10 Cover Letter Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Avoid these common pitfalls and write a cover letter that shines

cover letter mistakes

A cover letter is the perfect opportunity to market yourself to a potential employer. You can use your cover letter to highlight your achievements and explain how your experience will be of benefit to the employer. It’s important to take a little extra time to polish your cover letter and avoid these common mistakes:

Pitfall #1. Using a generic cover letter
Even though it is time consuming, you should tailor every cover letter you write to the specific job application. Make sure you read the job ad carefully, and see what the employer is looking for. This way you can highlight how your skills are a good fit with the specific job skills the employer wants. You should even use some of the same exact words that appear in the job ad in case a computer is scanning your application for matching keywords.

Pitfall #2. Poor opening paragraph
Getting started is often the hardest part, but don’t be intimidated. Rather than starting with “Enclosed please find my resume,” you can start with something simple and direct. For example: “I am applying for the Patient Care Technician position advertised on LinkedIn. As a recent graduate of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, I believe my training and my good academic record will make me a strong candidate for the position.”

Pitfall #3. Repeating what’s on your resume
A cover letter is meant to enhance your resume, not just to repeat it. Rather than listing your experience from your resume, simply choose one or two experiences from your resume, and explain how they have taught you the qualities and skills that the employer is looking for.

Pitfall #4. Making it all about yourself
While you do want to promote yourself in your cover letter, the key thing is to say how you can benefit the employer. Describe how you can help the organization with their needs, rather than saying how this job will benefit you. Mention your experiences and how they can help the employer.

Pitfall #5. Not supporting what you say
Be careful about claiming you have certain qualities without offering evidence to prove it. For example, you might want to highlight that you are a strong team member, or that you have good patient relations skills. You can say these things, but make sure you back it up with experiences that demonstrate these skills. For instance, “I enjoy getting to know patients and have a good bedside manner. My internship supervisor said that I received very good feedback from my patients. My patient-first attitude is a benefit that I could bring to your nursing home.”

Pitfall #6. Making it too short or too long
Three or four short paragraphs make up a good cover letter. If your cover letter is too short, it tells the employer that you did not give it a lot of effort. If it is too long, the hiring manager probably will not read past the first paragraph or two.

Pitfall #7. Poor closing paragraph
Remember that you are trying to secure an interview. Use the final paragraph to request an interview, and explain to the hiring manager that you are going to follow up in one week. Then remember to mark your calendar and call the employer in one week’s time to make sure they have received your application.

Pitfall #8. An informal letter style
Take the time to make your cover letter look formal. If you are submitting it as an email, be sure to address the person as Mr. or Ms., and include a full signature line with your contact information. If you are submitting it as a paper letter or PDF attachment, use a formal letter writing style, complete with return address, date, recipient’s address, greeting, and closing.

Pitfall #9. “To Whom it May Concern”
If you can find the name of the hiring manager, this is much better than writing “to whom it may concern.” Try calling the organization and asking for the name of the person to whom you should direct your cover letter. If you cannot get an answer, then you can use: “To the hiring manager for the Patient Care Technician position.”

Pitfall #10: Spelling mistakes
It never looks good when you have typos in your cover letter. Run the spell checker, and then ask a trusted friend, mentor, or better yet, a Career Services adviser, to read over your letter.


This article was provided by the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health. Located in Manchester, New Hampshire, our school provides career-focused training for Patient Care Technicians, Licensed Nursing Assistants, and Practical Nurses. Visit our blog for more career-related advice, or for more information about our school, fill out our simple online form.

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