Like death, taxes and a love/hate relationship with Justin Bieber, cover letters are something everyone has to deal with.
The internet may be a maze of CV guides and how-tos but let’s face it, they’re not telling it to you straight.
That’s where we come in.
We’re going to show you the worst cover letter examples out there, from the Dear Sir/Madam’s and sloppy grammatical errors to old school BS and generic terminology you wish you could forget.
You seriously can’t mess it up after this.
What Not To Do #1: Over-do it.
Over-doing it translates to two things.
The first is writing more than one page (or half to three-quarters of a page if this is your first job in the field).
The second is over-doing it by waffling on and on.
Here’s a sample paragraph from the same cover letter:
What Not To Do #2: Ignore the criteria.
We considered making this What Not To Do an entire post itself. It’s that important.
The main body of text in your cover letter should not, under any circumstances, be a series of sentences heavily detailing your life experience.
The main bulk of text in your cover letter should address the specific job criteria.
Here’s another real life example of what not to do from the vault:
What Not To Do #3: Be generic.
It’s great that you’re a hard worker. But stating that fact and then letting it fall where it may isn’t effective. Unless you’re literally chiselling your resume out of stone, you need more information.
If you’re excellent at multi-tasking (and it’s part of the job criteria) give a concrete example from your experience. For example:
“I excelled at multi-tasking while at XXX company, managing up to ten campaigns a quarter while consistently delivering my KPIs.”
Finally, if you’re in a creative field, avoiding generalities couldn’t be more important. An online resume or cover letter might be the way to go.
What Not To Do #4: Ignore the specifics.
What Not To Do #5: Fail to properly proofread.
Unfortunately, glazing over what you’ve written ain’t proofreading.
After you’ve – carefully and with great forethought – addressed the job criteria (as outlined above) it’s time to proofread.
And when we say proofread we don’t mean like you’re applying for your tenth job of the day but like you’re writing a love letter to Zayn Malik (that he might actually read).
Would Zayn fall madly in love with you after reading, “Mulitaks” instead of “multi-task”? No. And neither will any employer worth their salt. The best proof-reading is done by reading aloud. Get another set of eyes over it while you’re at it.
Here’s an abomination example:
These are some of the most commonly misused words found in cover letters:
1. As to whether – Just say whether you out of control fancy-pants you.
- Currently – Usually unnecessary. Cut it.
- Very – Use rarely. Let your experience demonstrate how talented you are, not by using ‘very’.
- In terms of – Another unnecessary addition. Delete or re-arrange sentence.
- Irregardless – Not a word.
What Not To Do #6: Reveal unflattering truths.
Was your boss a total wang or was the pay barely enough for a can of baked beans? Don’t write it down. Better yet, forget those thoughts forever. They’re job-getting poison.
Here’s an example:
“I’m interested in this position because I want to learn and need more money. My former employer was also difficult to work with so I am looking for an improved work culture.
I should note that although I am a very good employee, I’m not interested in going to company events, will expect numerous on-the-job perks and am going to avoid assisting colleagues with their tasks.”
After your amazing cover letter scores you an interview, rehearse appropriate responses to, “Why do you want to leave/did you leave your last job?” Answers include, “Opportunities for growth” and things like, “I’ve always wanted to work for XXX company because…”.
What to do:
Now that we’ve effectively shut down every aspect of your existing cover letter. Let’s break down the structure of what you do need.
And there you have it.
There’s not a whole lot more to it. Follow our ‘What Not To Dos’ and we can guarantee you’ll get an interview. At some point. Somewhere. When the time is right.
Keen to get started? Check out our job finder.