“I am confident I am the best candidate for the job” is a ridiculous thing to say

Interesting fact:

People who start their cover letters with “I am confident I am the best candidate for the job” never are.

Literally, never.

I’ve now seen it stated enough to state this with confidence.

{ 305 comments… read them below }

  1. Jillociraptor*

    Oh man, I would really enjoy doing some statistical analysis of the contents of cover letters related to the ultimate success of the candidate…

    (Not to say I don’t trust your practical judgment…I just think it would be interesting to see the various correlates!)

    1. Bryan*

      I love big data and metrics and I fully support this. Somebody needs to do a kickstarter. We need to find the best candidate for the job.

      1. Colleen*

        I can project with 87% probability that I would complete the job to an acceptable level of satisfaction.

            1. JMegan*

              Don’t you know that Abraham Lincoln said never to believe everything you read on the internet?

            2. Rayner*

              Only millennial use the internet! THAT’S PROOF THAT YOU’RE NOT THE BEST CANDIDATE.

              /a Baby Boomer

    2. PhD Candidate, soon to be Asst Professor (Sophia)*

      I actually think this would be an interesting project for a sociologist, the only thing is that a (or many) companies would let a researcher have access to their cover letters.

  2. MR*

    I can’t believe people actually say stuff like this. Alison, how often do you come across stuff like this?

    1. Bryan*

      I was on the panel to interview for a position where a candidate said they had a magnetic personality. They didn’t which just made it more awkward. I say more awkward because it was pretty awkward just listing it anyways.

      1. Chinook*

        If someone tells me they have a magnetic personality, I just want to ask them if that menas they have trouble with key cards constantly not working.

      2. nyxalinth*

        Probably told to do that by someone well-meaning but clueless. Ditto for saying one is the best candidate in the cover letter!

        1. Melissa*

          I’ve seen a lot of cover letter guides online advising people to say this, or something similar to this.

    2. Anonymous For This*

      I am truly ashamed to say that I started many, many cover letters like this before discovering the Gospel According to AAM. No, I did not know any better. Yes, I foolishly thought I knew better than the hiring manager.

      I also began letters with “Dear sir or ma’am,” reiterated my resume in my cover letter, told instead of showed, and committed many other sins.

      I solemnly repent.

      And given that my work just recently hired another person, we received about 150 resumes. Only about 15 had cover letters OF ANY KIND, including “This is my resume”-type letters. We didn’t receive a single really good application with an excellent cover letter. Not one.

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        +1 for the “Dear Sir/Madam” (ugh – “Madam?” Really, past self? That seemed like a good idea?), telling instead of showing, and reiterating my resume. That was what I was taught to do, both by my counselors and by my parents.

        But to join in the chorus: “and it’s like the fog has lifted, and at last I see the light…”

        1. Anne 3*

          ‘Madam’ is not acceptable? As a non-native English speaker, I’m glad I learn things like this here.

          1. LJL*

            “Madam” is considered overly formal and old-fashioned in most contexts, like this one. In the 80s and before it was acceptable, but this usage has changed recently. Another reason that English is so fascinating!
            *in the US, that is. I’m not sure about other English-speaking countries.

      2. stellanor*

        I just had to look at 100+ resumes for a job, and I became giddy with joy at the 5 or so resumes that showed instead of told. If I see another bullet point that says someone is a skilled researcher with zero evidence on their resume that they have any research skills whatsoever, I will kick something.

      3. MaryMary*

        At least you didn’t start your cover letter with “Dear Sir.” I still occasionally receive business letters whose writer apparently assumes no women will read the letter.

          1. Laura C*

            National Lampoon used to run fictional letters-to-the-editor that always began with “Sirs”. I can’t see this salutation without thinking of them…

        1. Blue Anne*

          I get this from a company I outsource a bit of our finance work to. All of their form emails start “Dear sir”. Drives me nuts.

          Reaction to my bringing it up has been “Ahh, it’s just the default, doesn’t meant anything”.

          1. Enid*

            Ugh. Reminds me of someone at our IT Help Desk — whenever she e-mails me in response to a ticket I’ve submitted, she addresses me as “Mrs. Lastname.” As far as I know, we’ve never met in person and she has no reason to think I’m married. It doesn’t really offend me, it just always makes me reflect on how bizarre it now seems that a woman would ever be addressed differently in the workplace based on her marital status.

        2. Laura C*

          At Oldjob, I was obliged to send business letters with the salutation “Dear Sirs/Mesdames” all the time!

      4. Kate*

        Whenever I hear stuff like this about the ratio of resumes received to cover letters received, I really hope it’s true because I really try on those darn things.

        1. Jamie*

          My cover letter once touted my communication skills, both written and verbal.

          I still cringe …pre-AAM, I promise.

      5. Kuangning*

        I know, because my manager told me, that I landed the interview for my last position because I reversed the greeting — “Dear Ms or Sir” — after visiting their site and seeing that of the four people who might possibly be handling applications, three were female and only one was male. For that one occasion, it was the next best thing to knowing the correct name, a signal that I’d done some homework.

    3. Anon For This*

      Well, out of 15 resumes for our most recent open position, we got one that said almost exactly this (“ideal” was the word used).

      …and yes, they weren’t. They were not in fact even close enough to get called in for an interview.

      1. hmm*

        Every time I see that I wrack my brain wondering if I’ve done it. But I HAVE used the word ideal, not saying I am THE ideal candidate, just ‘an’ ideal candidate…

        They did choose me…

        1. Chloe*

          +1 I go with “AN” ideal candidate. No superlatives … but I do think it’s a good line.

          1. Lili*

            What about “strong”? “I am a strong candidate…”
            How does that sound? I might have used it, for sure.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s pretty rare, thank god. It’s FAR more common with more junior candidates (who have clearly been told they should say it).

      Something I see more often with more senior candidates, which is also something top candidates never say, is calling themselves “visionary.”

      1. Cube Ninja*

        “Visionary” is definitely on the no-no list of adjectives you’re allowed to use when describing yourself. :)

              1. Clever Name*

                My old boss used to say “low-hanging fruit” ALL THE TIME. It drove me bonkers. Now, whenever I hear that phrase, I think of laziness.

          1. Sharon*

            I’ve actually seen job ads that ask for candidates who are visionary. I’ve also seen job ads for business analysts that needed to have “executive presence”. (Explanation: executives should have whatever executive presence is, but why in the world should business analyst need it?)

            Most of this really bizarre stuff comes from reading job ads. As in, you see it in a few ads and think that’s what most employers are looking for so you start putting the buzzwords in your cover letter or resume.

            1. OriginalYup*

              I’m a visionary change agent with entrepreneurial executive presence who can sherpa your organization’s innovation to the bleeding edge with my rockstar social media know-how to catalyze the synergy that will achieve rapid failure.


              1. Cube Ninja*

                Yes, but can you take things offline to achieve sustainable impact, grow the business and train Six Sigma Black Belt gurus?

                1. Melissa*

                  When I saw “Six Sigma Black Belt” as a legitimate job title when hunting for jobs, I was like wtf does that even mean? I met someone trained in Six Sigma who explained it to me and it still doesn’t make sense. So it’s fancy QA?

              2. College Career Counselor*

                Yes, but where’s your ROI when the rubber meets the road at the end of the day?

              3. Artemesia*

                Original this is triggering my rabid phobia about mission statements. It is hard to imagine a bigger waste of time than the crafting of mission statements and they always sound just like your statement here.

              4. Thomas*

                By the time I finished reading that sentence, I was out of breath. I was not reading out loud.

                Well done.

              5. tango*

                Yes, all well and good. But are you the best candidate for the job? Duh, that’s what we need around here!

