5 Horrific (Yet True) Cover Letter Mistakes, As Told By Recruiters

I couldn't make these cover letter blunders up if I tried. A lesson for all job seekers ...

A hot topic of discussion these days in my industry is whether or not job seekers should bother writing cover letters. Some recruiters say they no longer read them. However, in my recent experience working with job seekers, I’ve seen plenty of well-written cover letters in the latest formats help candidates stand out and land job interviews. Unfortunately, most people don’t study up on the right way to write a cover letter. And that, leads to this…

5 Unbelievable (Yet, True!) Cover Letter Horror Stories

I’m part of a private Facebook group for recruiters. It’s where hundreds of staffing professionals connect, share, and blow off steam. Today, I posted the following question:

“What’s the WORST thing you’ve ever seen in a cover letter?! I’m looking for the craziest things you’ve witnessed in a cover letter and/or email outreach from a candidate in the last year.”

It didn’t take long before responses came flying in. Many were the typical blunders i.e. addressing the cover letter to the wrong company, poorly written and full of typos, applying to the wrong job, sharing religious or political preferences, etc. But, the following five recruiter responses definitely win for being the most epic of cover letter failures:

1. Cooking preferences & “lady” issues. Ashley M told me: “Where to start… the cover letter attachment that was actually a list of the candidate’s favorite recipes? Or, the candidate that disclosed incredibly detailed information about the effect of their menstrual cycle on their work?”

2. NO fear identity theft. Jennifer F. shared, “I got the candidate’s picture, DOB, SSN, Marital Status, and Number of children.”

3. Selling yourself with a little too much passion. Ian E. says, “One candidate wrote “I get sh*t done” in the first line of his cover letter.”

4. Thinking a little too much outside-the-box. Michael H. offered this gem: “Creativity points to the person who sent their cover letter written in crayon. Wanted to stand out, but it was a finance position. No kidding.”

But here, my friends, is the grand prize winner…

5. When a picture isn’t worth a 1000 words. Kylie T. says, “I once got a cover letter which was just a picture of a guy and a tiger. What else do I need to know really?”

I guarantee if I waited a week, I could share dozens more of these with you. My recruiter friends have seen it all – and aren’t afraid to share what doesn’t work with them! I hope the key takeaway for any job seeker reading this is the importance of investing time in learning how to write a proper cover letter.

P.S. – Playing is “safe” isn’t the answer either.

While the mistakes above might make you think I’m encouraging you to write a boring, conservative cover letter, you’d be wrong. That won’t work either. You still have the challenge of creating something that’s interesting enough to get the recruiter’s attention. It just needs to do it for the right reasons. The solution is to create a disruptive cover lettera/k/a something that showcases how you feel connected to the job and the employer. It’s not a recap of your resume. It’s an introduction to you as a potential co-worker. That means revealing something about yourself that proves your personality, aptitude, and experience are a potential match for the company’s corporate culture. In short, spending time perfecting a killer cover letter can actually help you open doors and get coveted job interviews.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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