6 Cover Letter Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

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Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

Learn from your mistakes, they say.

We say, learn from their mistakes. In that spirit, take a look at these excerpts from real-life cover letters gone wrong.

Don't let these blunders sabotage your cover letter:

1. Self-Serving

I'm interested in seeing what your firm can do to help me find new clients.

Granted, there are all kinds of self-serving reasons you may want a particular job – heck, most of the reasons are self-serving, and that's cool. But when it comes to your cover letter, keep those reasons to yourself. The employer is interested in finding a person who can fill a need or solve a problem. Use your cover letter to explain why you're that person. At this stage, it's all about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Save the discussion about your aspirations and career goals for later.

2. Desperation

I'm currently looking for any paying position freelance, part-time or full-time.

Way to make a prospective employer feel special. Being open to anything can close a lot of doors. You may be desperate, but don't tell them that. Instead of saying you'll take anything, maybe add a line about why you want to work for this particular company (just do a little research and make something up.). Note: Your stated reasons for wanting to work at the company should not include the free food and unlimited PTO program. But feel free to talk up the great culture.

3. Irrelevant

I'm married and, at the present time, live in a farm located on the countryside … from where I attend to my clients online, grow organic vegetables and raise my two small daughters.

Yeah … and I have two cats, belong to a recreational prospecting club and visited Palm Springs three years ago. But what does that have to do with anything? In your cover letter, stick to the relevant stuff – like why you're the best person for the job. Once you're hired, feel free to corner a colleague at a company party and expound upon your organic gardening endeavors.

4. Too Short

Please see my résumé attached. I look forward to speaking with you.

That's not an excerpt, that's a whole cover letter. Sure, with cover letters, as with most communication, brevity is a virtue. But 12 words? That's too short – even when you're sending your résumé via email. Your cover letter should get someone interested enough in you to continue reading. Just typing "Please see my résumé" – polite as it may be – will not compel anyone to open that attachment. Be sure to add a few lines about yourself and why you're a good fit for the job.

5. Long-Winded

Don't beef up your anemic cover letter too much – brevity still is a virtue. Some cover letters are well over a thousand words long. A letter with too much info will have the same result as one with too little – that résumé attachment will remain unopened. Generally, limit your cover letter to three to five concise paragraphs, and maybe throw in some bullet points to further break up the text.

6. Carelessness

… and would love to offert my skills.

Copyedit and spell-check your cover letter. (How's that for brevity.)

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