8 Things That Are Making Your Cover Letter Seem Outdated

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AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger

We get it — rewriting a cover letter for every single job for which you apply consumes so much time. Tailoring each cover letter to each job is a lot of work, and you'd much rather just send a generalized blanket cover letter to every company.

But you shouldn't.

Actually, with that said, there are a few things you definitely shouldn't do with your cover letter if you don't want it to come across as out of touch. Avoid making these eight cover letter mistakes if you actually want the job.

1. "To whom it may concern..."

It's not always easy to find out the name of the person who'll be reading your cover letter. Sometimes, job advertisements will just tell you to whom you should reach out. Other times, they're a lot less specific — and you're left to do the work to find out yourself. And, that's just it: You have to put in some elbow grease to find out. Addressing your letter with "to whom it may concern" feels impersonal and, frankly, many other lazy candidates are going to do it, too. So be the person who did their research because they cared — making your cover letter personal will go a long way.

2. Really old job experiences

If you've been out of college for years and still talk about your old internships or college jobs, it's probably time to stop. The truth is that no one really cares about what you did when you were 19 if you're well into the workforce. Only talk about the most recent and relevant work experiences that truly show the hiring manager reading your cover letter why you're a good fit for the job.

3. Irrelevant job experiences

 Like you shouldn't include your super outdated job experiences, you shouldn't include your irrelevant job experiences either (unless that's all you've got). If you don't have any other job experiences, you need to figure out a way to describe your experiences so that they seem relevant. Perhaps, for example, you were in a managerial position for a retail company but are now applying for a leadership role with an environmental startup — while the jobs aren't directly related, you can talk about your leadership experience as the common denominator. 

4. No mirrored language

One of the best things you can do with your cover letter is mirror the language in the job advertisement in your cover letter. If you don't have similar wording, you might miss the point and risk your cover letter appearing out of touch. So look back to the job advertisement to see for what exactly the hiring manager is calling, and then use those same words and phrases throughout your application.

5. No mention of the actual job

One surefire way to get your cover letter tossed to the side: not mentioning the actual job for which you're applying. Your cover letter serves as extra material in conjunction with your resume that should be more specifically tailored to the job and company for which you're applying. While your resume simply lists your work experience and skills, your cover letter should tell the hiring manager why exactly you want that job for that company — and why they should hire you.

6. No mention of the company

Like no mention of the actual job, no mention of the company can make your cover letter seem out of touch, as well. Again, you want the hiring manager to read your cover letter and understand why exactly they should hire you to work at their company — and why you want to work at that particular company. For that to happen, you'll need to mention the company.

7. Misinformation about the job

If you do your research and understand the job well, you shouldn't have a tough time crafting a cover letter that's tailored to it. But you don't want your cover letter to get anything wrong about the job, which will make it seem out of touch. So make sure you read the job advertisement well, and then make you sure read it again.

8. A generalized format

It's okay to have a generalized format for your cover letter that you use for different jobs. But make sure that your cover letter doesn't read like you just plugged in different words and phrases to apply to this job. You want your cover letter to come across as genuine, not like a robot wrote it for you and mass emailed multiple companies with it.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.