I’ve seen some really, really bad cover letters over the years. But there’s one that has stood out as a terrific educational tool for helping others gain insight into what not to put in a cover letter. It’s an incredible example of how words can obliterate personal branding. I say personal branding because, after all, even a cover letter is your opportunity to build your brand and make someone want to grab hold of you — or at least want to meet you to learn more.

Here are a few of the excruciating lines in this cover letter. My comments are in italicized type below each line:”

“I am applying for the position of ——— and looking to retire to a small town.”
(OK, so does he/she really want to work or do he/she just want to retire? Keep your retirement plans to yourself and don’t date yourself as ‘old’ in a cover letter )

“I’ll be coming (to a job interview) by bus because I don’t have a car.”
(Didn’t he/she notice where the job ad said ‘must have reliable vehicle’? Just get to the interview any way you can, and think about the vehicle issue if you are offered the job)

“I’m in the dark ages as to the new gadgets at modern offices but if a typewriter will do, then I’ll learn on the job.”
(A great way to say, ‘Hey, I’m not qualified or keeping pace with technology.’ Another example of TOO MUCH INFORMATION)

“I’m hoping the vision in my right eye will return to normal by the fall — we’re doing weekly tests to find out just what is wrong.
(Memo: Don’t share your medical history in a cover letter)

“Hope to meet you soon via the McCoy Lines.”
(Again, another reference to not having a car.)

Looking for some help on cover letters? Here’s a terrific article by Sharon Graham, executive director of Career Professionals of Canada.