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s different to claim it as a characteristic you have though. I mean, if they said they needed a good writer, you wouldn’t announce “I am a good writer.” (Well, some people would, but it’s ineffective.) You’d show them — by demonstrating good writing and by talking about achievements that rely on good writing. Same thing here. If you’re visionary, it’s going to show in your accomplishments.

              1. Frieda*

                I agree, but what if you are confident that you are a strong candidate? How would you suggesting demonstrating confidence in a cover letter?

            3. manybellsdown*

              As a current job hunter, I really hate ads like that. I don’t need a paragraph about how your company is the leader in leveraging synergy across multiple platforms JUST TELL ME WHAT THE COMPANY DOES FFS

              1. Melissa*

                My favorites are the one’s who reproduce the company’s three-paragraph-long meaningless mission statement at the beginning of every job ad.

          1. Rev.*

            Ppl tell me they are visionary all the time. My question is, “What are you doing to make your vision happen?”

            What I usually get is a form of, “Uh…?”

            I don’t need visionaries, I need followaries.

            (I give SpellCheck fits)

      2. Bryan*

        Has there been a “comment with the worst things you’ve seen on a cover letter or resume post?” I know you’ve done some awesome common errors to avoid posts, but I like hearing about the truly unique individuals.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Oh man, now I wished I had saved some of the funnier ones I’ve seen. My favorite was all caps and 4 sentences long, basically just a few inspirational quotes. The rest of the page was a big photo of his face.

          1. LAI*

            I wish I had saved some too! One was an excerpt from the candidate’s upcoming book of poetry.

        2. Nichole*

          When I worked in workforce development, I wasn’t allowed to give commentary, just show people how to use the resume system, and there were some that almost physically hurt to ignore. I once wasn’t able to tell a client they shouldn’t list “I don’t want to work at McDonald’s” as their objective. True story. (We’ll disregard the unscratched itch to inform the client the objective wasn’t necessary at all.)

          1. OhNo*

            Oh, lord, this was me the other day. Two people were in the library where I work, and they got into an argument about whether or not one of them should call the HR office of a company and ask them to take a special look at the resume she was sending (without a cover letter!). I was so tempted to shout NO DON’T DO IT, but I had to try and be professional and not give unsolicited advice.

            It’s so frustrating, because sometimes you just really want to help people.

        3. KTM*

          That would be fun to see. I know I have a resume saved that we got from an entry-level candidate who used smiley faces as bullet points…

        4. Coola Name TBD*

          So many on the list… but the top dog will forever be the guy who shared the story about his wife cheating on him with his best friend, for which he had video proof. This was in his resume. Why he thought this was relevant to his job search escapes me, unless it was supposed to somehow explain the criminal record that followed. I would never knowingly encourage someone to lie on a resume, but…

          That one made rounds in the office for years.

        5. JustAboutManaging*

          I had one that was a real corker. The candidate uploaded two nearly identical cover letters to the system, one for UK applications and one for the USA – his previous experience was in Australia. Both letters were two page rants about how racist Australians were, and how he had been mistreated, unemployed, homeless and had to drink ‘the water that the dogs drink’ and please pleeease give him a job in the UK/US as people there are much less racist (UK/USA were literally the only words different in the two copies of the letter). I did feel sorry for him, but I didn’t get in touch with any advice as I’m sure it would have developed into more guilt tripping!

          1. Kuangning*

            *blinks.* The dogs drink different water here? Unless he was really missing his Dasani or sipping from Albert Park Lake … I got nothin’.

    5. Elysian*

      I definitely committed this sin coming out of college. People gave me example cover letters, and they all said variants of this. I didn’t know any better! I swear I wouldn’t do it now.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Same. I did the dear sir/madam thing, the “I’m totes the best candidate EVA” thing, the calling to see if they received my application and have any questions thing, and the “I’ll call you in a week to schedule a time to talk” thing, the “try to find the exact person to address the letter to” thing, the “send the application via postal mail” thing, and the “restate the resume in the cover letter” thing.

        Yup, seven deadly sins of job hunting right here. But I learned and now I pass the info on to others. It’s my penance.

    6. Mimi*

      Pretty often. Also stuff like “exemplary interpersonal skills” and “hard-worker with a charming personality”.

  3. Geegee*

    I’m embarrassed to admit that this line always made an appearance when I sent out cover letters as a new grad. In my defense, I was encouraged to do so by the career advisor at my university. Now I know better :)

    1. Lizzy Mac*

      I really believe that universities do their graduates a disservice in this regard. No one I’ve ever met got amazing advice from a career centre. Mine encouraged lines like that. They were also big believers in stating a date you’d be making a followup call in your closing and actually calling. Awful!

      1. Ali*

        I said this and the line about how I would call to schedule an interview. It was terrible! Never got any responses either.

        1. Anon Accountant*

          I tried this once and called to schedule an interview. It was advice given by my career center and I figured they were professional advisors and had good advice.

          I’m forever grateful to the nice non-profit HR Director who gave me a brief but kind education to avoid doing this in the future after I called to set up an interview. He was very polite and his advice was spot on.

      2. stellanor*

        The career center at my university strongly encouraged me to follow up after I sent a resume, although when I balked at phoning people they conceded it would be acceptable to do it by email. I ended up only doing it a few times because I virtually never had individual contact info for anybody — I mostly submitted my resume via online forms.

        This is probably the only situation in the history of mankind when Taleo has done anyone a favor.

        1. Rowan*

          The one and only favor Taleo has ever done anyone. All online application systems are evil, but Taleo is like Maleficient with ‘roid rage.

              1. Cody c*

                Little known about Taleo is it is actually T.A.L.E.O and stands for Taking All Life Energy Out.

      3. Mints*

        My university was pretty great in this regard. When I discovered AAM, I checked against the booklet I got from the career center, and everything was pretty much in agreement. I think the one difference was that they were more accepting of functional and hybrid resumes. But I was pretty relieved, like Oh good, I don’t need to decide which is better, because I had no idea. The career center also had more basics (like a list of active verbs to describe jobs) and lots of examples

      4. Artemesia*

        I worked for awhile in a top ranked university where for our graduates we had to basically recreate the career center out of our hides because the ‘help’ they got there was so out of date and abysmal. We taught them how to do resumes, interview, focus on achievements, turn things they did in school into entry level evidence of skill and ability etc etc. It helped that our program was very experiential and the students did over the course of their work do many simulated projects with workplace relevance as well as some actual community based projects through service-learning or internships. Money from our students’ tuition was going to the career center but we still had to essentially create all the job seeking parts of gratis. Our grads did have a great employment rate compared to other departments in the university with similar programs.

      5. Melissa*

        I’ve actually gotten really good advice from my career center, but that’s because most of the people in my university’s career center actually worked outside of academia for many years and returned to the academy to do career counseling – and they also bring in lots of outside speakers who are actively working and hiring in industry.

    1. Jamie*

      I am confident I look better using my pink safety glasses as a headband than 37% of people sporting the same look in the western Great Lakes region.

      source: my ass(umptions)

      It’s as reasonable a conclusion as judging my candidacy against others with zero data points.

      1. Collarbone High*

        I wish “sunglasses as headband” was acceptable business wear. My hair looks so much better when I have sunglasses pushing it back, and you don’t get the same effect with headbands.

        1. Jamie*

          In manufacturing it’s the height of fashion for IT. 50/50 whether it’s safety or sunglasses holding up my hair.

          Embarrassing fact – I didn’t realize until I got back in my car that I did my entire interview for the job I have now with my sunglasses perched on the top of my head.

