few no no’s when it comes to cover letters to keep in mind so you don’t fall into any traps.

1) Making your letter generic.

A company is going to take the time to review your application with the utmost rigor (hopefully), so they will be able to tell if you simply wrote out one cover letter and printed it a bunch of times to send to multiple places. While you don’t have to create a new cover letter every single time you are applying somewhere, make sure to personalize it to the company.

Have the company’s name in there, have some specific reasons why you want to work there and not just in that field in general. For example, if you are applying to work at Urban Outfitters, you could say “while I love fashion, what particularly sparks my interest in working at Urban is the awesome vibe that is set in the store and the type of retro-chic clothing that is offered. This is definitely my style,” or something like that.

Career Builder also recommends not to forget to personalize your letter when addressing whom you will be writing.

“Avoid saying, ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ and take the initiative to find out the appropriate contact name. Often a quick phone call to the company can help you fill in the blank. You’ll show that you’re resourceful and truly interested in the job.”

2) Going on a tangent.

Your cover letter should really not exceed about a page in length, so you want to make sure that you get to the point in a strong, concise matter and aren’t adding in unneeded fluff. While it is okay to jazz up your language (without making it look like you are trying to embody a thesaurus), you want to stay to the point and not get too far fetched.

You want to make every word count, and lay the page out so you start and end strong; you wouldn’t want them to get bored right off the bat.

3) Being too hasty.

As college students, we are used to doing things last minute. And while it gets the job done (more or less), you want to make sure you took some time and effort on your cover letter. Once you think you have a good letter, don’t forget to proofread! Just having spell check do its thing is not enough.

While all the words might be spelled correctly, you might have accidentally typed a wrong word, or your auto-correct filled something in that definitely wouldn’t make sense.

After you read it through, make sure to have a least one other person read it over. A new set of eyes might be able to catch some mistakes that you didn’t notice. Grammatical errors may seem minor, but they are a huge deal, and can make you seem unprofessional if there are a lot.

image via http://www.gruesser.at

4) Using the wrong format.

Monster.com says that you need to “be sure your cover letter uses a standard business-letter format. It should include the date, the recipient’s mailing address and your address.”

If you are simply typing on a Word doc, it won’t look like you know what you are doing. The easiest thing I have found is to download free cover letter formats online, or ask someone in the business-y world if you can take a glance at what their cover letter looks like/what they expect people’s cover letters to look like. A bit of extra effort can really go a long way.

5) Rehashing your resume.

Your cover letter is your chance to make an impression other than what the employer will be able to see once they go to the next page. Tell them how you’ll be able to make a great addition to the company, how you had training in a class that would specifically add more of a boost to the company, how your passions would help you strive there, etc.

While it is perfectly okay to slightly highlight how something in your resume would qualify you for the job, you have to remember that you don’t have a lot of space in the cover letter and you want to make it count.

So there you have it: five cover letter mistakes that you definitely want to avoid in order to look professional and not make the reviewer of your cover letter cringe. This stuff is all new to us, so it’s perfectly okay to make mistakes and ask for help. Working out the kinks is all part of the process!

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