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6 Things You Shouldn't Include in Your Cover Letter

By Maurie Backman - Feb 19, 2018 at 6:18AM

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Avoid these at all costs.

Though your resume will no doubt help determine whether you're called in for a given job interview, your cover letter will play an equally important role in dictating whether you reach the next step of the application process. That's why it's crucial to get that letter just right, and that includes knowing what information not to put in there. Here are just a few items that have no place in a cover letter.

1. Grammatical errors

Your cover letter is a chance to highlight your professionalism. But if you submit a letter loaded with mistakes, you'll achieve the opposite effect. The solution? Write that letter, walk away for at least several hours -- ideally a full day -- and then reread it with a clear head. This way, you're apt to catch errors that a computerized spelling or grammar check won't pick up on (remember, no one wants to hear about how much you excel at pubic speaking).

Hands typing on a laptop

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Cliches and buzzwords

Your cover letter should represent the sort of person and worker you are, so if you go heavy on cliches, you may come off as insincere or, worse yet, unoriginal. Rather than fall back on platitudes and buzzwords, find your own way to communicate your strengths and passions. For example, rather than call yourself a "results-driven go-getter," try saying, "I'm the type of person who strives for perfection, and I'm willing to put in the effort to feel good about the work I'm doing." The latter just sounds more genuine.

3. Too much information

Your resume is the perfect place to review your job history and hash out the details of what you did at each role. Your cover letter, however, is not. Rather than regurgitate your entire career timeline, use your cover letter to highlight the skills and expertise that make you the ideal fit for the specific role you're applying to. Whoever's reading that letter can use your resume to fill in the gaps if need be.

4. Excessive detail about your outside interests

Though having hobbies shows that you're well-rounded, your cover letter is hardly the place to talk them up. Remember, this isn't your dating profile, so if you enjoy baking and long walks on the beach, save those details for another forum. On the other hand, if you currently volunteer at an organization, and that experience has helped you boost certain skills, you're OK to include it.

5. Negative comments about your current job

At some point in your cover letter, you should most definitely state your reasons for wanting the job you're applying for. But while it's a good thing to focus on the aspects of the role that excite you, don't use them as a point of comparison to your existing role, especially in a negative context. In other words, if you're tired of feeling like you're stuck in a dead-end job, don't say something like, "I'm eager to join a company with clear room for growth, which is more than I can say for my current firm." Harping on the reasons you're looking to quit your current job will only cast you in an unfavorable light.

6. Salary requirements

At some point during the interview process, you may be asked to share your salary requirement to ensure that you and your prospective employer are reasonably aligned. But don't jump the gun by including those details in your cover letter. Not only is it inappropriate, but it's totally unnecessary. If you're starved for content, review your resume and pull out a skill to talk more about. But leave numbers off the table unless the job listing you're responding to specifically asks that you include them in your cover letter. 

Botching your cover letter is an easy way to ruin your chances of landing your dream job. Avoid these mistakes, and with any luck, you'll craft the perfect message that leaves employers eager to learn more about you.

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