      2. periwinkle*

        I want pink safety glasses! Our office is in a manufacturing facility (as in, I have to walk across the factory floor to reach the cafeteria or coffee kiosk), and I just use those hideous giant safety glasses available by the ton at the entrances.

        I refuse to believe that there is no such thing as Hello Kitty safety glasses. They MUST exist.

        1. Jamie*

          Now I know what I’ll be googling today!

          And yes, I also need to pop them on just to run into the factory for anything and I can’t stand the thought of something on my face that someone else had on their face.

          I know it’s not a germy thing and it won’t hurt me, just squicks me out.

          1. EA*

            the sunglasses I have are impact resistant, and meet ANSI standards for shatter/impact resistance, so I could apparently wear them in a factory environment, if, for some reason, I was in a factory and wanted to wear sunglasses.

            The manufacturer is Jackson Safety, and the model is “Nemesis” … I found them on Amazon. They have a few different styles. I didn’t see any Hello Kitty, but there were some that don’t look like traditional safety glasses.

            Plus they’re only around $8/pair, so for that price, you can have your own private glasses, and not need to worry about whether or not anyone else has worn them.

  4. NEP*

    Sort of like writing: “I’ve got excellent writing and communications skills.” — Show me.

    1. Cube Ninja*

      In my experience, at least half of people who make that statement have at least two serious spelling or grammar errors somewhere on their resume.

      1. Laura*

        We just received a cover letter from someone who said they were detail oriented and had a typo IN THAT SAME SENTENCE.

          1. fposte*

            That’s correct in British English–are you sure they’re not just non-American Anglophones?

    2. Kelly O*

      I am in possession of the utmost excellent grammar skills and am outstanding in communicating with executives in professional, business like manners.

      (I see this ALL the time at New Job and it drives me bonkers. We have to walk all the way around the shed to say something just so someone can feel like they’ve used a sufficient number of $10 words.)

          1. Cube Ninja*

            That’s probably a more apt description. Would you like a moscato or a chanti with that? :)

      1. School HR*

        I hire teachers. I have recieved multiple resumes for English teaching positions that say things like, “I’m certain you’re students will be well served by my knowledge.” Another one I’ve seen is, “I’m thrilled to aid students on there educational journey.”

        I’m always tempted to give these cover letters to elementary teachers to use for daily grammar drills. So far I’ve resisted this temptation.

        1. Kay*

          Wow, the ‘your/you’re’ and ‘there/their/they’re’ errors are like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.

          I tutor part time (mostly SAT/ACT) and kids don’t know grammar because it isn’t taught in a lot of schools anymore. I love giving them the grammar rules. Now if their teachers don’t know the grammar, that’s pretty disheartening.

  5. RB*

    I have seen this happen more often in the last several years. One guy who hadn’t worked in our field for 15 years and didn’t know how to use a computer, went over my head to the CEO when he wasn’t hired. He told the CEO he was “perfect” for the job and I obviously was intimidated by him.

    This harrassment went on for almost two months, until he got a cease and desist letter from our attorney.

      1. An Adjuster*

        We had one who insisted he was the best candidate because he had an MBA. NO people skills, though.

    1. A non*

      ooh, I’ve had one of these. The candidate kept emailing me over and over again, but I wasn’t officially in charge of hiring just weighing in on the candidates– he just had my email address and kept emailing me instead of HR (he had their info too but he had met me before since our field is pretty small). Our HR department insisted they had sent him a rejection email which he claimed he never received. And then he emailed the CEO to complain about me and HR and ranted about how dare we not interview him because he was clearly the best candidate for the job.

    2. Artemesia*

      I had someone I didn’t interview pull this. ‘The job was created for him it described him so perfectly. There was no possible way he was not at minimum a finalist to be interviewed’ etc etc He drove everyone nuts for weeks.

      Actually based on his resume I had him in the top 10 and might have included an interview because he was local, but his very unprofessional Email handle. information I got from elsewhere in the organization where he had worked temporarily, and the way he drove the secretaries nuts with constant calls and demands about being interviewed (before we were into interviews) shouted to me that this was one we didn’t want to touch with a stick. He then argued it must have been age discrimination. Since the person we hired was well into her 50s that wasn’t too plausible either. He finally stopped — but it was such a pain. People like this have no insight — all his presentations of self screamed ‘keep away, here be loony tunes’.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    Ick. It’s so SALES-Y.

    It’s also presumptuous. It’s MY job to decide if you’re the best candidate, buddy. Not yours.

  7. NEP*

    The applicant (presumably) has not met or worked with the other candidates. A baseless statement at best. Reckon it’s appeared in a lot of cover letters though…perhaps one or two of my own when I was just starting out. Cringe.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right — what’s it possibly based on? Did you hack into my computer and assess all the other candidates? Or are you the best person in the whole world, and that’s how you know?

      It makes no sense when you think it through.

        1. Cube Ninja*

          > My dog too.

          Only when you have food. Or toys. Or food and toys. Or a leash. Or a walk! I like walks!

          1. Katie the Fed*

            The cats on the other hand think I’m passable but could easily be replaced by another warm body.

            1. Chinook*

              I like my pets – my cat thinks I am the most amazing human alive because he can make me create a space for him to cuddle just by looking at me whereas my dog could care less about the random human he lives with (to his credit, though, the old dog has dementia and 75% blindness and thinks that food will magically appear if he licks the empty bowl long enough.)

            2. Kelly O*

              My cat thinks I’m awesome because she is quite nearly literally glued to my side every second I’m home, and she is jealous of the 3.5 year old. (Even though the kid was here before she was.)

              She was my brother’s and I told my husband I think she just “knows” that I’m Kevin’s sister, so she stays with me.

              1. Pennalynn Lott*

                My cats think I hung the moon, too. They follow me from room to room and cry piteously whenever I leave. (And heaven help them if I’m one side of a closed door and they’re on the other!) I think it’s because whenever I’m around, they never know when a piece of paper is going to turn into a flying spitwad, or if the feather-on-a-stick is going to wake up and come to life, or if they’re going to get scooped up and snuggled. Cats are similar to gamblers: Give em the occasional payout, and they’ll keep coming back for more. ;-)

                1. Jamie*

                  Yep. Anyone with older kids who misses having a toddler should get a cat.

                  They don’t let you go to the bathroom in peace either. Something about a locked door makes kids and cats think there is a party going on on the other side.

        2. De Minimis*

          One of my dogs actually gave me a couple of “Needs improvements” especially regarding mealtime punctuality.

        3. Liz in a Library*

          I miss dogs. My cats just find me mildly annoying, but they tolerate me for the food access.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            No kidding. My cats would never recommend me for a job.

            “These are terrible owners. Terrible! They insist on feeding us ONLY twice per day and won’t refill the water even when I have CLEARLY taken two sips and it needs refilling. And sometimes they put TAP water in it, instead of the cold filtered water from the fridge. Can you imagine? And once they took one of my gross, disgusting toys from underneath the refrigerator and threw it AWAY. I was keeping it down there for safekeeping! I WANTED all that dust and dirt on it! I know it was in shreds, but I LIKED it that way. And even when I insist on four hours of belly rubs per day, they only give me rubs occasionally. That is abysmal.”

            1. LBK*

              “My owner plays well with others. I find this ABHORRENT. They should hate everyone, like I do.”

      1. JCC*

        I always assumed that it was an attempt to turn advertising principles back on oneself — advertising has made more people buy unnecessary, overpriced, poorly-working junk than any other skill in the history of the world. :) If advertising can convince millions of people to buy Pet Rocks or go into a spending frenzy over Beanie Babies, I suppose the rationale is that maybe it can get one business to buy one merely okay employee.

      2. Omne*

        I wonder if anyone ever has hacked into a hiring manager’s computer to do this……

        Interesting thought.

