12 Things to Avoid When Sending Cover Letters and Resumes

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

As a hiring manager, I’ve examined a lot of resumes and cover letters. And to be honest, I’m a bit appalled by some of the ones I’ve received. Especially when people are applying to write content for my client. Today, let’s look at the top things to avoid when sending resumes.

These are all based on actual resumes that have popped up in my email and the app my client uses in WordPress.

I promise you, I’m not making these up. In fact, I go on rants often when someone brings up the topic during the Monday live streams.

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12 Things Not to Do When Sending Resumes as a Writer

Your cover letter and resume are essentially your introductions to who you are as a professional. If you don’t put in a lot of effort to create these, then how do I know you’re going to offer me the best work?

There are a lot of people who want the job, and I have no problem handing it over to someone more qualified. After all, that’s my job: to build the best team of writers I can for my client.

Now, these aren’t in any particular order. They are just the top things I stumbled across all too often as a hiring manager.

1. Sending Long Cover Letters Are Horrible Alongside Resumes

Cover letters don’t need to be several pages long. All I need to know is who you are, what you offer, and why you think you’re good for the position. Everything else can be discussed if an interview is scheduled.

When you send a five-page letter alongside your resume, there is a good chance I’m going to pass it up. My time is at a premium and I don’t have the time to sift through a novella just to figure out if you’re someone I want to invite back.

Also, there is no need for philosophical discussion. I just want to know if you can string a coherent sentence together, not dive into the inner workings of religion or politics.

2. Don’t Skimp Out On Proofreading

If you’re applying to be a writer, make sure you spend a few moments polishing up your cover letter and resume. I am blown away by how many applications I’ve had to toss out because people overly misspelled common words or the text was riddled with grammatical errors.

I know not everyone is perfect, and sometimes things will slip through the cracks. But seriously, how difficult is it to spell “content” or “writer” when applying to be a content writer? The title is on the damn website, people!

Needless to say, I won’t even look at your resume if your cover letter is jacked up from a grammatical perspective.

3. Misspelling Company Brands and Contact Names Are Bad

When sending a resume and cover letter, make sure you’re spelling the brand and contact names correctly. This includes little nuances, such as removing the space between “Green” and “Geeks” for GreenGeeks.

If you can’t do something as simple as spelling the name of the company correctly, which is plastered all over the website, then I’m going to pass on looking at your resume.

Being observant and paying attention to detail is always a plus, and this includes how the brand spells its name.

4. Do Not Include Links to Ghostwritten Work

Sending links to published articles you’ve written online is great. However, you cannot use articles that are published under someone else’s name. How do I know you’re the one who wrote the piece?

That’s one of the biggest drawbacks to being a ghostwriter. You get absolutely none of the credit, and I can’t verify you’re the original author.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of Professional Social Links, Especially LinkedIn

Sharing social media accounts is great, as long as they’re professional. I don’t need to read your personal feed and how you spent your Sunday morning at Grandma’s house.

Professional social accounts are those you use that are completely separate from your personal life. For instance, I have a Twitter account specifically for each one of my brands, and one I have for myself…that I rarely use.

Sharing your LinkedIn profile is great, though. This gives me a chance to see who you are and what you’re about in terms of being a professional. I’m not using it to “spy” on you, but it would be nice to know if you would fit in with the team dynamic.

6. Don’t Offer Two Sentences without Sending Resumes

So, these ones I can only assume are a joke, but they happen more often than I’d like to admit. When applying for ANY job, don’t just write two sentences about wanting the position without sending a resume.

In fact, one of these entrants didn’t even bother to use punctuation at all in the cover letter. Yeah, that’s a hard pass for me, champ.

7. When Sending Resumes, Don’t Include a Booklet of Info

Your resume doesn’t need to be the length of an eBook. Overall, I just want to know if you have the experience and skills to handle the position.

A well-written resume doesn’t need to be longer than a single page. Much like the cover letter, I don’t have time to sift through everything to determine if you’re what I’m looking for in a writer.

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8. Don’t Include Irrelevant Work History for the Job

One way to trim down the resume is to only add relevant work history if you have some. For instance, if I’m hiring a writer, I really don’t care about your six-month stint working as a cashier at the local Texaco from 10 years ago.

