Application Letter Dos and Don’ts

What you should and shouldn’t include.

by Maggie Koontz, January 8, 2018
application letter dos donts

An application letter, also known as a cover letter, is a letter that is sent to a potential employer along with a resume. It is meant to be a supplement to the resume and should never be sent alone.

Application Letter
The purpose of an application letter is to highlight the parts of the resume that are most relevant to the open position. It doesn’t restate the resume, rather it picks a few points to focus on in a bit more detail so that the employer can see how a person’s previous work experience pertains to the current job listing.

Although it might seem easy to type up a letter for a job, it is tougher than you think. You have to be conscious of the tone that you use and keep the letter on topic. Sometimes it can be difficult to condense your work experience into one page, but it must be done.

Here are some tips and warnings about what you should and shouldn’t include in your application letter.


  1. Make it easy for them to contact you. Include some sort of contact information in the letter. This information should be excluded from the body of the letter and in one designated place. At the very least, you should have your full name, address, professional email and phone name. Your email should be appropriate and an account that you check often. Don’t put the throwaway account that you use for mailing lists. It is vital that an employer is able to contact you especially if you really want the job.
  2. In the introduction, mention to the employer how you found the job listing and why you are attracted to the position. Be specific! The information about the job listing will be helpful to the company and explaining why you are drawn to the job conveys a genuine interest. Talk about why you would like to work there. Including details of what you like about the company shows some passion. 
  3. Be sure to mention your strengths regarding the position. It’s important to talk about traits that are relevant to the job listing. Your application letter is a great place to mention them and then expand on how they would apply to the position. This is beneficial because employers wouldn’t get this information from your resume.
  4. Relate the job listing to previous work experience. If you include specific examples of similar work that you have done, then you show the employer that you are knowledgeable about the tasks that the job will entail. Providing concrete examples is a great way to illustrate your accomplishments instead of just talking about them.
  5. Speak a little bit about what you can bring to the table. This would be a good time to mention anything that sets you apart from other applicants. Tell how you can complement the team and provide balance in the office. What do you have that the company needs or wants?
  6. Above all, make sure your letter is polite, formal and condensed. Use the correct language and avoid any slang. Keep the letter to a page. Add a personal touch by signing the letter in pen. Also, take initiative by stating how you will follow up with them whether it will be an email or a request for an interview. Thank them for their time and consideration.


  1. Start off your letter with “To Whom It May Concern.” This is lazy and very general. Find out who will be receiving your application letter and resume, and then address them directly. If you aren’t sure, then inquire so that you are able to provide a detailed salutation instead of a vague greeting.
  2. Write a catch-all letter. Although it might seem easier to write one application letter for every job listing that you intend on applying for, it won’t work out in the end. Make sure you write specifically to each employer so that you can cater your letter to the company. Each position is different and therefore requires a different letter that can extol your virtues relevant to that particular job. 
  3. Include irrelevant information. Your letter is only one page so it is important to cut out anything that isn’t vital for the employer to know. Some work experience isn’t pertinent and there is no space to address your weaknesses in an application letter. Stick to positive and relevant information that will support your resume instead of detracting from it with excess material.
  4. Say why you are looking for a new job. Your future employer doesn’t need to know why you left your old job or the circumstances surrounding it. Also, refrain from speaking badly about coworkers or bosses from previous jobs. An application letter is supposed to help you get the position, not the opposite. Only talk about how you can benefit the company by taking the job.
  5. Give excruciating detail. Remember, the letter is only supposed to be a page so excessive detail is unnecessary. Keep your points brief and to the point. Sentences should be short and simple. Tell the employer what they need to know to make your resume stand out and highlight the important parts of your professional life.
  6. Send your letter without proofreading. Typos, bad grammar and spelling mistakes will surely be noticed by the employer. That can make you look unprofessional and careless. Be sure to read your application letter at least three times on separate occasions. Also, get a friend to read it over to make sure there aren’t any mistakes and that it flows nicely. There’s nothing worse than sending off your application and then discovering a flaw.

So those are some of the tips to make your application letter stand out and things to avoid. This letter is key in determining if you are a worthy of an interview and a good fit for the job position. Be sure to take advantage of these tips so that your application letter can be the best possible. Good luck!

Originally published July 3, 2017