Bad Cover Letter Examples (With Tips for Fixing Your Letter)
Updated March 20, 2023
When applying for jobs, employers may require you to write a cover letter and submit a resume. While your resume aims to provide your work history and skills, a good cover letter demonstrates why you're a good fit for the job. Learning about bad cover letter examples can help you avoid making mistakes and allow you to optimize your letter to better appeal to employers.
In this article, we share a few examples of common cover letter mistakes and describe the difference between a good cover letter and a weaker one, offering tips for improving your cover letter.
7 bad cover letter examples
Review the following seven cover letter mistakes to learn how to avoid writing a bad cover letter:
1. Misspellings and grammatical errors
Bad cover letters often contain grammatical errors and misspellings, making it difficult to decipher the candidate's qualifications. When you proofread your cover letter and ensure it's free of misspellings, grammatical errors or typos, a recruiter or hiring manager may be likelier to notice and appreciate your attention to detail. After you write your first draft, take a break, then review the piece again. This can make it easier to notice any misspellings or grammatical errors.
2. Poor tone
Overly formal salutations like "To whom it may concern" and "Dear Sir or Madam" in a cover letter may seem impersonal or assumptive of the reader's pronouns. A good practice is to address the cover letter directly to the hiring manager. If you can't find the recruiter or hiring manager's name, simply write "Dear Hiring Manager." Throughout your cover letter, remain upbeat, positive and professional. Display your enthusiasm for the position and opportunity as much as possible while using professional language.
If you know the hiring manager works in your field, you can use technical or industry-specific language to better express your qualifications and achievements. When referencing job-specific terms, try to use more general language, as the reader of the cover letter may not be in your field. For example, avoid using complex medical terms if your cover letter is for a medical position. Here's an example of an upbeat tone at the beginning of a cover letter:
Dear Jane Smith,
I'm excited to submit my application for the open Content Marketing Manager role. I have 15 years of experience working with content, staying up-to-date with search engine optimization best practices, performing content audits and leading a team of editors. I would love the opportunity to speak with you about this position. ABC Company seems like a fantastic place to work, and I could bring great value to the team.
3. Nonspecific openers
An opening sentence is the first impression you give the reader, so try to make a strong and memorable statement. Writing a nonspecific opener, such as "I'm writing to apply for this job," may not immediately retain the hiring manager's attention.
Instead, insert a unique fact about yourself related to the position, such as "In my five years at Pens Unlimited, I increased our average quarterly sales by 37%." Statements that include data from your past experience can better retain a recruiter's attention and encourage them to keep reading your cover letter.
Related: How To Get a Recruiter To Notice You
4. Inappropriate examples
Tailor each cover letter to the position to which you're applying. Use examples in your cover letter to highlight why you're a good fit for the job. In each example, address your strengths and state how you can add value to the role and the company. For example, if you're applying for a social media manager role, consider using social media work examples in your cover letter rather than simply using examples from other jobs.
Some candidates may want to mention the benefits they're interested in, but this may not easily retain the hiring managers' attention. Rather than mentioning the pay or benefits you want, explain why hiring you could benefit the company. You can wait until later in the hiring process to negotiate benefits when provided the opportunity.
5. Improper length
Writing a cover letter that's too short may not fully showcase your interest in the role or highlight your strengths appropriately. If the cover letter is too long, the recruiter or hiring manager might not finish reading it. Keep your cover letter to less than a printed page, but not less than a quarter of a printed page, to ensure that it addresses your full qualifications and work experience. Try to write it as specific as possible yet brief enough to retain the hiring manager or recruiter's attention.
6. Excess information
Bad cover letters may have excess information that doesn't relate to the job posting. This information can be distracting for employers and may take them longer to review your application. When writing your letter, remove personal details or information unrelated to the job. Try to highlight your strengths and avoid personal details when possible.
For example, address your skills rather than mention that you have a relative who works at the company in the letter. You can wait until you're invited to interview to disclose that information if it arises. You can still achieve a personal touch in your letter by including an anecdote highlighting an ability relevant to the role.
7. Incorrect qualifications
Hiring managers want to ensure they're choosing the best candidate for the role, but cover letters that include inaccurate qualifications can make it more difficult to find the right candidate. Rather than overstating your skills or qualifications to obtain an interview, try to be honest about the skills you do have and relate them directly to the role. Only list the relevant skills you possess so you can obtain a role that truly matches your unique qualifications.
Related: Cover Letter Do's and Dont's
What's the difference between a good and bad cover letter?
A good cover letter immediately attracts the attention of employers, while a bad cover letter may prevent you from earning an interview. When you share a well-formatted and concise cover letter with a hiring manager, they may be more likely to consider you for the position and call you for an interview. A good cover letter usually includes:
Your contact information: When you have your contact information at the top of the cover letter, it's easier for the hiring manager to find your details to schedule an interview. Include your full name, email address and phone number.
The date: Including the date on your cover letter is part of the standard business format and shows the hiring manager when you submitted the document. Use the long-date format with the month, day and year.
The recipient's contact information: Include the hiring manager or recruiter's name and their official title if you know it, along with the department, company name and company address. This ensures that the correct person receives your letter if it goes to an incorrect email or mailing address.
A formal introduction: Begin your cover letter with an opening paragraph addressing your interest in the position. You may also mention if a current employee referred you to the position or discuss how you learned of the role.
Your qualifications: Use your second and third paragraphs to describe your background, including relevant skills. In addition, address any specific and measurable achievements from your last jobs and mention any special certifications you hold.
A thoughtful conclusion: Restate why you applied for the role and why you're uniquely qualified for it. Keep your conclusion paragraph brief, and thank the employer for their time and consideration in your call to action.
Tips for fixing your cover letter
Here are a few additional tips to help you improve the quality of your cover letter and better appeal to employers:
Proofread your letter carefully
It's beneficial to reread your cover letter before you submit it to ensure you've included all of the necessary elements from the job posting. Review your work experience, educational background and skills sections carefully and consider using spell-checking software to evaluate your writing for spelling mistakes and tone. You could also consider asking a trusted friend or family member to read your document and offer feedback.
Review a few good examples of published cover letters from people in your field or profession. You can conduct an online search to find helpful examples. Assess the wording and tone they use. Accessing specific examples can also help you improve the overall quality of your writing and enhance your word choices. Compare the examples you find to the job posting to determine if there are any common keywords that you might want to use or a standard format that candidates often prefer.
Use a cover letter template
A cover letter template can help you better organize your information, allowing you to include all the information the employer requires. A template typically has spaces to input your information and showcase your qualifications. Be sure to download and save your template to your computer so you can access it again when applying for other positions more easily.
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