    2. jmkenrick*

      It weirdly reminds me of the person you sometimes run into in life, who explains away their unluckiness in love by thinking that other people have bad taste in partners. (Guys just want a hot girl, Girls just want a rich guy…)

      Yes, you can (should!) have confidence that you’re awesome…but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can be confident that you’ll be a good partner for someone. YOU don’t get to dictate what qualities constitute awesome for them.

  8. Sharm*

    I feel like this is one of those things that I always saw as cover letter advice, both from people and from early internet advice. Not sure I see it AS much anymore, but it’s clear lots of people still do this.

    I always thought it sounded squicky and presumptuous — how could you possibly know who else has applied for the job?

    1. NEP*

      There is something to going into a job search or interview with an attitude that one is a superb candidate…The act of owning one’s competence and skills and glowing with genuine confidence can go a long way. But that’s an entirely different thing from saying or writing that line.

    2. Poohbear McGriddles*

      If you have good connections in the intelligence community and organized crime, you can make sure you’re the “only” candidate and hence the best!

  9. Sunflower*

    This is another one of those lines you get from every resume/cover writing book. For some reason, these books are very much about selling yourself and I guess they believe some sort of theory of ‘well if they see it on the page, it’s in their mind and they’ll believe it’. It’s not until you put yourself in the seat of someone who is reading the resume that you start to realize how ridiculous it is. I’ve read so many books by former hiring managers and other resume/cover letter/get a job books and I’m convinced a lot of the reason they give advice like this is because ‘just be yourself and show your skills’ doesn’t sell copies

    1. BethRA*

      Reminding people to sell themselves is not a bad thing – suggesting they do it the same way they’d sell a used car……

    2. Joey*

      Where are these mythical “books”? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that said to make such proclamations.

        1. books*

          You should publish the AAM book to how to write a cover letter good and do other job searching things good to.

          (Sorry, zoolander… But really, an AAM curated collection of cover letters would be awesome.)

  10. Teacher Recruiter*

    It gets even more awkward when they tell you over the phone, in an interview, or the worst – in reply to your rejection email. Too many times I’ve gotten back – “I’m not sure why you’re rejecting me. I’m the best person for the job and you’re missing out.”

    But what would we do without these candidates? Be less entertained and then our jobs would be boring. No one wants that!

    1. Sunflower*

      I think it’s 1000000x worse when they say it after you’ve been rejected. That is truly cringe worthy. I am firmly opposed to it but it’s one thing to use it as an attention-getter in a cover letter. However, coming back with that after they’ve reviewed your qualifications is downright insulting- you’re basically telling them their judgement is skewed and they aren’t capable of doing their jobs. Yes they will definitely want to hire you then!!

    2. Katie the Fed*

      That’s also why interviewers don’t want to give feedback to a lot of candidates. I’m not going to give a candidate feedback if I expect a lot of counterarguments. “We wanted someone with more experience on X.” “But I totally have that experience!” “We didn’t feel you demonstrated capability X” “Well, you’re wrong. I did!”

      Um. Yes, you’re totally right. Let me go call the candidate we offered the job to and retract it. You really convinced me!

      1. Staying very anon for this*

        How about this? We interviewed a candidate for a position. Chose someone else. Had a similar position open up and contacted two of the previously rejected candidates to ask if they wanted to interview for the new position.

        Ultimately chose a new candidate who had also (along with others) submitted. Sent the rejection notices.

        This particular interviewee replied that we were done, not to contact them again, and that to consistently do this to someone and treat them as a fallback position and make that clear (??! No, we didn’t say that) is tacky.

        …no worry about us contacting you again. Sheesh.

        Reality: first position had three applicants we’d have been thrilled to hire. Second position had four.

        I feel like we really dodged a bullet there.

        1. Artemesia*

          I agree. But I can empathize with someone who is ASKED to reapply and then rejected again. I once was solicited for an honorary association that I had not contemplated joining and asked to apply. When I got rejected with a tendentious letter about how I was not quite professionally ready for this great honor my gut response was ‘well blank you then and the horse you rode in on and you won’t be hearing from me again.’ And they never did although I was approached a couple of times after I had won a few awards in the field.

          Immature? Probably. But don’t seek me out to kick me in the knee.

          In the job search, I assume whoever invited the resubmission indicated it would be highly competitive. I can imagine how it feels to get rejected after being recruited to apply.

          1. nyxalinth*

            Yeah, that sort of thing almost always makes me wonder why I was contacted to begin with! I sometimes get during the first call and phone interview how great my experience is and is *exactly* what they need, then I don’t get the job because I don’t have enough experience.

            I’m figuring it’s sometimes a “We didn’t like you for the position” but most of the time nowadays I take it to mean just that, and it was something where someone in the process decided I needed xyz in addition to abc or exactly 3.5 years experience and not just three, or a candidate popped up with chocolate teapot design and they didn’t think they needed it until that person showed up. I never try to argue anymore though, but a few times I was sorely tempted to ask “Why did you call someone without enough experience to begin with?”

        2. Grey*

          I can see how that would be irritating for the candidate. He probably agreed to the second interview thinking he was the 2nd choice for the other job, and would therefore be top choice for this one. After all, why bother to re-interview choices #3 or #4?

        3. anon-2*

          It IS tacky, Staying Anon.

          Basically you invited candidate X in for a second ROUND of interviews – you DID treat him as a fallback candidate, and wasted his time.

          I think he likely felt that he was being held up as “a standard, great candidate” and you then went and said to yourselves “OK, let’s keep interviewing until we get someone better than X”.

          You probably didn’t dodge a bullet. But it’s easy to convince yourself that you did.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t see that here. They thought he’d be a strong candidate so invited him to interview. Someone else ended up being stronger. There’s nothing wrong with that, assuming they really did think he was strong.

            1. anon-2*

              Perhaps, AAM. But, as was said by someone else – he probably was the #2 candidate for the original position he didn’t get – they opened another one, asked him to come in, and didn’t hire him because they opened up the process and started a general search.

              So they didn’t use him as a standard to be exceeded?

          2. Marcy*

            I was rejected several times by my current employer and twice by the department I ended up in. I interviewed with several other departments, then got an interview in the department I am in. They chose someone else. They called about a second position in the same department a few months later. I didn’t get that one either. They called a third time and I got the job. I’ve been there five years and have been promoted twice and am now the one doing the hiring. If they keep calling you, it means they are really interested. It is a shame that people think their time is being wasted. If it helps, I saw the work of the first two candidates that won out over me and I would have hired them, too. You just never know what you are up against in any given hiring pool but just because they pick someone else, even twice, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a strong candidate or that you won’t eventually be picked.

    3. manybellsdown*

      I bet these are the same people who respond to “no thanks” on dating sites with long-winded email rants about how they’re clearly the best partner and you should date them because reasons.

      1. Anne 3*

        Haha, I love these. It’s like they’re expecting an answer like “I wasn’t interested before, but after your long rant about how you’re better than be anyway and how I’m a floozy who is trying to friendzone you because she never goes for the Nice Guy, I’m totally swooning.”

    4. Omne*

      ” You’re right, you’re absolutely awesome. You’re so great in fact that I’m afraid that you would end up replacing me in a short time so I an rejecting you simply out of a sense of self preservation.”

  11. Apollo Warbucks*

    I banned my sister from listening to our mom when it comes career advise, after she was told to add things like this to CV’s and cover letters, and answer the question “what do you see your self doing in 5 years” by saying “doing your job”

    1. LBK*

      But that’s equally presumptious and baseless. Unless you’re the person hiring for the job and you’ve interviewed all the candidates, how on earth could you possibly know how qualified you are compared to everyone else?

