Every job application should come with a cover letter. Even though there’s a pretty good chance nobody is going to read it, you still should write one, because if it does get read, a cover letter can help vault you over the other candidates.
Well, a good cover letter can. Most cover letters are bad, and just plain painful to read.
“To whom it may concern:
I’m writing to apply for the position of marketing manager at your company. My skills and experience make me the perfect candidate for this position because…”
Yeah, you’ve already lost them. They’re either rolling their eyes or they’re falling asleep. Because there are certain phrases one should never include in a cover letter.
Here are 10 that you should never include or that if you have included, you should remove immediately.
1. “To whom it may concern” (or “Dear hiring manager”): Yikes. The first sounds like you’re writing a company to complain about a product. The second sounds like you’re 12 years old. There may be instructions on how to address the cover letter in the job posting. If not, try to find out the name of the person you’re writing to and address it directly to them. Failing that, a simple “Hello” will suffice.
2. “I really need a job…” Don’t state that you “need a job.” This doesn’t matter to the employer and is not pertinent information. They’ll make their decision based on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
3. “After seven years at ACME Corp, I was suddenly laid off…” That you were fired or let go from a previous position is not information you should include in a cover letter. Make no mention of this. In fact, never waste cover letter space on why you left a previous position at all. If you make it to the interview, you’ll be asked why you left your last job. Even then, provide only any information they need to know. So, if you were fired, say you decided to go in another direction because you needed a new challenge.
4. “I’ve applied for several jobs with no luck…” Don’t let an employer know that nobody else wants to hire you. They’ll think there’s something wrong with you and these other employers are onto something. Also, don’t let them know if you’ve been unemployed for a long time. This will dramatically reduce your chances of getting hired.
5. “While I am lacking a few of the skills required for this post…” When applying for a job for which you’re not entirely qualified, focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t. You might think it shows self-awareness to address your shortcomings up front, but what it actually shows is that you’re not qualified for the job and that they should probably hire someone else.
6. “In previous positron I increased sales by 400% over a too year period.” Watch for typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors. Obviously. These are a huge turnoff. We shouldn’t have to tell you this by now, but we will just remind you. I know, we are like a broken record around here. (If you are under 30 you will probably have to look up that reference.)
7. “I expect a salary of…” Don’t talk money in your cover letter unless the job posting specifically asks you to state your salary expectations. You’re not going to discuss it in the interview either, unfortunately. One of the worst things about the job search is that you almost never find out what the position pays until you get the job offer – and sometimes this takes 3 or 4 interviews. It’s annoying. But it’s the way things are done.
8. “I’m perfect for this position.” More than half of cover letters probably say this. It’s overused, it doesn’t say anything useful, and it’s likely untrue. You’re probably not “perfect” for the position. You’re probably a good fit. But don’t state that either. Obviously, you think, or at least hope, you’re a good fit, or you wouldn’t be applying. Don’t waste space and time saying something that essentially says nothing.
9. “I was the marketing manager at ACME Corp for two years. Prior to that, I was the marketing director at Company Corp. Before that….” Don’t just recap your resume. That information is already in your resume. The cover letter should contain different information.
10. “I am a goal-oriented team player and a fast learner who thinks outside the box.” Avoid clichés. They’ve heard it all before. Find other ways to say these things.