Cover letters: what NOT to do

We could spend the length of this post waxing lyrical about how best to write a professional and personalized cover letter to accompany your resume for a job application, but let’s be honest: it’s a lot more fun to look at those car-crash cover letter disasters.


There are some fine examples in this blog post as well as classic viral examples, such as Mark from NYU who boasted about holding down a triple-major 3.93 GPA while also benching double his own bodyweight in his Goldman Sachs cover letter. This applicant’s cover letter for an API engineer job, in which he described himself as “super awesome” and MMA-trained, was hopefully a joke. Business Insider has also released 12 of the worst cover letters it has ever received.

Key things to remember here are:

  • No bragging or self-importance.
  • Don’t try to be funny/chummy.
  • Keep it relevant. There’s no need for paragraph after paragraph about how you want to swim with dolphins.
  • Make sure the letter is neither too short nor too long.
  • Keep the jargon to a minimum: don’t tell employers you can “soar the vertical”, for example.

So, what makes a good cover letter? First of all, don’t do any of the things above, and make sure you do the following:

  • Correct spelling and grammar. Correct spelling of the company you’re applying to is generally considered a plus.
  • Outline the particular skills you have that would be relevant to the specific job you’re applying for.
  • Don’t repeat your resume.

Want to learn more? Then come to the GW Career Center’s Creating Cover Letters workshop! Taking place on March 18 from 6.30pm-7.30pm in Marvin Center 413-414, the workshop will teach you what to include in a cover letter and how to customize it for a particular job application. FREE PIZZA too! Please remember to RSVP through GWork prior to the event.

Before Creating Cover letters, we also have our Resume Basics workshop – starting on the same day at 5.30pm in Marvin Center 413-414. On March 19, we are holding our Job Search Strategies and Internship Search Strategies workshops at 5.30pm and 6.30pm respectively in Marvin Center 310. We are also holding our Ace Your Interview workshop the following day on March 20 at 6.30pm in Marvin Center 310.

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