        1. LBK*

          How do you know that their previous rockstar performer who left for a year to pursue international underwater basketweaving hasn’t decided to come back to the company, and she’s immediately more qualified than anyone else could possibly be because they already know she’s a good fit with the team, she knows the systems and procedures and they already like her?

          This is clearly an extreme example but my point is, there is no situation in which you can be confident you’re the best/most qualified candidate for a position, especially before you’ve even come in for an interview and spoken to the hiring manager to see what they’re looking for. A job listing only tells you so much.

            1. LBK*

              If it’s so indisputably true because the candidate actually knows that they are, really, 100% the best candidate for the role, enough so that the hiring manager would definitely agree, why is it worth stating in the cover letter?

        2. A Bug!*

          You’re overqualified relative to the job posting, sure, but how do you know you’re the only applicant who is? What makes you the special snowflake?

          Even in the best-case scenario, where you are the most qualified candidate, it’s a waste of space. Your resume and cover letter will make your qualifications quite clear to the hiring manager without you presuming to tell her what to think. It’s just a completely unnecessary risk.

        3. Colette*

          I’m not entirely clear whether you’re serious here, but I’ll answer as if you were: it seems to me that people think they’re overqualified when they actually are just differently qualified. For example, the posting asks for a Bachelor’s degree, so they have a Master’s – they aren’t overqualified, unless what they learned while getting the Master’s is directly applicable to the work.

          When I moved from software development to customer service, I wasn’t overqualified, nor was I hired because I could design software. I was hired because I could demonstrate how I could provide customer service. My ability to do a different job was irrelevant.

          1. anon*

            Well yes, if posting asks for BS in accounting and you have MS in psychology …

            I’m talking about the people who, during the recession, lost their jobs, tried to get lower paying jobs but were denied because while the employer thought they would do a great job, they were “overqualified.”

            1. Colette*

              Ok, but even if the higher qualification was relevant to the job, how could you possibly know whether you were the only person who was “over-qualified” who applied, and how do you know that that particular qualification is the most important for the job?

            2. A Bug!*

              How were you talking about that at all? You said that you can know, with full confidence, that you are the most qualified candidate for a position, simply because you know you are overqualified for that position. You didn’t bring up any of what you just brought up now.

              Regardless, this new stuff doesn’t change anything that’s actually being discussed here. In a recession, when there are many overqualified candidates for every posting, that makes it even less likely that you are the most qualified among them.

              You simply do not have the information required to state with confidence that you are the most qualified candidate out of a pool of candidates you know nothing about. Your qualifications in relation to the posting (“I am well-qualified for this position”) are not relevant to your qualifications in relation to any of the other candidates (“I am the most qualified for this position”).

            3. Colette*

              Let’s see if an analogy helps.

              It’s Halloween, and a local radio station is having a costume contest at a hockey game. You have excellent, expensive tickets. I have cheap tickets in the nosebleed section. Who should win the costume contest?

              Of course, you can’t answer that, because your expensive ticket doesn’t make your costume better or worse – it’s exactly the same value as my cheap ticket, when it comes to a contest based on other qualities.

              Sometimes exceeding a requirement doesn’t matter, because that requirement is just the price of admission – exceeding it doesn’t make you more valuable.

            4. nyxalinth*

              Fair enough. I think ‘overqualified’ is often like “Inconceivable!” in The Princess Bride. People doing the hiring keep using that word, but it does not mean what they think it does.

              Then everyone else decides that ‘overqualified’ is shorthand for “You’ll leave this job for one more suited to your background as soon as one opened up/are too old but we’ll get in trouble if we say so” and we end up with these sorts of discussions. I think anon is using ‘overqualified’ in the sense that people use it to mean “You’ll b gone as soon as something in your usual line of work opens up’.

              That’s doesn’t mean that the correct usage is not correct, but you also have to look at words the way peole use them, and not just in their correct sense.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, not fixed :)

      Anon, I thought you were joking, but now I’m thinking you’re not! There’s no way to know how qualified you are compared to other candidates, because you don’t know who their other candidates are.

      1. anon*

        I didn’t make this comment because I think it’s a good idea to write it. Rather, I made the comment to show the point that a lot of people are “overqualified” for jobs they apply for and get rejected for that reason.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t get where you’re going here. Is this just an issue you wanted to talk about and didn’t really consider it related to the post subject?

          I mean sure, plenty of people are rejected because they have qualifications that exceed what’s being asked for; that gets discussed here regularly. That doesn’t make the overqualified applicant the same thing as the most qualified applicant, and it falls afoul of the same problem as the example in the post–it’s an applicant making a salesy claim that she can’t know to be true, which calls into question her credibility.

        2. A Bug!*

          Why would you offer it as a “fix” if you didn’t think it would be a good replacement for the line AAM’s advising against?

          Anyway, I suspect that you’re not actually responding to AAM’s post, but rather something different that may be a sore spot for you.

          AAM’s post had nothing to do with being turned away for being overqualified. AAM simply said that you should not make statements that compare yourself to other candidates because you do not have enough information to do so. For that reason, “most qualified candidate” is functionally identical to “best candidate,” and therefore a bad substitute.

          What you’ve brought up could make for an interesting discussion, if you wanted to hold on to the idea until the next Open Thread; then you can be clear about what it is you’re wanting to talk about so everyone can be on the same page.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          In addition to what fposte and A Bug! said, qualifications aren’t everything. At least not qualifications like degrees and years of experience. Things like “playing nice with others” and “good communications skills” and “doesn’t freak out when someone turns on the lights” and “fits with the culture of this office” are also really important. I don’t know if you’d term those things “qualifications” or not, but they matter a lot.

          I mean, there have been jobs that seemed like they were written with my experience and background in mind, and I can tell you there were no people with that same unique experience, but ultimately the hiring officials valued something more that experience on that particular issue. In some cases they just wanted fresh blood with a different background to provide a new perspective. That’s cool. But without knowing exactly what they’re looking for or what the rest of the candidate pool is, I can’t possibly say I’m the most qualified.

  12. mango284*

    This reminds me of how much I hate the interview question that is some variation of, “What skills/experience do you have that set you apart from the other candidates?” How am I supposed to know what skills/experience all the other candidates have?!? I’ve even been asked, “Why are you the best person for this job?” I hate that too. I don’t know. I can tell them why I’d be a great choice for the job but not why/if I’m the BEST person for the job because I don’t know who else they’re interviewing. :(

    1. Sharm*

      I totally agree with you, and hate this question with a passion. I grit my teeth and try to focus on explaining why I’m a great candidate and why I’d be a good fit. But the best? I don’t know how I could possibly answer that.

      Thankfully, I received that question more often early in my career; I’ve haven’t heard it asked at all in the past ~7 years.

    2. LBK*

      I would be completely honest when responding to that question, because I think modesty and understanding your strengths vs. your coworkers’ strengths are two critical aspects of being a good employee. Something like, “To be frank, I can’t possibly know what I bring that the other candidates don’t because I don’t know who they are. But I can tell you what I bring, and I trust you to make the right call based on what you need out of whoever’s in this role.”

      1. anon for this*

        I recently interviewed at an organization which put the resumes and cover letters (not to mention the *current employers*) of all the candidates on the organization’s website. In that case, I did have a sense of what the other people (two of whom I know professionally), were like but I still believe you’ve got to present what YOU do well and let the interviewers make their decisions.

        But the candidate information on the web page? That was ridiculous.

    3. Kristen*

      Yes! I came across this for the first time from a recruiter a few weeks ago who asked me in a phone screen how I thought I “stacked up against all the other applicants for the position.”

