8 phrases that are killing your cover letters

Few people like writing cover letters, and as a result they tend to fall back on clichés and fluff that don’t strengthen their application and in many cases weaken it. See how many of these eight phrases you recognize from your own cover letters – and if you spot any, take them out immediately!

1. “Dear Sirs.” If you’re still opening business letters with this salutation, assume that you’re offending and turning off at least half of your recipients. It’s 2015 – you shouldn’t be discounting the idea that a woman is making hiring decisions. (And if you still think that “sirs” is the generic plural for both men and women, it’s time to rethink that.) Frankly, even “dear sir or madam” is outdated enough at this point that it comes across as stuffy. It’s fine to simply go with “dear hiring manager” if you don’t know the hiring manager’s name.

2. “I’m writing to apply for the analyst position you have open. ”What’s wrong with this? Nothing – unless you forgot to replace the position title from some other application you sent off. A startling number of job applicants sent off cover letters addressed to the wrong person, naming the wrong company, or expressing interest in a position that doesn’t even exist at the place they’re applying, because they forget to customize the details of the letter for the job they’re applying for.

3. “I’m uniquely qualified to do this job.” For some reason, this phrase has become popular with job seekers, and it’s a weird one. The thing is, unless you’re intimately familiar with all the other applicants for the job, you have no way of knowing whether you’re uniquely qualified or the best qualified. (And strangely, in my experience the people who use this line rarely have unusual qualifications.)

4. “I work well independently and as part of a team.” This is another phrase that’s become oddly popular in cover letters. But making this assertion is rather like announcing that you show up on time and shower regularly; it’s expected, not something you need to specially call out and brag about. If working in groups or independently is particularly important for the job you’re applying for, you can illustrate that by providing concrete examples of times you’ve excelled at doing that – but simply proclaiming the ability doesn’t strengthen your letter and ends up watering it down. Speaking of simply proclaiming things…

5. “I’m a hard-working, detail-oriented, proactive self-starter with great communication skills.” First, these are all clichéd buzzwords. But perhaps even more importantly, it gets you exactly nowhere to simply proclaim that you are these things. If you want to convince a hiring manager that you’re detail-oriented or take initiative, the way to do that is by talking about accomplishments that use those skills and demonstrate those traits. Don’t just announce that you are (fill in the blank); showit, by what you’ve achieved that illustrates it.

6. “I don’t believe a cover letter and resume can really tell you what I have to offer, so I hope to meet in person.” The employer generally does believe that a cover letter and resume can tell them what they need to know at this stage in order to decide whether it’s worth talking further. Deriding the process that they’ve chosen to use isn’t likely to endear you to them.

7. “I’m seeking a salary of $X.” Unless you’re specifically instructed to include your salary expectations in your cover letter, no mention of salary belongs there. Some candidates announce their salary requirements in their cover letters without anyone ever asking, and often end up they wildly underprice themselves compared to what the employer is planning to pay. There’s no reason to undercut yourself (or potentially guess too high) when no one has even asked you to name a number.

8. “I’ll call your office next week to schedule an interview.” This is overly pushy and aggressive and will turn off many hiring managers. You’ve already done your part – you’ve expressed interest by applying for the job. Now it’s in the employer’s court to review your application along with the others they’ve received and decide if they’re interested in talking further.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 126 comments… read them below }

  1. Retail Lifer*

    “Some candidates announce their salary requirements in their cover letters without anyone ever asking, and they often end up wildly underpricing themselves compared to what the employer is planning to pay.”

    I’m in the opposite boat. I’m trying to change industries and any job that I’m qualified for seems to be paying $12 an hour. I’d rather take myself out of the running right away then go back and forth over something that’s ultimately not going to be negotiable enough.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      But you still shouldn’t put it in your cover letter. You can bring it up during a phone screen or when someone contacts you for an interview if it’s something you aren’t willing to wait to find out. I can sympathize; I’m an executive assistant and pay varies from $10 an hour to 6-figures, and it can be tough to figure out the range from a posting that doesn’t include it.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        I’ve just had so many initially positive interviews that get awkward when they ask about my salary history and /or how much I want to make. If I thought there was a chance that I might lowball myself (i.e. no salary info for the company or position was available) I would avoid it.

  2. UKAnon*

    For #1, is this culture specific? I always use Sir/Madam, and have never seen Hiring Manager… I don’t know if they’re even called Hiring Manager in the UK? I want to check I shouldn’t be changing it to “Whom it may concern” or similar.

    (Whom it may concern is reserved for stiff complaints!)

