Cover Letters Gone Wrong

At some point in your career, you’ve probably heard that the more creative your cover letter, the more success you’ll have finding a job…right?

To a certain extent, I can understand the logic.

In our time, we’ve receive thousands of cover letters that start with ‘Dear Sir/Madam, I am writing to apply for the position of…’

But what happens when cover letter creativity goes a little too far?

This is what happens, friends…this is what happens.

Creative writing…

1.  “As Ivory goes along with a substance called soap,

Everyone looked at each other with a small gleam of hope,

It’s time to stop letting all the normal folk dance,

And open our eyes, and give this chick a chance!”

OK, it rhymes – but what does it even mean? Who are these normal folk who’re dancing? What have ivory and soap got to do with the price of fish?

2.  “I however want to start by a story of a graceful virgin who fell in love with a prophet of old. She was the daughter of the tribe chief whom every elegant male was pursuing.

But she wanted that man. As shy and proud as she was, she said, “Engage him, father, for the best to hire is the strong, the honest”

I have never forgotten the paradigm.”

Just a minor detour, totally inappropriate and pretty irrelevant. She does eventually apologise for not writing ‘in the usual business style’ ; too little, too late.

3.  “To hear from you at your heart’s delight would be the intrigue of my day to discuss salary and additional beneficial requirements.”

Fluffy, long-winded and emotional; this cover letter genuinely reads more like a badly written love letter!

The bearers of good food!

4.  “The single greatest reason why you should employ me today?

I promise to bring doughnuts into the office every Friday and we’re talking Krispy Kremes, not your bog-standard, supermarket-bought doughnuts!”

Forget everything I said about not being too creative and including at least one relevant thing to your cover letter. As far as I’m concerned, she’s hired!

5. “I know I’d fit in well with your team and if I don’t, I’ll bribe you all with my homemade brownies.”

She had me at bribe…

6.… being a member of the (name withheld) Organization, and, braise yourselves, even participating in a folk dance ensemble …”

Heads up! If you’re going to try and be funny, at least spell everything right!

Ordering your potential employers to cook (braise) themselves is never a great look!


Recruiter Pro Tip

We once had an interviewer who showed up to the interview with home-made cakes.

A very talented baker, they tasted absolutely wonderful and sharing her hobby with us, really showed off her great personality.

I’d definitely recommend it as a creative tactic to remember in the future!

Food sells.

Honesty isn’t always the best policy.

7.  “I won’t waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crapp (sic) about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship.

The truth is I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities…”

Honesty is great and everything…but it’s also OK to tell a couple of white lies on your cover letter.

Employers will be expecting slightly exaggerated experience, skills and enthusiasm.

8. “You’ll notice that I haven’t talked about what skills I have yet. Do I honestly need to?

I went to an elite institution, and we all know I’d figure out how to use whatever programs you’d like me to toil away with.

Working at your company doesn’t take a rocket scientist, and I think we both know that, but the type of person you hire will matter, especially for your size team.”

Section TwoI can’t believe I even have to say this but it is really important NOT to offend your potential employers by telling them how easy you’ll find a job role and insinuating that it’s all a little below you.

9.  “I won’t pretend that your company’s mission is my passion, but I do think sales are interesting, and you seem to have a strong background per your LinkedIn page.

If you hire me, I’ll show up for the hours you expect me to, and do what’s asked, and you’ll like me. Let’s face it: That puts me ahead of 99% the applicants already.”

Wow! This person just comes across arrogant, aggressive and pretty offensive!

10.  “I am writing this cover letter not because I am desperate to work for an esteemed corporation such as yours, but because I’m just desperate.

For the sake of my sanity, please hire me.”

Seeming committed and genuinely keen on the job is great…reeking of desperation, not so much.

Angry applications.

11.  “I’m sick of writing these ‘pedestrian’ cover letters; you’re sick of reading them. I won’t gush with some sanctimonious speech about your company; I apply to companies only for whom I’m interested in working.”

