When writing your cover letter, be creative — not cliche.
A word to the wise: Actions speak louder than words, and no, you can’t judge a book by its cover. But at the end of the day, when applying for a job, it’s still better to be safe than sorry, bite the bullet, and submit a cover letter.
Before you think we’re actually being serious with that monster sentence chock-full of cliches — we’re not. We’re making a point; it’s time to cut cliches from your cover letter.
Cliches are overused expressions that were once original but now fall flat. Since these phrases are worn out, they lack the punchiness and personality required to set your cover letter apart from other candidates’.
Then why are cover letters a breeding ground for cliches? For whatever reason, when we’re not quite sure what to write, we use cliches as crutches. They’re comfortable, and hey, maybe they’ll make us sound more qualified or maybe hit all the vague points the hiring manager is looking for. Yet by relying on cliches, we’re not showcasing our full potential or our unique experiences effectively.
For this reason, here’s a list of nine common cliches that tend to make appearances in cover letters — and should never appear again.
1. “To whom it may concern…”
We’re jumping right in with this one. Before you even start writing your cover letter, take a look at to whom you’re addressing it.
Whenever possible, personalize your cover letter salutation. Even if you can’t find the hiring manager’s name immediately, put in the work and do some digging. Need some extra help? TopResume’s career advice expert Amanda Augustine shared her tips on how to address a cover letter.
2. “My name is…”
If you’re formatting your cover letter correctly, chances are your full name already appears at the top of the page in bold letters. Plus, you probably emailed your cover letter or filled out an application, so your name is all over the place. There’s no need to waste time (and space) by restating it with a bland “Hello, my name is” greeting.
Instead, launch into something that’ll capture the reader’s attention. Get creative and describe yourself in another way. Maybe you’re an email-marketing specialist or maybe you have a Ph.D. in poetry. Whatever it is, set yourself apart with details and specific identifying characteristics.
3. “I’m writing to apply…”
It’s a bit obvious you’re writing to apply for a job, right?
Instead of starting with “I’m writing to apply…,” shake things up. Maybe you can mention where you saw the job listing. Better yet, if someone within the company suggested you apply or is passing along a recommendation, drop his or her name.
4. “Ever since I was a little girl or boy…”
You’re not diving into a children’s bedtime story — you’re applying to a job. Although it’s great to weave a story into your cover letter, you don’t need to set it up in this manner.
Instead, exercise some creativity and craft a scene. What did you do as a little girl or boy? Maybe when you were seven, your mom caught you mesmerized in front of the TV watching the 5 o’clock news. She couldn’t get you to come into the kitchen for dinner — or for a bowl of ice cream. That’s when you knew you wanted to become a news anchor.
Describe that scene instead of making a one-dimensional statement.
5. “As you can see on my resume…”
Don’t resort to regurgitating your resume — and especially don’t point out that you’re regurgitating your resume.
Instead, note specific projects you’ve worked on or challenges you’ve been able to overcome within the workplace. Your cover letter is a great space to reveal those colorful details that didn’t fit into your resume.
Related: How to Write a Catchy Cover Letter
6. *Insert company motto here*
Imagine applying for a job at Nike and writing something like, “I’m ready to ‘Just do it.’” Maybe you’re applying for a job with Allstate, so you write, “I know I’ll be ‘in good hands’ with a job at Allstate.”
These are examples are a bit extreme, but they help exemplify this point: Don’t cough up surface-level details about the company. That’s information anyone could have pulled from its homepage.
Instead, research the company you’re applying to work with. Check to see if it’s been in the news — but stick with the positive headlines. Check to see if the company has won an award or has completed a huge project and note that.
Showing you’ve done your research — which requires more than just glancing over a homepage — means a lot to hiring managers.
7. “I’m the perfect fit”
Anyone can throw out claims like this. Also, what makes you the perfect fit out of everyone else who’s saying the same thing?
Rather than describing yourself with vague superlatives, show why you think you’d be the perfect fit. If you already have 10 years of experience in the given field, mention that. Perhaps you just completed a certification course that’ll help you bring new industry information to the department. Explain more.
Diving into why you’re the perfect fit — without declaring it — will help beef up your cover letter.
8. “I have excellent written and oral communication skills”
Other related cover letter cliches: I’m a hard worker. I’m a problem-solver. I’m a team player. I think outside the box.
Why do we fall back on these cover letter catchphrases? It’s probably because the job listing uses them.
Again, it’s important to show and not tell when it comes to cover letters. By showing specific examples of how you work and what you can accomplish, you’ll be able to dodge these coined terms everyone else is using.
9. “This job would be a dream come true”
Not only is this a tired, tired phrase, but it’s also not true in the literal sense. For many of us, we pray our insane stress-induced dreams don’t come true, right?
There’s no need to dive into dream interpretations right now, but instead of ending your cover letter on such a generalized note, explain exactly what it’d mean for you to join the company or to hold such a job title.
Remember though that you don’t want to beg or become overly sentimental — that can just get awkward.
The bottom line is this: Be specific, do your research, write outside your resume, and remember to show — not tell.
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