    1. LBK*

      It may be – at least in the US, sir/madam is overly formal, especially for someone you’d be working for. If you wouldn’t address them that way while actually being employed by them, it comes off a little stuffy to address them that way in your cover letter.

      1. blackcat*

        What about good old “whom it may concern”?

        I’ve never applied for a job where I didn’t know the name of the person I was applying to work with, but that one is always my go-to for business-y emails sent off into the world. Is that too formal? Or too awkward? I always figured it was generic, and always applicable…

    2. Claire (Scotland)*

      Yeah, I’ve never heard the phrase Hiring Manager used over here. I get stuff addressed to Dear Sir/Madam all the time and would never think anything of it.

    3. Merry and Bright*

      I’ve only come across Hiring Manager twice in the UK and that was for companies where I was applying to UK offices of US firms.

      1. Ad Astra*

        So… Is there a different name for the manager who is helping to choose a new hire for a position? Or is it just that nobody would address a letter to “Hiring Manager”?

      1. Man in The Mirror*

        Does the London office have a lot of interaction with US companies? I can see this being something that gets picked up that way, or if a company hires people with US experience.

    4. Tau*

      I was about to ask about this! I went for “Dear sir or madam”, but I always find it awkward that you can then basically go from “Dear sir or madam” to “Hi Wakeen” within one or two e-mails.

    5. Lurker*

      If it’s for a nonprofit, I think “Hiring Manager” makes the applicant seem out of touch — it seems like something a for profit would use. I’d rather have “To Whom It May Concern:”.

    6. JAM*

      I’m working for a US company in a UK office and either would seem totally normal. That said not bothering to write a cover letter at all is the most common state of affairs.

  3. some1*

    Ugh, I did something similar to #2 not in a cover letter, but a follow-up email.

    I had received a job offer, but wanted to double-check with 4-5 places where I had interviewed but hadn’t heard yay or nay yet. I composed a very professional email following up with the other companies, and forgot to change the Hiring Manager’s name and company name on one of them.

  4. BRR*

    I saw somebody post on tumblr how they were tired of writing cover letters because there were only so many times they could say they were “eager to please.” Bleh

    1. OfficePrincess*

      That phrase just makes me think of a lab puppy. Probably not the image most applicants are going for.

    2. Dovahkiin*

      That and “positive attitude.”

      At this point, I would actually be very curious to bring someone in for an interview if they mentioned “achieving X results with a negative attitude.”

  5. Ad Astra*

    I remember thinking I was so far ahead of the pack when I ended my cover letters with something about “I’ll call next week to schedule an interview.” Ugghhh. Plus, I usually forgot to follow up, which probably didn’t help my case. I was very relieved when I realized the ball was in the hiring manager’s court.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      I suspect this is a reason many companies are “confidential” and hire through recruiters now.

  6. Golden Yeti*

    I have a question re: #2. What if you know the hiring manager’s name, and it’s a woman? With men, it tends to be easier, because they are always “Mr. Smith,” whether they’re married or not. Women can be “Miss, Ms., or Mrs. Smith”

    I don’t want to assume someone’s status too much, as it could be insulting. Would Ms. Smith be the safest option for addressing such letters?

    1. UKAnon*

      I would usually have agreed that Ms is best, but then I offended a Mrs by calling her Ms… She was very keen to impress that her children had a father… So now I don’t know!

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        This reminds me of the acquaintance who signs her children’s school forms “Mrs. Husbandsname Lastname” to, and I quote, “ensure the school knows that they are an intact family unit.” Ooookay then.

        1. Formerly The Office Admin, Now Full Time Job Huntress*

          Ahhh this reminds me of a client couple at OldJob, the wife signed the checks(joint account for Lucas Mortimer and Lucinda Mortimer) as Mrs Lucas Mortimer.
          I’m not even sure if that’s a legal way to sign a check(???right?) I mean, it’s not her legal name and its not technically a name on their bank account…
          Anyway, even our company accountant was like, uhhhhhh…. This is different.

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            30 years ago it was legal and common on personal joint checking accounts. I don’t know about now though…

          2. Miss Betty*

            That’s appropriate (but old fashioned). Mrs. Lucas Mortimer would indicate that she’s married or widowed. Mrs. Lucinda Mortimer would indicate that she’s divorced. I don’t think I ever use Mrs. Husband Lastname anymore, even when addressing mail to my older (80+ years old) relatives and no one seems to mind. I don’t mind (and generally expect) Ms. Miss Betty Lastname but I really get tickled if I get a piece of mail addressed to Mrs. Husband Lastname. I don’t know why, but I do!