Now, if you don’t have a relatable work history, using your most prominent job demonstrates commitment and perseverance. But that also depends on the rest of the resume.

If you’re self-conscious about a lapse in work, add an asterisk at the bottom with a single sentence stating “previous work history is irrelevant to the position but available upon request.”

9. Irrelevant Skillsets Are Pointless When Sending Resumes

Much like the work history, adding irrelevant skills when writing up your resume is pointless for me. I want to know if you’re capable of handling the job as a writer, so, adding that you know calligraphy or driving a forklift does nothing for me.

Word processor software, WordPress skills, writing-relevant courses on Udemy, anything related to my client’s industry…all of these are preferable over someone who adds “Cooking” as a skillset.

10. Forgetting the Dates You Worked a Job

Not adding the dates to jobs detracts from the effectiveness of your resume. I need to ensure you have sufficient experience as a writer, and not displaying the dates puts an asterisk on your name.

Let’s say you were a writer for the Washington Post for five years but you forgot to add the dates to your resume. How do I know you weren’t there for less than a month?

Experience can affect everything from starting salary to better positions within a company. But it can easily evaporate if I can’t determine your experience before I even think about inviting you to an interview.

11. Don’t Send Pics of Yourself that Look Like Mugshots

Remember, your cover letter and resume are your introductions to who you are, and sending photos that look like mugshots gives me pause for concern.

Now, I know not everyone has a state-of-the-art camera on their phones. But sending something that looks like a screenshot from CCTV footage from the 1980s is not going to fly.

Take a decent picture if you want to add a visual to your resume. Actually, a lot of hiring managers nowadays prefer good photos to accompany applications. It’s nice to put a face to the person you’ll be working with, especially if it’s a remote-only position.

12. Don’t Send Icons, Cartoons, Deviant Art Projects, or Other Graphics as Your Picture

If you can’t take a decent picture of yourself, do not use drawings or cartoons as your photo. You’re applying for a job with a respectable company, not setting up your profile on Twitter.

Hiring managers like myself don’t take people seriously when they use avatars, cartoons, anime, or icons as their photos. It’s better not to include a graphic if you can’t get a good pic of yourself.

Sending Polished Resumes is Essential!

The bottom line is that as a hiring manager, my time is limited. I need to go through as many applicants as I can in a short amount of time. If I have to spend 20 minutes trying to decipher your poorly written cover letter, it takes time away from the other tasks I need to finish.

That’s what you need to keep in mind no matter where you’re sending your resumes and cover letters. Most of us have other jobs that need to be done on top of looking for a decent writer.

When you submit a clean and well-crafted resume, it vastly increases your chances of getting an interview. And that’s not just me being anal about applicants.

Nowadays, when so many companies are offering remote work, more people are taking to online jobs. This means the talent pool is exponentially larger than it was 20 years ago.

In turn, this means you have a lot of competition to win those jobs. You need to make sure your name and skillset stick with the hiring manager.

Submitting something that is half-assed and unprofessional is simply going to get ignored…even if you have a Master’s Degree in English. And yes, I’ve tossed several college graduates because of exceptionally poor cover letters.

You need to put in the effort and demonstrate why you’re perfect for the job, which goes beyond simply stating that you “write good.” Yes, that one has happened as well.

As the adage goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” In this case, it’s the action of putting your cover letter and resume together.

If you need a resume template, you can get one for free at Resume.com. In fact, there are plenty of good sites that will help you put together a winning resume.

If you need help with a cover letter, you can take a look at the writer template on Indeed.com. As you can see, none of those templates are five pages long.

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What’s Your Strategy for Sending Resumes?

Every hiring manager is different and will have a unique take on finding the perfect candidates. However, I think the list above breaks down some of the most atrocious things that any company would avoid.

I am still quite shocked at the sheer number of people who applied to my client that clearly weren’t serious about being writers. Out of everything, though, I think it was the grammar issues that I passed on the most.

When sending resumes, what’s worked the best for you in the past to get those initial interviews?

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 8,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Team Lead of GreenGeeks Web Hosting.

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