Writing a cover letter is stressful: You only have a limited amount of space to make a convincing pitch for your skills and experience. Lots of cover-letter advice focuses on how to draw connections between your abilities and the needs of your prospective employer—but in addition to layering in your transferable skills and technical experience, you also need to avoid certain words and constructions that can undermine your message. Here are some key phrases to steer clear of:
‘I Feel’ (or ‘I Think’)
Prefacing a description of your skills or history with an “I feel” or “I think” suggests you lack confidence. Do you feel that you have the creativity and experience to succeed at the position, or do you know you do? Employers—whether at aggressive startups or well-established tech giants—need assured candidates who know their capabilities.
‘I Fulfill the Requirements for the Position’
That’s wonderful, but so do a lot of people—at least a dozen of whom have probably applied for the same position in the last day. Rather than state how you fulfill the requirements for the job, spend part of your cover letter delving into how your unique mix of skills and experience can help your prospective employer accomplish its broader strategic goals. What makes you really stand out?
‘I’m the Best Person for This Job’
It’s a big world out there, filled with lots of people who are very good at what they do. While it’s one thing to display confidence about your background, it’s hubris to suggest that you’re the best possible person, out of all the billions of people on the planet, to tackle the job.
When writing a resume, many people take the time to kill any and all buzzwords, clichés, and redundant terms that appear in the early drafts. It’s important to do the same with your cover letter: If terms such as “disruptive,” “ninja,” “reliable,” “out-of-the-box thinker,” or “innovative” (or any of the many, many others) crop up in your prose, kill them with all due haste: Recruiters and HR staffers see these terms far too many times every day, and they appreciate a cover letter blessedly absent of them.
‘Dear Sir or Madam’
You’d think that everybody would know to avoid this particular construction, but it still crops up in the occasional cover letter. When applying for the job, spend the time to find the name of the staffer who’ll receive your resume and cover letter, and tailor your greeting to them. At the very least, it’ll show you care enough about the position to have done some preliminary research.