How Not to Write a Cover Letter

The one and only purpose of the cover letter is to get the potential employer interested in your resume.

That means that you're qualified for the job for which you're applying because, if you're not, nothing you say in your cover letter is going to get you the job. In many ways, the cover letter is something of a formality, but a good writer can engage the reader and make him or her that much more interested in reading the resume. Likewise, there are many things a job applicant can do that will make the cover letter stand out as a warning to the reader to avoid the writer at all costs. Here are some of those things.

Letter (public domain)
Letter (public domain)
  • You explore your prosaic side - You're not in freshman creative writing. The cover letter isn't an opportunity to write the short story of your life. Frankly, it isn't even an opportunity to be creative with your prose. The cover letter is a business letter and, as such, should be written using declarative sentences and fairly concise language. The more you can say about why you're right for the job, the better. Don't get much more creative than that. Instead of writing something like "My entire life has led me to this moment and I've finally found the job that's right for me" write "My education and professional experience make me perfectly qualified for this position."
  • You use colloquialisms or profanity - The cover letter is about you being professional. Neither using colloquial expressions nor profanity convey the sense that you are a professional. Here are a couple examples of the types of sentences to avoid: "Dude, I would be so awesome at this job" or "I left my last job because my boss was a butthole."
  • You make it longer than a single page - Again, concise and to the point. These are qualities of a good cover letter. No matter how qualified you may be for a job, a cover letter of more than one page is wrong. Potential employers are reading hundreds of these letters a day and they don't want to read one that's more than a page. Writing one that's more than one page immediately singles you out as somebody who doesn't understand limits, among other things.
  • You use short-hand, text messaging abbreviations, emoticons - LOL, it would be so fo funny if you did this, yo! :)

What's the most important part of a good cover letter?

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  • It's written by hand - Unless you're applying for a job teaching penmanship, there's no reason not to use modern technology for your cover letter. Also, most businesses use technology, like computers. If you write your cover letter by hand, you might be indicating that you don't know how to use a computer or a word processor. This is not a good thing.
  • It's typed - Typewriters generally have very recognizable type faces. And besides, who in the hell even owns a typewriter nowadays? For God's sake, even if you can't afford a computer, go to a public library or a print shop and rent a computer for a few hours.
  • Typos - Take some time and read over your cover letter before you send it to anyone. Typos are inexcusable in a one-page document and just mean that you were too lazy to look the thing over before you sent it.
  • You use colored paper, particularly a neon color - This isn't art class, Frida. White paper. Black type. Standard font.
  • You use some wacky font - Look, I think the thousands of fonts on my computer are really neat too, but only one or two of them are appropriate for a cover letter.
  • Stains - Cover letters sporting coffee rings are always a nice touch; a lovely signal to your potential employer that you couldn't care less about getting the job.
  • It's for the wrong job - Sometimes when we're unemployed and desperate and just sending out resumes and letters to anybody offering a job, we get confused and put the wrong letter in the wrong envelope. Generally, if one employer gets a letter from you meant for another employer, they're going to toss it.

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Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

Humorous. I love it. I have created a lot of cover letters lately. The first one was a challenge, but once I got used to it, it was pretty easy. I agree that you should always check for errors, and be professional. I especially like "LOL, it would be so fo funny if you did this, yo! :)". I can really picture someone trying to be cute with their cover letter.

Another thing I have read is that it is not good to use an e-mail address that is too cutesy or inappropriate. Some people get so used to their e-mail addresses that they wouldn't even really think about it.

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