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Your Terrible Cover Letter is Ruining Your Perfect Resume


First things first, you must send a cover letter. Even if the job ad doesn’t specifically request one, it’s always a good idea. It’s your opportunity to show your personality, highlight your achievements, and make a great pitch as to why you’re perfect for the job.


If you're wondering why your amazing resume isn’t getting the interview calls you expected, it might be your cover letter. As a hiring manager and in my position at a job aggregator, I see a LOT of applications. Some are highly creative, some are acceptably average, some are outstanding. It’s the little things you might overlook in your cover letter—the first thing I see when I look at your packet—that relegates your application to the bottom of the pile (or the “NO WAY” email folder).


Here is a list of “don’ts” to keep in mind when you’re introducing yourself in a cover letter (that you have spell checked, of course).


  1. DO NOT write your life story in a cover letter. It is extremely important to send one, but make it relevant and easy to read. Capture my attention in a good way, not in the HERE IS A BIG BLOCK OF TEXT way.
  2. DO NOT disregard formatting. “Pretty” is nice, but beauty is not everything. Proper alignment and consistent use of fonts and font sizes show that you care.
  3. DO NOT forget to send the final edited version, not the one with revisions. “I see London, I see France.” I can see your complete application history and how often you change your personality, just with one click. Try a PDF if you are unsure.
  4. DO NOT use lots of acronyms, abbreviations, and technical terms to impress me. I just want to know what you’re good at, and how current you are with important skills. FYI and BTW, how about telling me your expert, intermediate, and learning skills? And keep it short.
  5. DO NOT tell me your GPA. Professors must be pushing this, but I don’t look for it unless you provide it. If you are under a 3.0, definitely DO NOT let me know.
  6. DO NOT tell me all the bad things that have happened to you unless you are bound to do so by legal or moral obligation. I almost cried today because of someone’s essay on bad decisions and life choices. You will not pass our background check, so don’t make me feel bad about it now.
  7. DON’T be cute or clever. I am not hiring clowns. Be appealing and engaging. Be smart and consistent. Be direct and concise.
  8. DON’T think you can read my mind and tell me what I am looking for in a future employee. Tell me about YOU, not how to do my job.
  9. DON’T try to prove off-the-grid cred when applying for a tech-focused position. I care that you have at least a basic profile on LinkedIn. My team will also go deeper into your social footprint because that is what they know. Be there, be square (but be somewhat interesting).
  10. DON’T be generic. Figure out the formula to attract my attention, but please, please, please, do not be lazy or crazy.

I think most hiring managers would agree with all of the above. Have more tips for your fellow job seekers? Questions for us? Add them in the comments!

Last Updated: May 24, 2017
About the author

    Phil Colicchio

    Phil heads up Client Services at Jobs2Careers. After many years in digital marketing, he fell in with the recruitment advertising crowd and won't look back. He is a Master of Linguistics, so he is likely to write about nitpicky things. He is afraid of fish.