6 Things to Omit From Your First Cover Letter

You may know what to include in your first cover letter, but do you know what to omit? Here are six things to leave out of this key document.

Despite some debate around the topic, the cover letter remains an indispensable job search tool. It’s your chance to forge a connection with hiring managers before you’ve even met them, so you want to get it right. You’ll find, though, that much of the advice on how to write a cover letter centers on what to put into this appendage. Less is said about what to omit, and yet it’s as valuable to be familiar with the bits to exclude as it is to know what to include. So, here are six things to leave out of your first cover letter so you can write a lean personal-branding document that conveys only what it should—and nothing more.

1. Repetition of your résumé

Your cover letter is meant to be an accompaniment to your résumé, not a duplication of it in narrative form. If you’re just restating what you said in your résumé, you’re making a grave mistake. Hiring managers will almost certainly have already scanned your résumé, so they’ll want to find additional context and original content in your letter. Rather than falling back on “and then I studied this…and then I interned here,” pick two or three pertinent points about your background and unpack them in detail to show how they set you up for success in this new job. A cover letter is also an opportunity to express what you didn’t, or couldn’t, fit in your résumé—to tell a story, share unique anecdotes, and let your personality shine through.

Related: What Is a “Takeaway Résumé,” and How Can It Help You?

2. Too much emphasis on education

If you’re fresh out of college and you’re writing your first cover letter with little or no work experience, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time discussing your scholastic achievements and educational qualifications. The truth is, hiring managers don’t want to read about every detail of every topic you covered in your curriculum. They want to know what you’re capable of and what you can deliver in a work environment. Think back on your study time and pull out key experiences—internships, volunteer work, practicums and on-the-ground projects—that helped prepare you for employment. Focus on these, the results you achieved, and the transferable skills you honed by participating in them.

3. Overused descriptors and generic phrases

Lines like “My name is x and I’m writing to apply for the position of y” and “I’m an ambitious, hard-working go-getter” have been seen a million times by recruiters. Stay away from these generic phrases or your letter will simply get lost amid the masses. You want to come across as a one-of-a-kind individual who has more to offer than other candidates, not as a lemming or a robot. If anything you’ve written sounds trite, delete it now and replace it with something fresh, creative, and personable—something that sounds like you.

Related: Entry-Level Résumé Mistakes to Avoid as a New Grad

4. Empty claims

Anyone can say that they’re a brilliant mathematician or a great problem solver, but it means nothing if you can’t back it up. The only way you’ll impress hiring managers is if you leave out all unsupported claims and focus on giving concrete examples of times you applied your abilities to attain measurable results. It comes down to showing, not telling. Say you want to stress that you’re a great leader in your cover letter. Instead of declaring it, tell a story about your leadership experiences—the time you tutored a group of 30 students or captained a complex group project, for instance. If you’re not able to support an assertion with a clear anecdote, don’t make the claim at all.

5. False or exaggerated praise

It’s important to communicate your passion for the industry and your drive to join this particular company, but don’t overstate your enthusiasm or be excessively complimentary. Your interest must sound genuine. A real story that sheds light on how you came to love your field or how the business’s products have brought value to your own life will come across as much more meaningful and sincere than over-the-top sweet talk.

Related: 7 Must-Know Tips for Writing a Killer Cover Letter

6. Filler talk

If you want hiring managers to actually read your cover letter, it should be as concise as possible. Omit long-winded explanations, and make sure every single word you use deserves to be there. While you’ll be talking about yourself in your letter, it would be a mistake to make the focus just you—your needs, your aspirations, your accomplishments. Instead, think about the problem the business is trying to solve by hiring someone new, and shift the emphasis onto how you could effectively fill the gap and assist them in moving toward their goals.

How to write a cover letter: Basic tips

Now that you know what to leave out of your first cover letter, keep the following points in mind for overall success:

  • Structure your letter as follows: opening greeting, opening paragraph, body paragraph(s), closing paragraph, closing remark.
  • Never use “To Whom It May Concern”; rather, address your letter to a specific person (do some research if you don’t know the hiring manager’s name).
  • Make sure your opening statement is unique and attention grabbing.
  • Be sure to highlight your transferable skills in the cover letter body.
  • Don’t dwell on gaps or requirements that you don’t meet.
  • Always sign off professionally and thank the reader for their time.
  • Keep your letter to one page long.

Related: An Easy 7-Step Guide to Finding a Job After College

While a cover letter seems like a steep mountain to climb, simply think of it as a great opportunity to introduce the real you to a potential employer—just in written form. Be honest, be authentic, and be confident. Keep it concise and effective by expressing your passion and what you could truly bring to the table in the desired position. After a rough draft and a round of editing, you’ll have a great cover letter that is sure to impress.

Find more advice to help your post-grad job search in our Internships and Careers section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About LiveCareer

Since 2005, LiveCareer’s team of career coaches, certified résumé writers, and savvy technologists have been developing career tools that have helped over 10 million users build stronger résumés, write persuasive cover letters, and develop better interview skills. Land the job you want faster using our free résumé templates and résumé examples, writing guides, and an easy-to-use résumé builder.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro


For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

Brooke Maggio

Brooke Maggio

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously in my college search in narrowing down the schools I’m interested in. Using the college search tool, I was able to narrow down my choices to schools that matched what I was looking for. I also used CollegeXpress for their scholarship search, which helped me find scholarships that I meet the requirements of.



High School Class of 2022

My mother signed me up for a couple of scholarship contests through CollegeXpress. I was also able to do some research and compare the different schools on my list. I was able to see the graduation rates and different programs that helped me decide on Adelphi University. I will continue looking for some scholarships for my start in September.



High School Class of 2023

I’m currently a college freshman attending Towson University. My major is Information Technology, and I plan to minor in Electronic Media & Film to achieve my goal of becoming a production engineer. Upon graduating high school earlier this year, I was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from CollegeXpress, which greatly assisted in paying my tuition. Truthfully, this financial reward was the difference in affording my room and board and tuition, along with other expenses for school. My family and I haven’t stopped celebrating my award since it was bestowed on me. I will never forget this opportunity for allowing me to get my foot into my university financially.



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress showed me that Western New England University was a great match for me both with curriculum and location. CollegeXpress is an excellent resource both future and current college students.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Rhode Island College

Providence, RI

Viterbo University

La Crosse, WI

Kean University

Union, NJ

Geneva College

Beaver Falls, PA