How to: Overcome common cover letter problems

There’s no covering up a bad cover letter….  

Although you might feel like your CV is the centre of attention in a job application, never underestimate the importance of a good cover letter. But how can you make yours stand out from the crowd, and what’s the best way to overcome cover letter difficulties?

We’ve already explained what a cover letter is and highlighted some cover letter lines to avoid, but here are five of the most common cover letter problems (and how you can overcome them):


I’ve got gaps in my work history

Aside from proving your suitability to your prospective employer, a cover letter is also the perfect opportunity to explain any gaps you might have in your CV.

Because although your CV will show the times you weren’t working, it won’t explain why. Instead, use your cover letter to be resourceful, honest, and positive about the gaps in your work history.

Whether you spent a few months travelling, or you took some time out to explore your career options, being proactive about your reasoning is vital to ensure prospective employers don’t jump to any conclusions about your work ethic.

Just make sure you explain yourself in a professional manner. Bringing personal issues or unimpressive excuses into your job application is never a good idea – and lying isn’t either.

 How to explain a gap in your CV


The recruiter hasn’t asked for a cover letter

It isn’t always clear whether you should submit a cover letter in a job application – but as a general rule (unless the employer states otherwise), we’d always recommend adding one.

Because although your CV will tell the employer everything they need to know about your skills, experience, and qualifications – a cover letter gives you the chance to expand on this information, without making your CV too wordy or hard to digest.

And if you add one without being prompted, there’s a good chance you’ll stand apart from candidates who chose not to make the extra effort.

So less competition, and you get to show your initiative. It’s a no-brainer.

Free cover letter template

Cover letter help

I’m making a prospective application, so can’t match myself to any specific jobs

Not all positions have a job description that’s readily available.

In fact, if you’re applying prospectively (for roles that aren’t advertised yet), you won’t have a detailed job specification to match yourself to.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t tailor your application. Instead of using the advert as a guide, give a full description of the kind of role you’re looking for – then, include any relevant experience, knowledge, and education that’ll help to prove your suitability for this potential opportunity.

Cover letters for prospective applications are also a great platform for you to show your knowledge of (and interest in) the company. So use it to express why you want to work there, and reference any of their recent successes. Then, explain how these line up with your own career goals.

Good research (and flattery) will always be a good look.

How to write a cover letter


I’m not fully qualified for the role

If you’re underqualified for a position, standing out from the crowd can be tough.

However, the worst thing you can do is draw attention to your flaws. Instead, use your cover letter to highlight your most impressive skills and qualifications – that will make up for the areas you may be lacking experience in.

Just make sure you always link back to how it makes you suitable for the role. Your cover letter is all about relevancy – so if it’s not going to prove to the employer that you can meet the job requirements, it’s not worth including.

And if you think a lack of qualifications could be holding you back, consider taking a course to quantify your skills.

 How to get work experience

Five things you need to stop doing on your cover letter


I don’t know whether to include salary in my cover letter

When it comes to job applications, employers are looking for candidates that can follow directions.

This means that whether you include salary information all depends on what the employer is asking for. So, if the advert doesn’t mention anything about your current salary or expectations, you’re probably safest leaving it out of your cover letter.

But if they do, ensure your answers allow a good level of leeway. For example, if you’re asked to include your salary history, giving a range instead of exact figures will help show you’re flexible.

And, if you’re asked about your expectations – it’s up to you how you handle it. If you don’t want to give anything away yet, it’s perfectly acceptable to say your expectations are negotiable.

Alternatively, you could include a realistic salary range, based on the research you’ve done.

Use salary checker

Should I ask about salary at my interview?


Ready to find your perfect position? View all available jobs now