            1. Sif*

              Wait, “Mrs. Lucinda Mortimer” means she’s divorced? I’ve always thought “Mrs.” was only used by women who were currently married (or possibly widowed and not interested in remarrying), and that a divorced woman would use “Ms.”

            2. Beancounter in Texas*

              I kept my maiden name, but socially I use my husband’s surname. Mrs. Husband Surname makes for a great email address too. It’s entertaining when my husband is called Mr. Maiden name. Hee hee.

              I remember in a biography about General George Patton that one of his daughters wrote a letter to the editor and signed it Mrs. Husband’s Name. I wondered how on earth any reader of her letter would know who it was without her given name, but then I suppose that’s the purpose of marriage announcements? *head scratch*

        2. Ad Astra*

          Oh I hate when I receive mail (usually wedding invitations) addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Husbandsname Lastname.” Why take my name out of the equation?

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            When I got married, I told our officiant I did NOT want to be “introduced” at the end of the ceremony as “Mr. and Mrs. Alfonso Mulberry.” No way, no how. Hate that. We went with “Mr. and Mrs. Alfonso and Persephone Mulberry.” (As I said below, I don’t really do “Mrs.” under any circumstances, but I made an exception for this.)

            I also addressed my wedding invites to Hisname and Hername Lastname, no Mr./Mrs./Ms. of any kind.

          2. Kelly L.*

            This was the dawn of my feminism, at the age of about 5. I saw a letter addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Dad Lastname, and I knew full well my mom had her own first name, and it just seemed so unfair!

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            Right?! Reminds me of when wives were considered the property of their husbands

          4. Sascha*

            I recently had a co-ed baby shower that was hosted by my mom and sister, and my mom INSISTED we address the invites as Mr. and Mrs. Husbandsname Lastname. I was so annoyed. I kept arguing with her about it but she addressed all the envelopes before I could get to them and told me it was one of the remaining ways people could be “civilized.” Ugh.

            But I had my revenge…we set out envelopes for the guests to address for the thank you notes, and all the guests addressed them as Wife and Husband Lastname. Ha!

        3. some1*

          This reminds me of a couple of women I know who are married and don’t use their maiden names anywhere on Facebook. Which is fine, but then they got annoyed that someone from high school didn’t accept their friend request. Common first name + strange last name + profile picture of a toddler and a dog isn’t going to help someone who hasn’t seen you since the 90s recongnize you.

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            I admit I am one of those (“married name only” people, not “annoyed when people don’t recognize my married name” people. It helps that I married my highschool sweetheart, so anyone who doesn’t recognize ONE of our names is probably not someone I care about enough to friend on FB anyway).

            1. AMT*

              Doesn’t FB now have the option to put your old name in parentheses under your name, e.g. “Alice Jones (Smith)” or “Alice Jones (Andrew Jones)”?

        4. Stephanie*

          And gross. Whether the kid has a traditional nuclear family or not shouldn’t matter to the school.

          1. Sara*

            I would be so confused if a parent did this, because (a) as you point out, I’m not concerned about whether my students’ families are “traditional nuclear families” as opposed to some alternate structure, and (b) my students are by and large from non-US countries, and so they and their family members tend to have names that are unfamiliar to me – so if Mom signs something as Mrs. Husbandsname Lastname, there’s a decent chance I might think Husbandsname is her name, and then conferences are going to be so awkward.

        5. The Expendable Redshirt*

          When I was married, people would address mail TO ME as Mrs. Husbandsname Lastname. And even though I corrected people many times, they STILL addressed my mail as Mrs. Husbandsname Lastname. It drove me bananas! Dear silly people, just because I entered into a matrimonial state, that does not mean my individuality has been consumed. I have a female birth name that I like to use. Please use it. #End rant.

          1. Judy*

            Only my husband’s Grandma did that. Of course, she also addressed the gift tag on my Christmas present to “Husbandsname’s wife”. But she usually gave me Godiva chocolate, so I just rolled my eyes and said thank you.

            1. OfficePrincess*

              I make an exception for our grandmas. And that is it. Those of you born since women have had the right to vote can recognize that I’m my own person.

          2. Ad Astra*

            Oh my gosh, I would go nuts if I was ever addressed that way when the mail n question didn’t even involve my husband. After a second offense, I’d start removing these senders from my Christmas card list.

          3. AMT*

            My mom has addressed at least one envelope to “Mr. and Mrs. Myname Mylastname.” My wife did NOT change her name when we married.

            1. The Expendable Redshirt*

              I also did not change my last name when I got married. Hello Mrs. Hername Herlastname!
              I gave people who didn’t know me well a pass on mangling my last name, since it’s so conventional for women to change their name upon marriage.