I wonder why he’s having trouble finding a job…

12.  “I have applied for 131 jobs and received 51 polite ‘no thank yous,’ 3 very rude responses and 77 no-replies.  I don’t even know why I’m applying anymore but have a look at my CV, I’m sure that it’ll give you, at the very least, a good laugh.”

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for this poor applicant!

At Coburg Banks, we always advise our clients to reply to every application, whether negative or positive; it’s only polite!

13. “Attached is my resume, along with a few writing samples. If you have any questions, please feel free to fu#@ing contact me at {Email} And if you don’t I’m gonna be fu#@ing pisssed! So stop bullsh#@ng and call me ;)”

This candidate’s parting line was a little too offensive for our mild-mannered blog, even when censored (click here if you’d like to read the full extract).

Unbelievably, this is a genuine cover letter and yes, the company did manage to track down the troubled job-seeker.

I wonder whether he got an invite to interview?

Straight to the point.

14. ‘Here’s my resume. Call me. (Phone Number).”

This short and snappy note sounds a lot more like a cheesy chat up line than a professional ‘cover letter‘.

15.  “I have guts, drive, ambition and heart, which is probably more than a lot of the drones that you have working for you.”

You can just tell that this candidate’s going to get on famously with the rest of the team…

16.  “My name is ____, and I kick ass. See resume for details.”

You can almost see this happy chappy, waltzing around, impressed with his own “witty” one-liner.

Out of principle, this would have gone straight into my deleted items.

17.   “I have a lot of integrity so I promise not to steal office supplies and take them home.”

Good to know but honestly, this statement just makes me suspicious that the candidate would, in fact, steal office supplies and take them home…

Bragging rights.

18.  “That semester, I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups…”

“…Please realize that I am not a braggart or conceited, I just want to outline my usefulness. Egos can be a huge liability, and I try not to have one.”

Totally believable, considering your entire cover letter is one huge brag.

19.  “The men at the radio station referred to me as “Chicago” and “sassy”—and never failed to give me stories that required contacting the hard-to-get sources.

I always got them to talk, and I always got them to “spill it.”

Sassy, they said, is for the ability that I have when it comes to asking the “tough questions.”

I really would not brag about the fact that ‘the men’ at your workplace are always complimenting you…

20.  “I’m incredibly proud of my achievements, but am most proud of having smashed 21 man vs food challenges across the country (I’ll bring my certificates with me to interview)!”

We all love good food, but this cover letter was literally filled with references to eating competitions, with little reference to the candidate’s skills and knowledge.

Weirdly, he wasn’t even applying for a job in the food industry.


21.  “Each time I apply for a job, I get a reply that there’s no vacancy but in this case, I have caught you red-handed and you have no excuse because I even attended the funeral to be sure that he was truly dead and buried before applying…”

I hate to say it, but this candidate’s sort of got you there…you’ll simply have to give them the job now!

22. “There ain’t nothing wrong with a little bump and grind. This is a different kind of grinding. I am not a pervert.

I am a gentleman, a scholar, and as I had already mentioned during our earlier encounter, a PROFESSIONAL GENIUS.”

I don’t even know where to start. Just don’t EVER use the phrase  ‘I am not a pervert!’ on your cover letter.

23. “Peekaboo! I just hacked your camera and I am watching you read this.”

This is just terrifying. 

Let’s Talk Business.

Next time you hear someone say ‘the more creative the better’ – take it with a pinch of salt.

Of course it is so important to add a touch of personality to your cover letter; at the end of the day, managers want to get on with their employees and no one’s going to hire a boring so-and-so.

But don’t cross the line!

For inspiration, use our blog post 8 Essential Tips On Writing The Perfect Cover Letter and (heads up) try not to ruin your hard work with a CV filled with buzzwords and cliches!

Recruiter Pro Tip

All you hiring managers out there, the same advice applies for job adverts.

Remember, you’re selling the job to candidates and being over-creative is just as bad as being boring!