    4. James M*

      “Why are you the best person for this job?”

      “Not having interviewed the other candidates, I can only stand on merit and defer that decision to yourself”.

      ’nuff said.

      1. alfie*

        Yes!! This is exactly what I thought when I read this post. I have often been asked that in interviews — why am I the best person for the job. So it doesn’t surprise me if people assert in their applications that they *are* the best person for the job.

        And yeah, of course the answer is I don’t know who else you’re looking at. (Unless it is the company that posts all of them.)

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I’ve said something very similar to that. “I don’t know who the other candidates are, so all I can tell you is why I think I’m a strong fit because blah blah”

    5. Someone Else*

      OMG, when I get asked this question, I want to refer the interviewer to AAM’s website. If I can’t say I’m the most qualified candidate, Hiring Managers can’t ask me questions that require me to qualify myself against candidates I know nothing about.

  13. CEMgr*

    Similarly, I’ve noticed that people who call themselves “great communicators” in their resume….never are.

  14. Chocolate Addict*

    I’ve gotten advice to put this before! What would you say is a better way to start out?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You don’t want to use a formula for this, but one perfectly reasonable option is “I was excited to see this job opening because…”

      But then what follows that has to make that statement credible.

    2. First-Time Poster*

      About two years ago while still in school, I submitted a cover letter that explained why I was qualified for the job, and then said “I believe that my skills and experience make me a good candidate for this position.” Notice I said “good” not “best”.

      I was called in for an interview, and the interviewer asked me why I wasn’t more confident in myself. I was taken aback because I didn’t understand or expect that, and he said it was because I said I was merely a “good candidate”. I then told him it wouldn’t be fair of me to say I was better than someone I didn’t know (other candidates). I was offered the job about two weeks later, but declined it because something came up that prevented me from working that semester.

      1. First-Time Poster*

        I’m sorry, I just realized I replied to the wrong person! I meant to reply to the poster below me. Sorry for any confusion with what I said!

      2. NEP*

        Interesting ‘real-life’ experience with this statement. That’s really something that the interviewer took your choice of words as lack of confidence. Good, logical response on your part.

      3. Anne 3*

        Yeah, I’ve used something like this before. “I think my experience in X, Y, and my years of working in Z department make me a good candidate for this position.”

    3. Candy Floss*

      You can focus on a strong match between the experience and skills they have listed and the ones you possess. If they have asked for someone who has 3 years of experiencing doing x, y and Z and you’ve got it, you can factually state that “ding ding ding, we have a match” :) You can refer to yourself as a strong candidate, just not the best/most qualified/perfect one.

  15. Lizzie*

    I had one the other day who wrote “I am fairly confident that I am an adequate candidate for this position.”

    At least it was honest….

    1. Cristina*

      Ha! I would be tempted to give that person a phone screen no matter what their resume said just because I appreciated their sense of humor.

      1. Jen RO*

        I once read a friend of a friend’s cover letter, which said something like ‘I know I’m not the most qualified candidate, but maybe you’ll interview me’. In a letter that was badly written from a content *and* style pov. I facepalmed hard.

    2. First-Time Poster*

      About two years ago while still in school, I submitted a cover letter that explained why I was qualified for the job, and then said “I believe that my skills and experience make me a good candidate for this position.” Notice I said “good” not “best”.

      I was called in for an interview, and the interviewer asked me why I wasn’t more confident in myself. I was taken aback because I didn’t understand or expect that, and he said it was because I said I was merely a “good candidate”. I then told him it wouldn’t be fair of me to say I was better than someone I didn’t know (other candidates). I was offered the job about two weeks later, but declined it because something came up that prevented me from working that semester.

  16. Anon*

    Interesting. What about including something like the following in an email thanking a potential employer after interview… “After speaking with you about the position and responsibilities, I am confident that I would be a great addition to your team.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nothing wrong with that, but it’s boring and kind of generic/stilted. Write it like you’d write to your friend describing why you were enthusiastic about the job. I bet you wouldn’t word it that way.

      1. Sharm*

        I just have to tell you that your bit of advice about writing a cover letter as if you were writing to a friend is the most useful bit of advice for my personal job hunt. It completely changed the way I write my letters. I still sound a bit stuffier than I’d like (I can’t help it, I have to be that way in a professional setting!), but I know it’s improved my letters by leaps and bounds.

        So thank you!

        1. Dani S*

          I agree! When I sit down to write a cover letter now, I try to first imagine myself calling my sister to tell her all about the position and why I’m excited about that job.

          I also really like the advice–I think it was from a regular AAM commenter, but I don’t remember who–to write the cover letter in an email first, rather than a Word document. Email triggers my casual, get-to-the-point writing, whereas a blank document triggers “Oh my gosh, I must write something very important and professional-sounding!” So thank you, whoever gave that suggestion.

        2. Melissa*

          I totally, 100% agree. I haven’t had to apply to many jobs yet (I’m a PhD student who got a postdoc through networking) but I have used the advice when applying to part-time jobs and it’s increased my callback rate so far, and I feel so much more comfortable looking forward to writing cover letters for when I go on the job market either this fall or next fall. I’ve never been terribly comfortable with the stuffy cover letter language because I feel like I can’t adequately show who I am, and especially since I’ll be writing cover letters for tenure-track faculty positions – where people will be hiring me for a very long time…well.

      2. Anon*

        I was paraphrasing a bit, and it came out more generalized. The true letter was more personal.

        I thought it was successful, but I stumbled on your post and thought I broke some secret rule here :)

        Great blog! Thanks for the response.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        That’s how I got my last boyfriend! I told him that I was confident that I would be great addition to his bed.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      I think that’s different. You can be (fairly) confident about that, especially after discussing the position with them. Saying you think you’d be a GREAT addition to their team isn’t the same as saying you’ll be the best possible addition to their team.

  17. Sabrina*

    What if someone said “I’m pretty sure you’ve got better candidates for this job”?

    1. fposte*

      I was thinking of this–is there a reverse correlation? Is this a way to get the job for sure?

    2. Marina*

      Except it’s the exact same mistake–overconfidence in your ability to know what the other candidates are like.

  18. First-Time Poster*

    Hello, I’m a long-time reader but first-time poster. I have a question. I understand that it’s bad form to say that you are “the best candidate” for a job, but what about saying something along the lines of…
    “I believe my ____ skills will be an excellent match for the qualifications of the ____ position.”
    Is that just as bad? I’ve been using that in my cover letters for a while now and I’ve still received interviews (and job offers). But I’m wondering if maybe I shouldn’t be saying that.

    Also want to point out that I say that sentence towards the end of the first paragraph of my cover letter. I don’t lead off my cover letter with that!

    1. Adam*

      Personally I don’t see anything wrong with it, particularly if you’ve got a detailed job description to review and match up your personal experience with.

      In my opinion the only risk with it is that it’s a fairly standard line that a lot of people probably use so it may not stand out very much to someone who’s had to wade through a dozen or so applications already, even if you do in fact have the qualifications to meet the position.

    2. Bill*

      Personally, I think the following would be more effective: “In the job description, I saw that you are looking for someone skilled in X. In my previous position, I regularly worked with X to accomplish A, B and C, which accomplished D.”

      Its better to show how you have used the skill, than to tell that you have it.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I think what Alison wrote in a different comment is apt: “Nothing wrong with that, but it’s boring and kind of generic/stilted. Write it like you’d write to your friend describing why you were enthusiastic about the job. I bet you wouldn’t word it that way.” I find that very helpful because my letters sound stilted as well.

    4. Fabulously Anonymous*

      What are you trying to say with that sentence? What is it’s purpose? I found that I was using something similar as a transition sentence, a way to get me to the call action (call me!!!).

