Writing a Cover Letter in English? Here Are 5 Things You Should Never Say
Updated: Nov 24, 2018
Many people think of a cover letter as an obligation instead of an opportunity. So they search the internet for a cover letter template, insert their information and send their application.
Then they wait.
…and wait some more.
They assume there were better or more qualified candidates and continue their job search.
“I just need to apply to more positions,” they tell themselves. And so the mass production of cover letters continues.
There are many problems with this approach.
The most important was the failure to use the cover letter as a tool to create a memorable impression on the hiring manager.
By employing the same predictable phrases used in most cover letters, the applicant never had the chance to be considered based on her amazing qualifications.
Just as important as knowing what to say in your cover letter is knowing what not to say.
By eliminating these 5 phrases from your cover letter vocabulary, you will immediately separate yourself from the majority of other candidates and create the foundation of a memorable first impression.
“To Whom it May Concern”
I’ll begin with the simplest and most obvious one.
I probably can’t say much more than has already been said and written all over the internet, but no credible list of cover letter faux pas would be complete without this one.
Simply put, don’t do it!
If you can’t find a hiring or human resources manager that you can address your cover letter to then the better option is to not apply until you do.
Sending a cover letter with this as your introduction gives the first impression of laziness and is a guarantee that your application finds the waste basket.
“Caught my eye”
This phrase is found in the first paragraph when the applicant explains his reason for writing. Something like:
“The business analyst position on your website caught my eye.”
This is just one of many problems that I see with the first paragraph of many cover letters.
The introduction should make you stand out from the rest, not remind the reader of the 100 cover letters that they have seen from other candidates using the same phrase.
“I am writing…” and “express my interest”
“I am writing to express my interest in…”
This phrase is two for the price of one because the two parts are often used together but they can also stand alone.
That means they have the potential to provide double the horribleness!
Like every other phrase on this list, this sounds like it comes directly from an online template. Because it does. Every online template!
Please don’t do this. It makes my eyeballs hurt really bad.
There isn’t just one introduction that will make you stand out here. The possibilities are almost infinite.
You want to open and close with creative force. But if you use this phrase you will have the complete opposite effect.
“I hold a…”
This phrase is a symptom of a much larger epidemic. When I see it I know that I’m about to read something painfully unoriginal. Like night after day, day after night, I already know what’s coming. There’s no suspense.
Your job as a cover letter artist is to create suspense or at least novelty for the reader.
There are a ton of options here to weave your education and experience into a memorable cover letter. Simply listing it preceded by this fossilized prose makes me sad.
Or maybe angry.
Or maybe I should be happy?
More jobs for me!
“A great fit”
“The ________ analyst position is a great fit for my skills and experience.”
I’ll admit I once wrote something like this. I was eighteen and it was like smoking or drinking beer. All the cool kids seemed to be doing it. I didn’t really want to write this and I felt a tremendous rush of guilt as I folded my cover letter and mailed off my application. But I didn’t know any better. Now you do!
This phrase is usually found in the body or closing paragraph of the cover letter when the candidate tries to tell the hiring manager why they should pick them over the 100 other candidates using the same phrase in their cover letter.
The key here is not to tell but rather show the hiring manager why you are a great fit for the position.
This means relevant experience.
If you feel like you don’t have any relevant experience then you are either not qualified for the position and should not be writing, or are underestimating your experience. My guess is you are underestimating your experience.
If you are a university student with no interneship experience, think back to a time when you were the babysitter for your neighbors. Or a time when you worked on a team project in high school or at university.
Anything is better than simply telling the reader without proof that you are a great fit for the position.
About the Author
Jason Gower is the creator and instructor of Expand Life Business English courses. He has more than fifteen years of business experience and has learned both German and Spanish to a C2 level. Click to learn more about Expand Life Business English courses.