How Not to Write a Cover Letter

Being a small business, I don’t often get cover letters and resumes, although once I got a perfume-scented resume on blue letterhead that went directly in the trash.  Yesterday, I got a cover letter that was truly stunning, and not in a good way. It was stunning because it was such a good example of how NOT to write a letter. I am posting it here, with comments (and with identity removed, of course).

To Whom it May Concern:

No personalization…unforgivable since I am the only person listed on my website.

I would like to be considered for employment with your company, so here is a little background on my education and experiences.

Doesn’t mention what type of employment is being sought.

I have a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from [XXX ]University, where I double majored in Marketing and Business Management.  I also earned a minor in Professional Communications.  I achieved a GPA of 3.49, while also being extremely involved in extra-curricular activities and community service opportunities on campus.

Would have put this down further…or talked about what subjects I learned about, more specifically.

I’ve gained experience relevant to the business industry through two internships, one with[xxx}- a marketing firm, and the other with[xxx}.  These internships allowed me to utilize the information I had been learning at[the University] and have allowed for me to gain experience in the marketing field.

No specificity: the writer could have given examples of specific tasks or information learned.

Before you ask, I’ll go ahead and answer the big questions in your mind.  Yes, I am currently in [other state]  No, I do not plan to work from here; I’m ready and willing to relocate.  And finally, No, I understand that I’m entry-level and do not expect to receive relocation funds.

Geez. Now you are a mind-reader. Don’t assume anything.

I have enclosed my resume for your review.   Also, my LinkedIn profile can be viewed at[LinkedIn], if that better fits your viewing preferences.

This is nit-picky but you have attached not enclosed your resume, since this is an email.

I would be happy to aid you and your company in future endeavors, if you will please contact me at [telephone and email] I would welcome the chance to discuss openings.

Notice that nearly every paragraph and sentence starts with I. It’s all about the writer and nothing about my company.

Thank you for your consideration.


I wrote the author of this email back and told her there were no opportunities. I also gave her a couple of tips. She didn’t reply. I am pretty positive this letter will get her nowhere.

Here are my top three tips on how to write an effective cover letter:

  1. Personalize: Have a name (or at the very least a department or title). Mention the name of the company you are applying to, and why you are interested in working at that company.
  2. Summarize your background, but in relation to the potential job: In college, you probably took arts classes and sociology, etc. but perhaps you took a really great writing class that would help you be a copywriter, right?
  3. Talk about what you can do for the company: Can you bring in business, deal with clients, sweep the floor really well? What do you bring to the table?

What are your tips? What are the biggest mistakes you see when you get cover letters?




About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

1 thought on “How Not to Write a Cover Letter”

  1. I enthusiastically agree with your suggestion to include what the applicant can do for the company. Cover letters frequently focus only on the applicant. While the potential employer is likely interested in the applicant’s awards, etc., he/she is going to be more interested in how those awards can be applied to the company’s communications goals/objectives!

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