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Cliche Cover Letters

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

We hear it all the time: “Why do I have to write a cover letter? No one reads it anyway.”

The thing is, there may be one in every five or ten or fifteen hiring managers that doesn’t read your cover letter, but that leaves four of every five, nine of every ten, or fourteen of every fifteen that will. And if your cover letter is not included in your application, written poorly, or reads just like every other cover letter ever written, it’s not going to reflect well on you as a candidate.

The whole point of applying for a job is get that job, right? So shouldn’t you be willing to go whatever lengths necessary? If not, maybe you’re not as interested in that job as you thought. Maybe you should keep looking for an opportunity that truly excites you.

No matter what job you’re applying for, though, it remains that a killer cover letter is not only necessary, but it’s an opportunity to stand out. By avoiding these five clichés, you can increase your chances of writing a cover letter that won’t be easily forgotten.

  1. Don’t start the letter by saying, “I’m applying for the role of Marketing Associate at Marketing Inc.” Even if you’re not applying for a marketing position, this opening is like nearly every letter out there. Be a little more creative. Once, I opened my cover letter for an internship at a literary agency with a poem.
  2. Don’t’ say, “I’m a fast learner,” when talking about your skills, or rather, your lack of skills. When a hiring manager sees that phrase, they know it means you don’t have all the necessary skills. And if that’s not what you mean, it doesn’t matter; that’s how they translate it. Include a small story of a time you learned something quickly. This will make you stand out and more effectively show why you’re a great candidate.
  3. Don’t use the phrase, “I think outside of the box,” because in writing that in your cover letter, you’re proving that the opposite is true. If you were creative, you could have come up with something more unique than that. You are creative. So come up with something that shows your personality.
  4. Don’t say, “I’m the best person for this job,” under any circumstances. There’s no way you can know all the other candidates and it comes off as arrogant rather than confident. You don’t need anything resembling this phrase in your cover letter because a hiring manager should know how great you are simply by reading your application. If your cover letter isn’t showing your best self, rewrite it until it does. Get some feedback if you get stuck (we can help).
  5. Don’t say, “This is the perfect role for me.” This makes it sound like you’re more interested in what the company can offer you, not the other way around. Be sure to write your cover letter by asking yourself throughout, “What can I offer this company?”

If you need help writing your cover letter, your career coach is always willing to help. And next time you get a job, feel free to ask your hiring manager what made them sure you were the right candidate. They will tell you your strengths and where you can improve next time. The same is true for any job you don’t get. If you’re comfortable, have a conversation with the hiring manager about why you didn’t get the position. They will guide you to your weaknesses so that you don’t make the same mistakes next time.

Sources: The Muse