      I think it’s much stronger to to demonstrate how your X skills make you a good match for the qualification of X. If you’ve already done that in the letter, skip the summary and get on to your next pont (call me!!!).

      1. First-Time Poster*

        Thank you all for your responses. Just wanted to clarify that I do describe my responsibilities from previous experience, as well as my skills before and after making that statement. I would say the sentence is a bit longer than what I put. I usually say…
        “Because of my previous experience working as a ____, I believe that my ____ skills will be an excellent match for the qualifications of the ____ position.”
        And then, I follow that up with a bulleted list of my skills and experience.

        1. Joey*

          No. Listing skills and experience isn’t real compelling besides determining that you merely have the ability to “do” the job. That’s dandy, but I’m looking for who is going to take it to another level/kick ass. That means showing me how you’ve taken a job and ran with it. That might mean far exceeding your everyday expectations, that might mean working on some project and kicking ass on it. It’s showing me what you’ve done that is exceptional, not merely that you’ve done what’s required.

          1. First-Time Poster*

            Unfortunately though, most of the jobs that I’ve held did not have any major accomplishments, unless answering phones and filing counts. Don’t get me wrong, I try to spin the responsibilities as accomplishments by saying I managed multiple phone calls and routed them for the department, or managed the filing for the department archives. But there isn’t much else that I’ve done, and not because I’m not capable, but that’s because the jobs I’ve had only care about someone getting it done. And that’s what I did.

            1. Marina*

              What a hiring manager is wondering is whether you’ll be any better than any other person at doing the job. So you did a basic task… did you do it well or poorly? Assuming you think you did it well, how do you know?

              1. First-Time Poster*

                Basically, I was told by others in the organization that the phone service had greatly improved when I got there. Before I arrived, people were transferred to the wrong office or simply disconnected. I made sure everyone got to the right place, and a few even called me afterwards and thanked me for caring. Apparently the person before me wasn’t so good. My boss did take notice and told me he was happy with how I “fixed” the phone answering issue.

                1. Marina*

                  That’s what goes in your resume and cover letter. Improved transferring/connection system, received repeated compliments from coworkers and supervisor, etc.

                2. Adam*

                  You can totally swing that if you phrase it the right way. “Greatly improved customer phone experience” although you’ll want to be more specific.

                  For example I once worked in a retail store for a while and my manager said they liked having me for many reasons including I had increased stock reporting by 40% since I was hired. In all honesty that a lot to do with the fact that most of the other employees just weren’t doing it before I got there and the store had low standards, but I still did something that was a net positive for the work environment.

            2. Adam*

              I’ve had that problem as well. Sometimes a job doesn’t really have much in the way of measurable standards of a “job done” vs. “gold star/above and beyond”. Sometimes it’s just a consequence of not being in the workforce very long or in a job that doesn’t have a lot going for it.

              What I try and do is emphasize the more unusual things I’ve done that have been beneficial to the work place like alternate projects I’ve worked on and such; things that likely weren’t included in my job description but fell under the banner of “other duties as assigned”. That’s usually where my most interesting work comes from.

            3. Anonsie*

              This is my issue. I have never, not ever, had a job that had any kind of metrics or praise or really any objective way for me to explain that I did a good job on something other than “I did it like I was supposed to and it worked.”

              1. Adam*

                Sometimes a job is just an “I need to eat” sort of job and good managers won’t knock you for that. I usually went with “I was one of the best table bussers they had and my boss would have happily hired me back if I wasn’t ready to move on.”

                1. First-Time Poster*

                  Those are basically all the jobs I’ve had to date. They are jobs, not careers. Most of them had no promotion line or advancement. I was hired and that’s the position I stayed in until I went on to do it somewhere else. For me, it’s same position, different company.

                2. Adam*

                  Yep, the experience hurdle. I’m staring at it right now too, which means I don’t have the best advice to give on that since I’m still figuring it out too. I shudder at the thought of having to take yet another entry-level job that isn’t going to lead to anything else, but I’m not sure what my other options are at this point.

                3. Anonsie*

                  Same same for both of you. I did data entry in college and trying to move on to a better job after that was infuriating for all the advice.

                  “Show what you did that set you apart.”
                  “Nothing. All I could do was enter data on time.”

                  “You can’t just do the job, you have to show how you did the job especially well.”
                  “There are no go-getters or data entry peons that make management excited here, ok, they just want us to enter the data on time.”

                  “Don’t just tell, show how you did well.”
                  “I entered the data on time, I have no examples to give otherwise.”

                  Now I’ve gone on from that type of work, but only just.

                4. Ethyl*

                  I mean, if you want to come on an advice blog and then reject all the advice that’s given to you, that’s your prerogative, but it’s not really so hard to explain your experience as accomplishments regardless of what it is.

                  (Data entry maybe even easier to do so, since you would have data about accuracy, how much you did, how often you were late, etc.)

                  There was a whole post and comments about this a while back that maybe you folks should check out, although if you’re dead-set in your conception of yourself as uniquely miserable, perhaps it wouldn’t do any good.

              2. Joey*

                Every job has metrics, you just have to find them and if you can’t pin down numbers try to put your performance in context. Think about what matters in your job. Is it speed, upselling, accuracy, resolving problems, serving customers, etc.?

                Describe how you are performing relative to everyone else or relative to expectations. Were you given additional tasks because of your performance? Were you given more important tasks/assignments? Basically, how does your performance set you apart from as many of your peers as possible?

      2. First-Time Poster*

        Other sentences I have used in lieu of my previous one…
        “Because of my experience working as a _____, I believe that my ______ skills will allow me to make a valuable contribution to your (department/organization/team).”

        “Because of my experience working as a _____, I feel that my strong _____ skills will help contribute to (Company)’s success.”

        1. Ethyl*

          I’d try to be even more specific, and more conversational. Can you relate your skills to a specific line of work the company does, or something in the job description? An example:

          As a [job], I learned [skills], and [accomplished things]. As the/In the [role], I would bring [skills] to [stuff from the job description, corporate website, things you know from your network].

          So let’s say you are going from data-entry to being the person who checks environmental samples as they come into a lab (stuff I have experience with):

          As a data-entry technician, I learned how to stay detail-oriented while working to demanding deadlines, and was never written up for mistakes or missed deadlines in over 3 years of work. As the quality control technician, I would bring that same level of attention to reviewing chains of custody, entering sample numbers into the corporate database, and ensuring timely results are provided to clients.

    5. Tiff*

      I matched the desired skills to my experience using a two column table in my old cover letters.

      Left side: You’ve expressed a need for: a,b,c
      Right side: What I can offer: example for a, example for b, example for c.

      Personally, I like the look of it. It was very clean, easy on the eyes and not too wordy. It also helped get me the job. I hid the lines in the table.

  19. Joe*

    I am in the process of drafting a cover letter and I hope this would help me a lot. The job description is a mix of skills I have (mostly) and don’t have. Not sure about how to refer to those I don’t have.

    1. NEP*

      My two cents — My approach would be to refer only to those I’ve got, giving concrete examples of how I’ve applied these skills successfully. I reckon if on the basis of this the employer wants to take things further with you, that would be the time they’d probe about the other items. Then you could prepare to take this on in a positive way.

    2. Anne 3*

      I think NEP’s approach makes sense. I also just wouldn’t worry about it too much, employers don’t expect you to match the job description 100 %, hardly any candidate will.

  20. MaryMary*

    I did once write a cover letter that basically said, “My background is probably different from your other candidates, but here’s why I’m interested in the job and would be great at it.”

    1. MaryMary*

      I should add, the letter was for one of those, “I don’t meet all the criteria they’re asking for, but I would be SO GOOD at this job!”

