I was one of those ornery hiring managers who wanted to be challenged by a candidate’s cover letter and dazzled with an achievement-heavy résumé. Most of the time, I was disappointed in what I saw. Sure, there are lots of hiring managers who don’t give a rat’s behind about how good or bad your cover letter is, or who may not even be aware of how a well-written, hiring-manager-focused cover letter can indicate a strong résumé is likely attached.
And then there’s those who want to see how good you are at understanding how to use the cover letter to promote yourself as key resource for the hiring manager instead just promoting yourself. You have just 5 to 7 seconds to grab a hiring manager’s attention with your cover letter and you MUST do that with your opening sentence. Do NOT state the obvious like most cover letters do.
But for those of you who want to stand out from the crowd of candidates who are equally qualified, here’s a list of 10 cover letter clichés that will kill your efforts for going further in the hiring process – especially if the hiring manager is someone who also wants that “something extra” from a candidate’s cover letter. Avoid these (and similar-sounding ones) like the plague.
- I have enclosed my résumé for your consideration… For crying out loud – I’m reading a cover letter. I KNOW that your résumé is going to follow the cover letter and OF COURSE you want me consider it. You must get to the point immediately. Place the position title for which you are applying in the “re:” line just above your opening salutation. You can get that bit of business out of the way and not waste precious space stating the obvious.
- As you can see from my résumé…/As my résumé reveals, I have…Why do I need to look at your résumé if you’ve summarized it in your cover letter? That’s another misuse of valuable space. Never use your cover letter as a summary of your duties, responsibities, degrees, certifications, awards, etc. But DO include accomplishments – even better if you can attach some value to those accomplishments, such as revenues generated, costs avoided, percent improvement. And put that information close to the top.
- I am a self-starter/self-motivated/conscientious…Says who? You? This is just another way of saying you are a hard worker. Well, guess what…so is my grandson who works at Pizza Hut part time while pursuing his undergraduate studies. Such statements do not differentiate you from others who may be saying the same thing. Any statement about your personal qualities written by YOU will naturally be somewhat suspect because you won’t be writing that you are lazy, unmotivated, and require a kick start. Avoid the self-accolades. These are qualities that are best said about you by others.
- I feel that/I believe that/I’m confident that you will find….Hiring managers aren’t persuaded by what you feel, believe, think, or how confident you are about your qualifications for the position. They will determine that by seeing how much value your accomplishments (not duties or responsibilities) brought to previous positions from your résumé. Avoid such squishy language because it turns off many hiring managers.
- I am passionate about…/I love working with… Again, a hiring manager has no interest in what you love or what you are passionate about. More squishy language to avoid.
- I have a proven track record…Really? Then for me to believe the “proof” I’ll need to see highlighted accomplishments on your résumé that are (1) quantified or (2) demonstrate a contribution beyond duties and responsibilities to the organization’s higher strategic objectives. Don’t write this if you can’t comply with either/both of these requirements.
- Thank you for your time and consideration. Two statements that shouldn’t appear in a cover letter if you fully grasp the purpose of a cover letter: Please and Thank you. The cover letter should have a declarative tone as it’s a promotional piece that affirms your expertise as the problem solver the hiring manager is looking for. Their “time and consideration” is part of their job – they aren’t doing you a favor.
- I look forward to hearing from you…Of course you do. If you are the expert problem solver you claim to be, the hiring manager should be looking forward to hearing from you. To improve your odds of contining forward in the hiring process, you have to take control of the next contact. Tell that hiring manager you will be contacting him or her in the next few days to further discuss how you can be that solutions provider he or she has been looking for. And initiate the contact.
- I can be reached at the numbers below (or above). Do you really need to tell a hiring manager how to contact you when your contact information is at the top of the cover letter or underneath your signature block?
- Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Really? Do you have to tell a hiring manager to do this?
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My name is Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement(September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies: Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). I lead career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.
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