Stupid Things to Put in Your Cover Letter
Crafting a compelling, convincing cover letter is not easy. The pressure to the capture the reader's attention without being annoying can be paralyzing. Concentrate on showing how you can contribute to the employer's success while avoiding these mistakes. (See also: How to Avoid Getting Hired)
Assertions That You Are the Ideal Candidate
Chandlee Bryan, Community Manager at StartWire, shares this advice:
Don't ever say you are the ideal candidate for the job. Unless you've seen the applicant pool and you know the hiring values aside from the job description, you can't assume you are the ideal candidate.
Here's a tactic you can use instead: Restate primary qualifications of the job and show how your past experience and skill set fits "hand in glove" with the requirements. You ask for ____; I offer ___. Bullets work well for this. Including short, concrete examples of past achievements that are relevant for the job is another winning approach.
Statements Indicating That You Are a “Hard Worker”
Career strategist Nicole Darling tells job seekers to eliminate references to being a "hard worker."
My experience tells me that those who claim to be hard workers either 1) substitute effort for finesse, often yielding below-average results or 2) understate the intellect and creativity they contributed in their roles, attributing success solely to effort and long hours. Convey that you are capable of making the time and taking initiative to bring ideas to fruition, not that you are a worker drone who loves to log 80-hour workweeks in an unimaginative setting.
Nicole also recommends avoiding positive but overly used words such as "team player, motivated, excellent communication skills."
Instead, demonstrate how desirable traits manifested themselves in the workplace. For example, state that you headed a team that routinely met tight deadlines for product launches; collaborated with contractors and vendors in remote locations worldwide, overcoming cultural and language barriers; or implemented new methods of delivering customer service at costs well below industry standards.
The Red Recruiter cautions against generic terms. Addressing correspondence “To Whom It May Concern” is an example of what not to do.
Get the name of the hiring manager or recruiter to personalize each letter. Likewise, use the company’s name and identifying details (location, industry, etc.) rather than referencing “the company” or “your industry" in a bland letter.
Abby Kohurt, author, speaker, and recruiter, has reviewed lots of letters that used twisted phrases:
A fast-paced company is not the same thing as a "face paced," a "fast paised," or even a "fast paste" company. Perhaps someone who uses the keyboard shortcut CTRL+V believes that they are working at a "fast paste" speed. I think not.
The abbreviation for Assistant is Asst. Please don't ever forget that. When you drop the "t" from "Asst" you aren't offering much to be proud of.
Hiring is not the same thing as "highering" or "hiering" or "hireing."
Check word use and verify spelling before sending the cover letter.
A Precise Time of Follow Up
Abby also advises against saying, for example, that you will “follow up with a call on August 1st at 11:00 a.m.” when you won’t actually make that call. Even if your intentions are good, your availability may change, preventing you from being a person of your word.
Mention that you will follow up but don't specify a date or time.
Too Many Sentences That Start With "I"
Meg Montford, career coach, says that emphasis on your needs, characterized by sentences starting with “I,” is unwise.
Make the cover letter about the employer, not about you. Discuss how you can meet company needs and help solve its problems.
Saying You Just Need a "Job" or Need a "Good Job With Benefits"
Revealing that you have little preference for job content is not inspiring to a hiring manager. Though being open to any job seems like a good strategy in times of high unemployment, this approach comes across as desperate and dull rather than practical when expressed in a cover letter.
Differentiate yourself in the job-seeking talent pool. Showcase professional strengths that are in high demand.
Discussion of Past Failures
You don't have to highlight or emphasize imperfections and disappointments with your past employers, coworkers, or economic conditions. Discussing what you have learned from positive and not-so-positive experiences in an interview can be meaningful to a hiring manager, but delete mention of failures from the cover letter.
Talk about experience and successes relevant to the qualifications and accountabilities of desired positions.
Touting a Career Change
Hiring managers view the career changer as inexperienced but seeking a salary commensurate with tenure in an unrelated field. Along with lack of industry knowledge and contacts, this job hunter will bring outdated approaches and mindsets to a new employer. He will need training to perform basic duties. Such a candidate is not attractive to an employer.
If you are truly in the process of building a career in a new field, state what you have done already to accomplish this professional transformation: list certifications and degree programs earned, research papers published, and internships completed. At this point, then, you are not relying on the hiring manager to help you make a dramatic change but offering your depth of knowledge and insights.
Note, however, that many who claim a career change are simply seeking to apply existing skills to a new industry or a new company. If this situation is yours, discard language relating to “career change” and emphasize how your capabilities enable you to contribute immediately to the employer.
What stupid things do you keep out of your cover letters? What smart things have you included?
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