    2. Laura*

      I think that’s a really useful statement, and it would catch my attention. We had a rule for one job we were hiring for that we would only interview someone who was super overqualified who wrote something convincing as to why they wanted *this* job. One candidate who included in her cover letter that she knew her background might make her look overqualified, but… [here’s why it made total sense to consider her]” really stood out and made it far in the process. A little risky to point it out (especially if you’re not REALLY REALLY overqualified) but if you know they’re going to be thinking it, you might as well address it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Totally agree, and there’s a high chance of just being rejected otherwise since they’ll assume you don’t realize what the job is or are just applying to anything remotely feasible.

        1. First-Time Poster*

          Just wanted to ask, would you say this also applies to someone who is applying to a position they are clearly overqualified for? For example, I am a college graduate but I usually apply to jobs that only qualify a HS diploma or a GED. I have the qualifications for the jobs that I apply to, but was actually told by a company that the reason I was not called for an interview was because I was too overqualified, and they accused me of not understanding the position I applied to. I explained that although I am a college graduate, I was looking to switch my focus from what I majored in to their industry. (This new industry does not require formal education, just someone who can do the job.)

          So I’m wondering if perhaps the same thing applies. Obviously I wouldn’t state that I’m overqualified, but I could say that I’m aware my previous experience and education is with X, but I’m looking to pursue a career in Y.

        2. First-Time Poster*

          Nevermind, I just read the person above you’s comment which I didn’t see initially on my phone. Sorry. I look like an idiot today! I’m really not I promise.

  21. Except in California*

    What about AAM OPs who invariably say they are a highly valued employee, high morals, hard worker, fabulous work ethic, yadda yadda. I’ve leaned toward giving each OP the benefit of the doubt, but I always hear a “yeah right” echoing in the more negative part of my brain. My failure.

    1. Tiff*

      You are not alone. I think that sometimes a compliment on performance can get inflated to “I’m the best employee in the world!” I tend to be contrary by nature and I tend to side-eye those statements unless it’s otherwise backed up in the OP.

    2. Joey*

      Skeptical without evidence. Or at least some indication of credible evidence (ie my boss says so)

  22. Tiff*

    Ugh, I’m hiring my first full time employee soon – and I must admit that I’m afraid of being hoodwinked by the “tellers not showers”. So far I’ve written (ok, ok – copied from the internet and formatted to suit my needs) some situational questions and I have a skills test that I hope will pinpoint writing skills and resourcefulness. So far I like what I’ve got, but being the first time I’m just nervous that I’ll hire a dud. It’s for a customer service position, and so far as I can tell from being on a bunch of interview panels everyone loves people and is great with customers at the interview. That’s wonderful until too many customers call, then they hate all human life.

    1. Joey*

      Listen for I vs. we. Hoodwinkers frequently say things like “we did”. People who say “I did” and can talk about steps, thought processes behind past decisions, outcomes, lessons learned usually aren’t BSing. And if your situationals are hypothetical remember that people frequently don’t actually do what they hope they would do. Asking about real world stuff will give you more useful info.

      1. Evan (in the USA)*

        Remember, though, that a good candidate could still lead off with what “we did.” In my last interview, I used it repeatedly to talk about a project where, quite legitimately, the team I was on worked together. Of course, when asked follow-up questions, I could enthusiastically discuss the details, steps, and thought processes behind my individual contributions. Even then, I would mention where the rest of my team was involved – we were working on this together – but you could clearly tell that I’d been personally involved.

        1. Joey*

          Of course. You just have to remember that the persons role/contribution when using “we” can’t be assumed. It doesn’t say a whole lot about what they can do. Its more about providing context/background.

    2. hawaii girl*

      My store manager used to have really great interview questions. For example, she’d ask, “tell me about a challenging customer service situation you encountered, and how you took initiative to overcome it.”
      Or, she would play a “bad” customer service rep, and would ask the interviewee to provide feedback.
      She also used a lot of role play techniques where she would play a difficult customer and observed how you handled it. I sat in on a couple, it really reveals a lot about a person.

    3. Marcy*

      When I was in college, I worked in retail. One of my co-workers had applied to an ad for a bank job. The hiring manager at the bank came in to our store as a customer and watched her interact with customers a little while (she didn’t know). He called her in for the interview and told her that she passed his test and gave her the job. I always thought that was pretty smart of him but it was in the 80’s and probably would be frowned upon now.

  23. Laura L*

    I’ve been asked in two separate (recent) job interviews to explain why I’m the best candidate for the job. I dislike this question. I know nothing about any of the other applicants–how could I possibly say who’s *best*?

    So I guess it goes both ways… applicants shouldn’t put it in their cover letters, and interviewers shouldn’t ask it in interviews.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If it helps, you can translate that in your mind to “tell me why you think you’d excel in this job.” That’s really what they mean.

  24. anon-2*

    I actually did put something like this on a cover letter (some years ago) and DID get the job.

    I did not say “I am the best candidate”. I *DID* say “I have not been actively looking for another position, but thought I’d take the opportunity to do so on this because it seems like a nearly perfect fit with my past experience…”

    Which it was. I was called in. I interviewed. It went well. I did ask “do you have other candidates?” They said “Eight others.”

    Which could not be true because there weren’t eight people in my geographic area who knew the specifics of what the position entailed. So I pretty much knew, I was going to be hired.

      1. anon-2*

        Of course not. How in hades could I do that?

        I didn’t know any of the other candidates.

  25. AB Normal*

    I was recently asked in an interview (not by the hiring manager, but a C-level executive who also interviewed me) what made me think I was the best candidate to that position. My answer was:

    “I can’t tell you whether I’m the best candidate, since I don’t know the other candidates you have. All I can say is that I chose to apply to this job because it offers the exact type of challenge I’m good at tackling … etc. etc.” I’m not entirely sure that was what the interviewer wanted to hear (he seemed the type who would welcome some “agressive sales talk” about why I was THE BEST), but I was offered the job after that interview anyway, so in the end it worked fine.

  26. Milos*

    Such statement makes the person come off as arrogant, cocky, conceited, overly confident…not a good thing and as such shouldn’t be used.

  27. BritCred*

    I’ve used a similar one but far less assumptive: “I believe I would be a asset to your company/team”.

    Is that still too big headed?

    1. Old Faithful*

      It’s not nearly as bad, but again, it’s meaningless to just say it. Show, don’t tell. If you have the accomplishments to back it up, they can decide for themselves that you’ll be an asset.

  28. Audiophile*

    I still put ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in most cases. Certainly not out of laziness, more that it can be difficult to tell who’s reading the application.

    And I’ve used something similar to the aforementioned sentence because a friend got a job with an university with a similar cover letter. So I figured, don’t stray too far off the path.

    1. First-Time Poster*

      Unless I’m told to address my cover letter to a specific person, I write “Dear Hiring Manager” because usually whoever is reading it has something to do with the hiring process. It’s also a neutral salutation so you don’t have to guess the person’s gender.

  29. LA*

    I recently sent a letter stating “I am confident that if you met me in an interview you would want to hire me.” This is the first time that I’ve said anything like this and it snagged me an I terview during a job search drought. I think this is okay but I would never claim to be more qualified than other candidates. What do people think? Was my statement over confident?

  30. Greg*

    I know the focus of this post was on the second part of the sentence, but I have to say, I’m a big fan of using the phrase “I am confident” in a cover letter.

    For example: “Based on your description of the sales manager position, I am confident I can achieve your goal of growing Chocolate Teapot’s revenues by 20% in the next year.”

    It sounds neither wishy-washy nor arrogant. It just sounds … confident!

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