(Check out this blog, to discover 10 of the worst job adverts that have ever graced the world.)

Good Luck and Happy Friday!

- Anthony Hughes

The First Day at Work Through the Eyes of a Worrier…

read more >

While attending a good friend’s bridal shower, the talk at our table turned to the job search. There were two people with recruiting experience at the table, ready to weigh in. The bridesmaid to my right started to tell a pretty funny story about a big cover letter slip up. It sounded very familiar and we all have probably made similar cover letter mistakes.

In the midst of applying to multiple jobs, she put together what she thought to be a great cover letter. She slightly altered it to fit the three different companies she was applying to and then proceeded to proofread it “about a hundred times.” She sent it off. That was that.

A few weeks later, she hadn’t heard back, but pressed on and decided to apply for a few new jobs she was interested in. When going back to use the same cover letter, she noticed something slightly alarming. Instead of talking about all of her “great work with various public schools” she actually referred to her great work with “pubic schools.”

We all starting cracking up—definitely an unfortunate, but easy to make, mistake. Since she hadn’t heard back from any of those three companies, she posed the question, “is this typo preventing me from getting calls?” In general, will cover letter mistakes be a deal breaker?

The recruiter at the table jumped in.

“It’s probably okay. It’s possible no one even noticed, or read it.” I quickly agreed, “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s an innocent mistake and I think most recruiters care about your experience way more than a typo.” However, I know there are people out there in the opposite camp, who believe grammar, attention to detail, and cover letters in general are a big deal.

My opinion is that minor cover letter mistakes don’t matter all that much.

Many times, cover letters are not even read

If you ask a group of recruiters (and I have), you’ll realize that very few read cover letters at all. There could be many reasons why this is the case, but I believe the biggest reason is probably because recruiters have time constraints and, because of limited time, recruiters prioritize what is most important—the resume. When the recruiter is passing along a candidate’s information to the hiring manager, the person who is actually hiring this person, it is pretty common to only pass along the resume or a resume bundle with many candidates at once and not include the cover letters.

The recruiting process is already long and administrative. The cover letter sometimes gets tossed aside because the resume gives you enough information to make a call without any supplements.

When they are read, cover letters are often skimmed

Now, this is definitely not always the case. Plenty of people definitely still read cover letters. Otherwise, why ask for them? However, back to the issue of time constraints, when cover letters are read, they are likely skimmed. The reader is probably looking for the key points and looking for anything that the resume can’t tell them such as passion for the company or why the candidate chose to take the path they took. They are looking for the “personality” and context behind the resume. Still, they will read a cover letter very quickly, extracting what they need, and moving on.

For this reason, I don’t think minor errors are easily caught. Note: writing the wrong company name in a cover letter is not minor—this is a careless, major mistake, and extremely easy to spot. “Pubic schools” however, could easy be missed.

Your actual skills and past experience outweigh almost everything

This is one of my core beliefs about the the recruiting process and hiring. I can give you all of the advice in the world and it definitely will help you gain a competitive edge, but actual skills and work experience trump almost everything. Most companies have a very specific set of qualifications in mind when they are hiring. If you meet them and not many others do, you’re likely to get a shot at interviewing even if you have made a mistake or typo in your cover letter.

Cover letter mistakes can happen in a second—we’re all busy. Experience and skills take years to build, and trump a piece of paper.

As with many job search topics, this is a really subjective one and you may come across people who adamantly disagree and will easily judge someone on a minor error on a cover letter. I personally don’t believe this is a dealbreaker, but in the spirit of giving yourself every advantage possible, do write a great cover letter and check it 101 times for typos. Ask someone you trust to give it a second look. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is all you need.

This post was originally published on The Prepary.

What’s your take on the minor typos in the cover letter? Have a horror story or advice for catching tiny mistakes? Share with us in the comments!

Ask Levo Mentor Sallie Krawcheck, Past President of Merrill Lynch, US Trust, and Smith Barney, if she has any horror stories or tips to keep your cover letter clean!

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