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Cover Letter Cliches to Avoid

Published on Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Cover letters can be challenging. There are plenty of advice and warnings about what to avoid in your resume, but the cover letter tends to be overlooked. Writing a cover letter is an ideal way for a potential employee to show off their talents and personality so it’s important to make the most of this opportunity. It should be professional, but still allow some of your unique qualities to shine. The worst thing a potential employee can do is sound like a robot, and there are cliche phrases that make employers cringe. Below are the most common cover letter cliches to avoid and what you can do to make your cover letter better. 

Greetings that begin with “Dear Sir” or “To Whom It May Concern.”
Both greetings are old-fashioned, outdated, and generic. First of all, in this day and age, all employers and hiring managers are not, in fact, sirs. It comes off sounding sexist and risks alienating the possible woman decision maker from the start, which can potentially derail any chance you may have had for getting called in for an interview. Secondly, “to whom it may concern” is too impersonal. It indicates a lackadaisical attitude towards the hiring manager and leaves a less than enthusiastic impression. 

Try this instead: If possible, address the hiring manager by name. Take 15 minutes to look up the name of the hiring manager is so that you may direct the cover letter to him or her personally. If you are unable to discover who the actual recruiter is, it’s acceptable to use a simple and all-encompassing “Dear Hiring Team.”

Focussing too much on your past experiences.
While you should highlight your strongest achievements and share your professional accomplishments, it’s important to remember that companies are on the search for someone to do something for them. Above and beyond your past successes,, they want to know what you can bring to the company and what you can do to help further their own successes.

Try this instead: Reframe your cover letter so that it is in the future tense and addresses what you can and what you will achieve for them, instead of focussing on the past. Instead of using statements like “I have demonstrated X skill...” and rephrase it to “I can use my X skill to help achieve Y for you...”

Making the claim that you’re a hard worker. 
While you may very well be a hard worker, that should be a given. Most employees should be ”hard workers” so this statement offers no insight into your true work ethic or professional attributes. In fact, most employers prefer to make their own judgement than to be simply told of someone’s traits.

Try this instead:If you want to show that you are a hard worker, put examples in your cover letter that prove this, such as being promoted in your current role, exceeding targets, or winning awards. Elaborate on some of the ways your hard work has led you to achieve certain things for your previous employers. For an even better way to prove you’re hard working, go the extra mile on your cover letter. In addition to finding out the name of the hiring manager and address the cover letter to him or her, include a mention of recent company news or announcements in your closing paragraph. For instance, write something like, “ Congratulations on the recent news on X. I welcome the opportunity to learn more about this and discuss how I may help further its achievements.”

Rehashing your resume. Your resume is typically the first thing a hiring manager looks at. They have already seen your resume, so if your cover letter is basically your resume in paragraph form, you’re going to come off sounding redundant and the employer will very likely lose interest in you as a job prospect.

Try this instead: Highlight one or two examples of your work experience that stands out and shows your potential employer what you can bring to the position. Ideally, your hiring manager should be able to read what you’ve accomplished and imagine placing you into his or her team seamlessly.

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