              My parents were the worst offenders for Mrs. Hisname Hislastname. Which is funny, since they gave me my name to start with. Its not like they forgot who I am.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Ignoring the fact that “Ms.” is perfectly appropriate for a married woman, I’d like to point out that many children with divorced or unmarried mothers have present, fully involved fathers. I wouldn’t use this lady as a resource for what’s appropriate.

        1. UKAnon*

          Oh, I was absolutely flabbergasted at the time and still use Ms. unless I know for certain that the person wants it to be otherwise. It was just a cautionary tale as I don’t know how many people out there would be offended by Ms.

      3. Merry and Bright*

        +10 The whole point is that Ms is neutral. It isn’t a synonym for Miss so the lady wasn’t very logical.

      4. Melissa*

        That…doesn’t make sense. All children have a father regardless of their mother’s marital status. Also, Ms. was specifically devised to NOT indicate the marital status of a woman. I would think a woman who gets offended by this is somewhat unappeasable anyway…

      5. Coach Devie*

        Ms. Is not the same as Miss. I wish people understood that. Ms. can apply to both married and unmarried women, while Miss is exclusive to single/unmarried/never married women. At least as far as I know, lol.

      1. L*

        YES! For reference, I’m married and always go by Ms. in a professional setting. My marital status has nothing to do with the workplace.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Unless in academia – if it’s a professor, default to Dr or call support staff and ask whether the faculty prefers to be addressed as “Professor X” or “Dr X”.

        I have a friend who gets so (rightfully!) frustrated when there is a stack of mail from one of the textbook reps addressing all the male faculty in her department as “Dr.” but her as “Ms.” I suspect it’s entered that way in the address book and gets filled in by a mail merge, but really, it’s rude and annoying, and if your clientele is academia it seems like a “duh” to default to Professor or Dr if you want their business.

        1. Melissa*

          I think some textbook manufacturers have gotten so wary of this that they’ve gone the other way, and pretty much everyone they contact they refer to as Professor or Dr. I remember several times in grad school I got correspondence from textbook companies addressing me as Dr. Melissa when I hadn’t graduated yet (and wasn’t even close, lol). However, I was never offended to be called Dr, lol! So I completely agree – defaulting to Dr. or Professor will be right most of them time and will never offend people when you are incorrect.

          1. blackcat*

            Yep, I get these now (current grad student), and I have a very, very feminine first name.

            No offense is every taken! I’ve heard it can rub some ABD folks the wrong way, but really, it’s far safer than the alternatives.

        2. Artemesia*

          The highpoint for me was when a colleague with an ABD was addressed as Dr. Whiteguy and I was Miss Justawoman when I was the one with the PhD and he the ABD. In prestigious places everyone is Mr. or Ms. — the less prestigious the academic venue, the more likely everyone is to make a big deal of ‘Dr.’

          1. Dr. Doll*

            YEP! Especially if you don’t have a PhD, but another kind of doctorate. I call myself Dr. Doll here as a handle, but IRL it’s Winky Doll, Ph.D. for formal signatures and “Call me Winky” at all other times. The people with EdD’s are funny to me in their insistence on being called Dr. Jay Leno.

            Sorry that happened, Artemesia, it’s over the top aggravating.

    2. Poohbear McGriddles*

      I’d go with “Dear Kelly Smith” – especially if you don’t know the manager’s gender.

      1. De Minimis*

        Ah, I remember the whole discussion about that one….I still dislike using First Name/Last Name. The only letters I get that use that are automated junk mail.

      2. LBK*

        Agreed – I’d just use their first name instead of a title. Presumably that’s what you’d be calling them if you ended up working for them, so odds are they aren’t going to be too miffed if you use it on your cover letter.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Candidates address me as Mr. Lastname all the time and I never bother to correct them because my name is not only general-neutral, it is used very rarely by women (obviously my first name is not really Lily). Kind of like how some women are named Michael – my name is similarly “male”.

        But now I’m second-guessing myself – is there any reason I should correct these people, especially considering I don’t even meet most of them unless they actually get hired?

        1. Ad Astra*

          It might be useful (and kind) to correct people if you’re planning to interview them, so they’re not caught off guard when they meet you. Or if they’re a strong enough candidate that you think you might be in touch with them in the future. Or if something in the correspondence (besides the courtesy title) refers to you as a man, which seems unlikely in professional context, but who knows.

          If you don’t see yourself ever communicating again with this person, I see no reason to correct them, because it’s not relevant and you’ve got better things to do. Weird that they didn’t look you up on LinkedIn, though. I always do that.

