Resumes & Cover Letters

Avoid these 8 words and phrases in your cover letter if you want to impress

Avoid-these-8-words-and-phrases-in-your-cover-letter-if-you-want-to-impress
Written by Michael Hoon

You’ve created a killer resume and now it’s time to write a cover letter and send off your whole package. Your main goal is to make sure it’s polished, professional, and a perfect summary of why you're the best candidate for the job. The best cover letters stand out from the crowd, while not falling victim to any common annoyances that can irritate recruiters and compromise your chances before you even get started.

Here’s a list of some of the common words and phrases that will turn off potential employers and stall out your job search. Make sure the impression you are making is the right one!

1. “Always” and “Never”

Speaking in absolutes isn't a good idea. Situations can change, so it's silly to box yourself into a corner if there's a chance you might backpedal one day. First of all, never say never. You don’t want to come across as rigid.  Keep an open mind about your future, your ability to shift, and the future of your industry. Always is just as tricky—personalities change and you never know how you will react until you face a specific situation. With either extreme, you look like an amateur. Put things in grown-up terms that leave room for adaptability.

2. “To Whom It May Concern”

Your parents might still claim this is the best way to open a letter, but it is way outdated. Put in the extra effort to Google the company and figure out who is most likely to be reading your resume: either an HR manager, a department head, a recruiter, or your future boss. Address your letter that way. (The same goes for “Dear Sir” or “Madam.”)

3. “Handled”

This is a common verb to fall back on when you want to talk about your problem-solving skills or how you put out fires. But it isn’t very descriptive or strong. Also, “handling” customers or coworkers doesn’t really strike the correct tone. Try “diffused tense customer relations situations” or “treated difficult customers with respect while…” instead. If you're talking about situations, use specific language: examples like "led a team" or "created a system to" describe what you did.

4. "Works well independently or as part of a team”

This one has been said so often that it’s now off-limits. Find another way to convey both these points by showing how you do this, rather than telling in the same old tired language.

5. “I/me”

Obviously, you can’t get away with using these personal pronouns entirely. Just try to go through your letter at the end and make sure you aren’t abusing the privilege. Keep the “I”s to a minimum.

6. “Looking for a great position…”

First, no one is looking for a boring or bad position. Let’s be real. Come up with something better and more concrete (and, ideally, more tailored to the position you seek), and put that in your objective section or summary instead. Second, the point of the cover letter is to describe what you can offer them, not what they can offer you.

7. “I feel that…”

Be confident enough to assert facts. Delete "I feel that" and your sentence automatically becomes more assertive. If you aren’t dealing in facts, try “I believe” or “I am confident that” instead. You’ll come across as much more capable.

8. “Really”

Just don’t bother with these empty adjectives ("very" is another one). They have the opposite effect of what you’re going for, by making you seem like you’re overselling or covering for something. Let the details stand for themselves and find another way to spice up the text to make it sing.

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