5 common mistakes in your cover letter

Symbolic picture: Young man looks desperately at his laptop
Symbolic picture: Young man looks desperately at his laptopTim Gouw via Unsplash

The auto-correction turns “Frau Weilert” into “Frau Weigert” and “committed” into “enraged”. And yet we send the application, had to go quickly, and only later, when we look through the PDF again, then we notice the bucks. Damn! If only one had taken more time for the cover letter. After all, this is the application’s calling card. And it should leave a positive impression. What other mistakes happen to us again and again in the application letter and how we can avoid them:

# 1 Spelling and grammatical errors

Exactly, you should have guessed that. Spelling and grammatical errors creep into application letters again and again – either autocorrection has a hand in it (who doesn’t know that?) Or our perception plays a trick on us. After all, we know what we wanted to write. And that’s why we see the words that should actually be there. A cover letter with careless or gross spelling mistakes looks mindless and confused – as if you had better things to do than apply for this job.

To prevent this from happening, you should print out the cover letter. Errors can be seen more quickly on paper than on screen. Or you let your partner proofread it, after all four eyes see more than two.

# 2 interchangeable phrases

“I read your job offer with great interest”, “I am applying for the advertised position”, “I am enthusiastic about your company because of the diverse development opportunities of the employees”, “Colleagues appreciate me as a motivated, innovative and dynamic team member”. Exactly: These sentences sound familiar to you. Because they are interchangeable and worn. They do not reveal anything about who you really are as an applicant. In order to make a recruiter aware and curious, you should therefore beware of these phrases. Develop a strong beginning of writing that stimulates the reader’s interest in hearing more from you. Play with emotions, incorporate a cliffhanger, use terms that you have never read in a cover letter and develop examples that explain why your colleagues appreciate you so much.

# 3 boring style

Admittedly, this is not for everyone: writing. It’s actually not that difficult at all. After all, you already know your protagonist very well: Exactly, you. The biggest sins of style in a cover letter are: too many adjectives, superlatives, too much passive, few verbs, box sentences, imprecise foreign words, business Denglish. In order to formulate your cover letter fluently and appealingly, you should instead carefully dose adjectives and replace them with verbs, use passive only in an emergency and rather build active sentence constructions, look for suitable German terms for foreign words (of course only if they exist). And: leave out the subjunctive. That seems submissive and undecided. So instead of “I would be happy to introduce myself”, rather write “I look forward to introducing myself to you”.

# 4 Retell your resume

“After I had successfully completed primary school, my eight years at grammar school began, which I completed with my Abitur …”. If you have not only obtained your higher education entrance qualification in the past few months, you should under no circumstances describe your school career in your cover letter. Most of the time it was a little longer ago and you have experienced more exciting things since then. Also, don’t retell your résumé. That’s included with the cover letter. Instead, highlight interesting jobs and mention what cannot be found on the resume.

# 5 pretend

You need to sell yourself well in a cover letter. But praising your own merits, putting yourself at the center and often writing “I”, some find that inauthentic and therefore unpleasant. And that’s also true: This situation is not exactly relaxed. So stay yourself. Don’t pretend. Don’t praise yourself on the clover. At the latest at the interview, it will otherwise come out that you speak rather mediocre Spanish and that the last project was developed together with your colleagues at the conference table – instead of lonely overtime at your desk.


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