A reader recently sent me this note: “I made a mistake on my cover letter, should I resend it?”
That made me think about the types of recoverable mistakes people make on their cover letters.
Spelling & Grammar Errors on Cover Letters
When I recruited, spelling and grammar errors were the most common cover letter errors I saw. There was usually at least one boo-boo per letter. Seriously.
Thus, I tended to give everyone a mulligan. From a practical perspective, it would have been impossible to complete searches if my clients and I had demanded perfect written English from candidates.
That said, I encourage you to use Grammarly (should be an affiliate) to spot your writing problems. Why? Because if you send an error-free letter, you will stand out in a good way.
Misaddressed Cover Letters
The other recoverable error I saw was the misaddressed cover letter. I received at least one on every search I did.
It happens when job seekers use the same cover letter template for multiple applications. Unfortunately, they go a little too fast and forget to change the recipient’s name and address in each letter.
Sadly, I can’t think of a time I interviewed an applicant who got my name wrong.
Instead, I wondered:
- Was the cover letter and resume meant for me?
- Did the letter and resume ever get to the right person?
Thus, think of misaddressing a cover letter as a deal killer unless you discover and fix the error.
Get it Right the First Time
Knowing that you’re human and English is hard, please spell and grammar check your cover letters.
After you’ve done that, double-check the addressee. If your materials don’t go to the right person, you probably won’t get an interview.
I Made a Mistake on My Cover Letter. Should I Resend It?
Now, circling back to the beginning of this post, that’s a great question!
I say, “Yes, definitely fix the error(s) and resend your letter.”
First, if you emailed your cover letter to the wrong addressee, all you have to do is fix the name and address and send it to the right person.
Second, if you’re not that lucky, apologize for addressing the wrong person. If the recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t forgive such a common mistake, you probably don’t want the interview anyway.
Third, if you made a spelling or grammar error, fix it, and resend your letter.
How Email Saves You from Your Cover Letter Mistakes
In the second and third cases, if you used email, you can note that you hit “send” too soon. That’s relatable because it’s something we’ve all done.
BTW, it also makes email a better platform than snail mail for your job search correspondence.
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Everything That Matters About Cover Letters
Updated January 2022
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Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts.
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Now there’s a coincidence. Just last week I sent a cover letter, and it took me AGES to find the guy’s name, searching various online documents until I found it in the company accounts. Just hope I got the right name.
I’m astonished it’s this common! I was expecting the “Dear Sir or Madam” gaffe to be it.
I hope so too!
Can you say more? Do you mean “make the effort as Tricia did to address your cover letter to a person?”
On LinkedIn when you apply for a job it automatically populates your cover letter with the last cover letter you sent out. I thought it was a good idea at first because I could use some of the same wording from my last cover letter. But….I forgot to change a name and I did not catch it until a few days later. I was horrified! The worst part was I really was interested in the job! Painful! Now every time it auto populates I cringe!
That’s good to know — and to watch out for. Thank you for sharing.
Of all the potential mistakes one could make on the cover letter, this one is THE cardinal sin. I mean, spelling or grammatical errors are bad enough.
It’s the “template mentality” — there’s no one size fits all solution to cover letters, that’s why they’re included with the resume. Cover letters should be tailored to the specific post, company, and the person who’s going to hire you. You should be answering what the person has questions about, and how you’ve met challenges etc. Sometimes, it’s the cover letter that makes a difference when it comes to hiring decisions.
The couple of templates I have saved for cover letters I put
Dear (your name here)
Then when I read through before sending, it becomes obvious if I haven’t filled this in.
Yuyu and Tricia,
Thank you for the additional insight on templates. Handy but dangerous tools!
What are your suggestions for those of us sending coverletters to an unknown reviewer in HR. Is “To Whom it May Concern, Dear Sirs, Dear Sir or Madam, etc” acceptable?
I like “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Dear Recruiter.”
If there’s a search committee, then “Dear Search Committee.”
“To Whom it May Concern” is a little too anonymous.
Hope this is helpful,
I’ve addressed the cover letter and been interviewed by someone completely different. I apply to same place a year later and their HR changes. I believe that sometimes when there is no number to call and to inquire on the HR name one should use a general name ( Dear Talent Team) but some have many people in HR too. It’s a team and it really depends on situation. The trick is being noticed and being called for the interview and than shining above all the rest. It’s hard I know one day I’ll get hired!
All good info. Unfortunately, I often get letters addressed to a specific person at an entirely different company! Thank you for helping me clarify
I always try not to make this mistake. Even forwarding any Email I always update the name and cross check before sending. Due to this reason I have never make this mistake. Sometimes I catch the mistake while cross checking…
Good advice. Thank you Vivek.