Do you hate writing cover letters? You’re not alone! Most jobseekers hate writing them. What’s more, most people can’t write them well.
Unfortunately, no article can teach you how to write an excellent cover letter. That takes time, lots of writing practice and a little bit of alchemy. Still, an article can help you avoid some of the worst mistakes.
Like this article about terrible cover letter phrases you should never use in your own cover letter. Let’s have a look at 13 terrible phrases people put on their cover letters and see how you can avoid using their pitfalls in yours.
Table of Contents
Click on a section to skip
- 1. Say hello to your recruiter
- 2. Don't think aloud
- 3. Job search is no charity
- 4. Never state the obvious
- 5. Be creative and build suspense
- 6. Promote your expertise
- 7. Cut the fluff
- 8. Make your adjectives paint a colorful picture
- 9. Express genuine humility
- 10. Spice it up with verbs
- 11. Don't think inside the box
- 12. Introduce your current employer
- 13. Keywords to their hearts
1. Say hello to your recruiter
Using a vague greeting like 'To whom it may concern' is not the best way to start a cover letter. Imagine you get heaps of letters but none of the job candidates knows your name. Look up the person who will be reading your cover letter and address them by their name. It's definitely worth the effort.
2. Don't think aloud
Generally, avoid verbs of thinking. Don't use words you don't need to, phrases like 'I think I’d be a great fit' make your sentences sound weak. It is clear you are expressing your opinions, so you'd better keep a wary eye on verbs such as think, guess, assume, or believe.
3. Job search is no charity
Including the phrase 'This job would help me because...' in your cover letter might very well put the final nail in your job search coffin. Honestly, who cares about what would help you? Recruiters want to hear exactly the opposite—how you can help the company.
4. Never state the obvious
Stating the obvious in your cover letter wastes time of someone who doesn't have it. 'As you can see on my resume…' is one of the most redundant phrases widely used in cover letters. Make sure your text flows from one idea to another. Your cover letter should take the reader on an exciting journey, not tell them what they already know.
5. Be creative and build suspense
Recruiters are flooded with cover letters. They've seen the phrase 'I’m the best candidate because…' over a bajillion times. So this is the perfect occasion to season your cover letter with a pinch of creativity.
Hook your reader by saying 'I do have some skills that are hard to come by'. Intrigue the recruiters so that they'll want to read on. Feel free to deviate from the standard template that everyone else follows.
6. Promote your expertise
Don’t sell yourself short. Be confident and mention any specific experience that will make you an ideal candidate for the position. Start by saying 'Given my extensive experience as…' and make your distinctive skills come into light.
7. Cut the fluff
Avoid using catchphrases like goal-oriented, hard-working or fast-paced. Let your experience and references speak for you. Employers will be more impressed to hear you talk about your passion for the field and dedication to the people or team with whom you worked.
8. Make your adjectives paint a colorful picture
Using flavorless adjectives such as good or nice will make you sound average. You definitely don't want to sink into mediocrity. Don't use language that downplays your abilities and opt for adjectives with added value like attentive, competent, mature, or vigorous.
9. Express genuine humility
Avoid using always, everybody, never and other extremes. It's just gloating over your own skills. Keep your feet on the ground. Staying reasonable when describing your abilities pays off, it is better to display modesty than some unduly braggadociousness.
10. Spice it up with verbs
Avoid using weak verbs like make or do. Don't be vague when you can be specific. Here's just a selection of few action verbs for inspiration: accelerated, coordinated, facilitated, initiated, mastered, launched, proposed, reviewed, supervised. Check this infographic for a more complete list.
Use descriptive words whenever you can. Rather than just stating a list of duties, include action keywords in your position descriptions - e.g. proficient in Adobe Illustrator, specialised in social media marketing.
11. Don't think inside the box
Scan, scan, scan for clichés. Phrases like fast learner, go-getter, team player, dynamic leader, or thinking outside the box will make any recruiter roll their eyes. Think about how you can rephrase them to make them more specific, meaningful, personal, and also targeted to the specific job ad and its requirements.
12. Introduce your current employer
Make sure to slip in the fact that you are currently employed, if that is the case. Employment shows that a candidate is valued by someone else, and that they are looking for a new job to advance their careers, not of out of desperation.
13. Keywords to their hearts
Take your time and search for keywords specific to your occupation. They help to make your resume selected by hiring managers who screen documents.
Keywords are used to match an applicant with an available job. If the keywords in a cover letter match the job description, the candidate's chances of being selected for a job interview are much higher.
Avoiding the terrible cover letter phrases is only the beginning.
Hopefully, these 13 tips helped you see your old familiar cover letter in a new light. Now you can recognise the awkwardness of pat phrases and unlock the potential of informed word choices.
If this still sounds a bit far-fetched, check our cover letter examples from real jobseekers who got hired at prestigious companies. Knocking a cover letter into shape isn’t the easiest task—but getting the job you want makes it all worth it!
Need to write a cover letter but don't know where to begin? Check out our Ultimate Cover Letter Guide and get hired fast!