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Build Your Career Get the Job

15 Things You Should Never Put in Your Cover Letter

15 Things You Should Never Put in Your Cover Letter
Credit: soliman design/Shutterstock

Applying for a new job? The perfect cover letter could mean the difference between hearing, "When can you start?" and falling victim to the Delete button.

We asked several hiring managers and business owners for the absolute worst thing a candidate can include in his or her cover letter. From small details like typos and using clichés to huge red flags like lying or bad-mouthing your old boss, here are 15 things you should never put in your cover letter.

"I have seen one too many cover letters with the following phrase: 'Although I do not yet have…' If you do not have something, why are you emphasizing it? Write about what you do have that will be of interest to the potential employer. If you are looking for a job, then you are in the sales business. What you write in your cover letter should most effectively sell the skills, experience and abilities that you do have, as opposed to emphasizing those things that are lacking. Emphasizing a weakness on your cover letter may be costing you the job." – Lavie Margolin, consultant and career coach, Lion Cub Job Search

"Nothing will get your cover letter thrown in the recycling bin faster than giving the wrong company name. Carefully check your cover letter to make sure all the information is accurate, including the position you are applying for and the correct spelling of the hiring manager, if available." – Chaz Pitts-Kyser, founder and author, Careeranista

"The worst thing is to exaggerate or provide false information." – Karin Hurt, CEO, Let's Grow Leaders  [15 Social Media Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Career]  

"Typos are one of the top mistakes job seekers make when it comes to cover letters. Spell-check is your friend. Use it, but don't rely on it. Print out your cover letter, read it from start to finish and make sure there aren't any typos before sending it out. Your cover letter is the first impression you make on a hiring manager — make sure it's a good one." – Joe Weinlick, vice president of marketing, Beyond

"The worst thing a potential employee can do is to explain why they left their current or former position. It's like starting out a first date by talking about your ex! I don't want to hear about your past; I want to hear about your now and future, and how you are going to become an asset to my company." – Kim Kaupe, founder, ZinePak

"Salary information, unless they are specifically asked to do so, particularly if there is a disparity between what is advertised or indicated in the ad they are responding to. No prospective employer wants to hire someone who is only about the money!" – Lisa Benson, staffing director, Mary Kraft Staffing & HR Solutions

"One of the most common mistakes that applicants make when writing their cover letters is to include statements along the lines of 'I believe I would be a good fit for this job…' Recruiters and hiring managers don't really care what the candidates believe about their qualifications; they will assess the qualifications themselves. Instead, applicants should include something like, 'I offer the following qualifications for your consideration.' Then, they should list the qualifications relevant to the position for which they are applying." – Caroline McClure, principal, ScoutRock

"The worst thing a candidate can do in their cover letter is make it all about themselves and what they're looking for. The best thing to do is focus on why they'll be a great fit, how they'll make a contribution and what they've done, or will do, to support this." – Ian Yates, co-founder and managing director, Fitzii

"Saying anything negative in your cover letter will not help your chances of landing a job. For example, saying that you're looking for a new opportunity because your previous employer was unfair or you had an incompetent boss will only make you look bad. Oftentimes, if this type of negative information is in the cover letter, recruiters won't even look at the résumé." – Tracey Russell, recruiter, Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search

"The absolute worst thing candidates can put on their cover letter is a head shot. I know this is going to come as a shock to some of the more photogenic people out there — especially people coming from careers as Realtors or bankers, where it's normal to include a studio-quality photo on the corner of all written correspondence — but it's really tacky on cover letters." – Tyson Spring, senior consultant, business development, Elever Professional

"The worst thing a candidate can include in their cover letter is an objective. If the objective does not perfectly align with the company's objective, they will immediately stop reading and move on to the next person." – Nina Parr, co-founder and CMO, The Love Your Job Project

"The very worst and mind-boggling mistake that candidates make is to deliberately undersell themselves. Candidates will write stuff like, 'I'm probably not the best candidate...' or, 'You probably have many more qualified candidates lined up…' and other similar self-defeating phrases." – Mark Slack, résumé consultant and career adviser, Resume Genius

"Don't use buzzwords. Including descriptors such as 'detail-oriented,' 'hardworking,' 'team player' and 'proactive' don't tell HR managers anything about your experience. Anyone can write those words for the sake of including them." – Bob Kovalsky, senior vice president, Adecco Staffing

"I think the worst thing I have seen is when there is excessive oversharing in a cover letter. This is usually along the lines of, 'My spouse left me and I never finished school, and I have to raise my two kids.' Other turnoffs include age, religion and more. To most of us, these topics are naturally off-limits, but every now and then, one of these crosses my desk." – Lisa McAteer, recruitment consultant, McNeill Nakamoto Recruitment Group

"[The worst thing] is a candidate overselling him or herself, or being boastful about accomplishments and strengths. It is a fine line between confident and arrogant. Have someone objective proofread your cover letter!" – Sue Hardek, managing partner, Sue Hardek & Associates

Originally published on Business News Daily.