You’ve personalized your cover letter to the role and company, written killer opening and closing lines, and even figured out how to give it something special.
But you’re not done yet. Before you submit it, double check to make sure you’re not using any of these five words and phrases—they’ll sabotage even the greatest cover letters.
1. “I Think I’d Be a Great Fit…”
When I was in my high school, my English teacher told us never to use “I think” in an essay because if we were writing something, well, it was obvious that was what we thought.
The same holds true for cover letters. Not only are “I think,” “I feel,” “I believe,” and so on redundant, they also make you sound insecure.
Get rid of every “opinion phrase” in your cover letter. 99% of the time, you won’t even have to reword the sentence. For example, instead of saying, “I’m confident my communication skills would make me a strong Project Manager,” write “My communication skills would make me a strong Project Manager.”
It’s shorter, simpler, and more convincing.
Sure, you could say you’re “a good writer,” or “good at working with other people.” But there are so many adjective options out there, and they’re almost all more powerful than “good.”
Replace “good” with one of these descriptors:
Note: Make sure the alternative you choose accurately represents your skill or experience. If you’ve got two year’s worth of recruiting under your belt, you’d probably want to call yourself a “skilled,” “capable,” or “enthusiastic” recruiter rather than an “expert” or “experienced” one.
3. “This Job Would Help Me Because…”
Let’s be real: You, your friends, and your family members care why this job would help you. But the hiring manager does not. All he or she cares about is finding the best person for the role. So if you find yourself explaining how this position would help you develop your leadership skills, learn more about your desired industry, or get established as a thought leader—hit the delete key.
You do need to explain why you’re applying for this specific job at this specific company.
Here’s the magic formula:
Your abilities + the company’s needs = desirable results
Let’s say you’re applying for a front-end engineering job. By following this formula, you’d get:
4. “As You Can See on My Resume…”
This is a common filler phrase. But if the hiring manager can see something on your resume, announcing its presence is unnecessary.
All you have to do is remove this phrase—no other changes needed!
So instead of saying, “As you can see on my resume, I’ve been working in marketing and PR for the last five years,” you’d write, “I’ve been working in marketing and PR for the last five years.”
Bonus: Your directness will project confidence.
5. “I’m the Best Candidate Because…”
Confidence is good, but arrogance is not. And even if you’re sure that you’d be an absolutely fantastic choice, you don’t know you’re the best. Imagine reading through six cover letters in a row from people who all claim to be “the best candidate.” That would get annoying pretty quickly, right?
To stay on the hiring manager’s good side, refrain from using “best.” Along similar lines, I’d also stay away from “ideal” and perfect.”
You want to choose descriptors that are in between “good” and best.”
Whipping a cover letter into shape isn’t easy or quick—but being rewarded by a job makes it all worth it!
Photo of paper on fire courtesy of Shutterstock.
Cover letters are tough to crack.
They're the lengthier cousins of resumes, requiring you to call upon your writing skills and explain why you deserve the job. It can be a frustrating process, one that sometimes feels like a blatant cry of, "Please just hire me already!"
See also: 9 simple body language tips for your next job interview
Your letter may be one of hundreds a potential employer reads, so you have no choice but to stand out. How will you do that? By slipping in smart, eye-catching words.
We spoke to three career experts and rounded up their favorite keywords everyone should put on his or her cover letter.
1. Descriptive adjectives.
Aside from including important keywords, LinkedIn's career expert Nicole Williams recommends focusing on the craft of the first, second and third sentence. The first should be about the employer, the second should be about you and the third should be about the company. She also highly recommends resisting common clichés.
"It’s not 'I’m organized,' it’s not 'I’m responsible,'" she tells Mashable. "People would expect you to be anyway."
Find a way to rephrase those overused words. Instead of saying "I'm a hard worker," say "I have an enormous capacity for work" (one of Williams' current employees began her cover letter with that line, and was hired instantly).
When directly talking about the employer, Williams says these key words are great: admire, inspired by and listen. When describing yourself, Williams recommends: enthusiastic, passionate and integrity.
2. Important skills to highlight.
Javid Muhammedali, the vice president of product management at Monster, tells Mashable that keywords change depending on the job you're applying for. However, for a general cover letter, he said these following words connote key skills that work for "all resumes with 0-4 years of experience."
Microsoft Office and Outlook
Problem Solving Skills
Resolve Customer Issues
3. Vital active verbs
Keywords are crucial to get past an applicant tracking system ("Otherwise known as the black hole you submit your resume into online," says Vicki Salemi, a career expert and author of two advice books). One of the simplest things you can do is reflect the job description.
"Highlight the skills and experiences they need by referencing the job description and inserting the exact words into your letter," she tells Mashable. "If they're hiring a valuation manager with experience in calculating intangible assets, ensure you put 'intangible assets.'"
Aside from that, Salemi also recommends powerful verbs that will "pack a punch."