what not to do in an interview

4 Things You Should NEVER Do in Your Cover Letter

There is already plenty of great advice out there on how to write a stellar cover letter. They’ll help you learn how to establish a winning tone, how to incorporate powerful details that showcase your past successes, and how to let potential employers envision you as a member of the team before you even land an interview. So, rather than re-invent the wheel by giving you a bunch of advice that’s already out there, we thought we would offer something a little less common and thus a little more useful: the top four things to AVOID in your cover letter.

This is the list of things to do if you don’t want to get an interview. Committing one of these mortal sins of job hunting will have the search committee passing your letter around the office or sharing photos of it on imgur. You’ll stand out as an applicant in the worst way, and might be so memorable that you’ll kill any chances of future applications fir other jobs at the same employer.

Without further banter, here’s your top four worst things to put in a cover letter:

#1. Complaints about past employers

No one likes a whiner, especially not your future boss. If your cover letter says that you’re applying to work at XYZ widget factory because your current widget master enforces too much uncompensated overtime, your search committee will immediately portray you as not a team player. You would be better off highlighting that XYZ looks like a great place to work because of their strong focus on work-life balance.

#2. Vague accomplishments and empty adjectives

No one wants to hear that you are a “hard worker” or “the best salesman in your office”. Future employers want to know that you have “climbed from an entry-level position to junior management in just two years while also pursuing your online doctorate”; or that you “came in first place out of 63 sales representatives on your team’s sales competition for six quarters in a row.” A blank line of white space is better than empty promises. All they do is convince your future employer that you are trying to cover up the fact that you will be worthless to their business.

#3. Reference the wrong job

You know you’re supposed to tailor each letter to a specific job, right? Well, this is kinda doing the exact opposite. You will likely have a template letter of sorts that you modify for each application you submit, so you have to be sure to update each new letter completely, eliminating all references to other positions. Nothing says “I don’t pay attention to detail” like telling Paws for People that you “can’t wait to help them start selling their product in bulk.”

#4. Clip art

For most folks, this should go without saying:


It doesn’t belong in your cover letter, your PowerPoint presentation, your resume, your website, anywhere. The only time you are allowed to use clip art is when you are making fun of clip art. Clip art is the fastest way to tell anyone “Digital media hasn’t changed since 1992.”

Now, really, you shouldn’t use images at all in a cover letter, unless they are part of official letterhead. But this rant about clip art is really just the tip of a much deeper iceberg containing all things tacky or outdated. The list includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Exclamation points!!!!
  • lols and rofls
  • emoticons :\
  • 1337 $P3@K

There you have it. Four pitfalls to avoid when you go to write your next cover letter. Unless, of course, you want to be the laughing stock of the hiring committee. Sorry if this post doesn’t tell you everything you need to know to get hired, but we hope it at least tells you how to avoid getting not hired.