Personal Development

8 cover letter mistakes to avoid and top tips

Do be succinct and clear

Take it from Kate Blythe, the chief content officer at when she says that most hiring employers don’t have a lot of time to read applications. Be sure to keep it short, clear, and free from unnecessary information. “When submitting a cover letter remember that the people you are applying to are usually incredibly busy, have a huge pile of cover letters and CVs to read through and therefore need to be impressed by you quickly. Don’t overwrite a cover letter – keep it short and well written. Make sure it includes only the most relevant highlights of your career and personal information. Employers want to know that you understand what it is you are applying for, why the business is unique and why you are the right person for the job,” says Blythe.

Sameera Hassan, global director of marketing and communications at Farfetch, has a similar view: “Be clear on why you want to work for the brand and why you want to work within that particular position, knowing what you can offer and what you want to gain in return,” says Hassan.

Don’t flatter

When it comes to writing a cover letter, it’s essential to avoid clichés and the overuse of hyperbole. Stephanie Jemmett is the talent acquisition partner at Condé Nast International, and has seen her share of less-than-ideal cover letters. “‘I have a passion for fashion’ is a phrase we receive in applications day after day,” says Jemmett. “Don’t be too obvious around the role or the company and think outside the box – tell us about the first Vogue cover you saw or the first article that resonated with you.”

Do show your personality, but keep it professional

Remember that you want your cover letter to stand out, but to also speak to your knowledge and understanding of the business. Hassan explains that a great candidate has a “sense of the brand culture and levels of formality” so use this as a basis if you’re stuck.

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Don’t copy and paste

Whatever you do, don’t use the same cover letter for a handful of different job applications, and don’t regurgitate the company’s values or mission statement. These things seem lazy and show that you lack an understanding of the role.

Claire Birch, who is the human resources director at The Communications Store, notes that if you’re stuck, look to the team and their recent work to guide you. “Don’t copy and paste and be generic. We know how tough applying for jobs can be and the rejection that comes with it, but be creative with the content and the way you deliver your message. If going ‘out of the box’ is not for you, then tailor it to the company and show them the person behind the letter. Research the company, look at their work or clients, why are they interesting to you, but please avoid repeating back copy from the website,” she says.

Don’t send without triple-checking what you’ve written

Things like grammar, spelling, and accuracy are so, so important. According to Birch, failing to look over your work can really ruin an otherwise great application. “It seems obvious but sadly we still receive cover letters addressed to other companies or employers or applying for the wrong role. It’s such a shame as that all-important first impression is blown! Check and double-check [what you’ve written] – spelling and grammar count, especially for communications roles,” Birch explains.

Don’t repeat your CV

As Jemmet advises, ensure you don’t overlap information on your CV and cover letter, as it essentially just wastes the employer’s time. “Do not repeat yourself. The cover letter is a chance for you to showcase what is not on your CV and should be tailored to the specific role you are applying for. Most importantly, why you are interested in the role specifically, accompanied by any relevant experience, why you would be suitable and how your skills could be transferable to the role,” she notes.

Who does it concern?

When it comes to waiting for a response, Hassan hints that it isn’t wise to chase or follow-up in the first 24 hours. Instead, wait a few days before you reach out – application volumes might be extremely high. Hassan also notes that it’s best practice to only follow up or loop in those “directly involved” rather that the entire business.



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