        2. Retail Lifer*

          I go by a nickname that is usually male. I get emails addressed to me as Mr. Most of the time I’ll never see the people that write them so it doesn’t matter. When it happens with a candidate I’m interviewing, I usually don’t correct them. It’s so awkward. I figure they’ll just be in for a surprise when they meet me.

        3. Ms. Elizabeth*

          Can you put in the job posting that it should be addressed to “Ms. Last Name” or something along those lines? I work in academia and that’s what I did. Several e-mail inquiries used to refer to me as “Dear Professor Last Name” or “Dr. Last Name” or even “Mrs. Last Name”. I wasn’t any of those…

          1. Lily in NYC*

            It is my nickname with some of my family members, so it’s not completely made up!

      4. Kelly L.*

        I’m a Kelly, and a few years ago I had an interview with a Terry. I think both of us spent the first few seconds of the interview thinking “Oh, that‘s what gender you are!”

    3. De Minimis*

      I’d say so, it’s more or less standard anymore, and you’re right that it doesn’t carry any assumptions.

    4. HR Manager*

      “Ms.” is always the safest to go with if you are unaware of which title to use.

    5. Pinkie Pie Chart*

      I default to Ms. for women. I feel like people are more likely to be offended at the other two. Miss feels…patronizing somehow. (Though being Miss FirstName is very common in the south.) And Mrs. can feel wrong to people, even if they are married.

      I have a hard time with non-gender identifying names or obviously non-English names. For those, I usually did Dear FirstName LastName. Better to avoid the whole problem.

        1. Mae North*

          9 years this year, and I’m still taken aback by Mrs. North. Ms. North I can live with.

      1. The IT Manager*

        “Miss ” is patronizing because of historical baggage- it is used for girls up to the point they marry implying that a woman like a 22 year old college graduate is still a child unless she’s married.

        OTOH the formal address for a male child was “Master,” but that has totally gone out of style and boys get addressed as “mister” just like adult men.

        1. Dana*

          My Nana used to address all our mailed birthday cards “officially”: I was Miss Dana Lastname and my brother was Master Firstname Lastname. We got a kick out of it, but I’m sure most people don’t know about Master.

      2. Melissa*

        Miss Firstname in the South is more of an informal address, though. You’d call your mom’s friends or the ladies at church Miss Jane or Miss Sally, but a hiring manager would still be Ms. Smith.

        And I agree – I’ve been married for three years but Mrs. Lastname still feels really weird. (Dr. Lastname sounds even weirder, although it is technically correct; I prefer to go with Ms. Lastname, especially since I still use my original name professionally.)

      3. Ms. Elizabeth*

        Yes! Someone once wrote, “Dear Mrs. Last Name” and I was confused as to why they assumed I was married.

        I Google people to find out their gender. It works out (at least in academia) because most people have a bio online with their school.

      4. Dana*

        I feel like I heard France ousted “mademoiselle” for this reason, that’s it’s patronizing, archaic, and no one’s business? I could be wrong.

    6. Ad Astra*

      Stick with Ms. That’s the abbreviation that applies regardless of marital status, the way Mr. does for men. I’ve heard there are some women (though I’d guess many of them have aged out of the working world by now) who associate “Ms.” with radical feminism, but I’ve never encountered one myself.

    7. Tomato Frog*

      Ms. was invented for precisely this reason. It doesn’t mean a woman can’t correct you if she prefers a different title, but anyone who gets offended by Ms. is wackadoo or amazingly misinformed.

    8. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ms. should be your default when you don’t know, since it covers all situations. It’s far worse to guess at Ms. and have it turn out that the person uses Mrs. than to guess and use Mrs. when the person uses Ms. (since the latter guess makes you look sexist and out of touch).

  7. T3k*

    *reads list and sighs in relief* Thankfully (with a lot of help from reading this site) I’ve completely re-hauled my cover letter for a company I’d genuinely love to work for, and while I may not hear back, I now have a wonderful cover letter to work with for future endeavors. I actually wrote so much, it went over a page so I had to work on trimming it down, whereas my first cover letter barely had 2 paragraphs.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      Seriously. I had no idea how to write a cover letter before coming to this site. I struggled to stretch them out to two paragraphs, and even then it was just a summary of my resume.

      1. T3k*

        Yep, that’s how mine was. I started it off by doing the whole “Hi, my name is…” and then basically summarized my resume (which basically meant reiterating my education/skills at the time). Talk about embarrassing.

        1. Chalupa Batman*

          Same here. I used to think my cover letters (basically a grab bag of this list with a few decent lines stuffed in between) were amazeballs and why wasn’t I getting interviews? I’m so glad I found AAM.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I’ve managed to eliminate these phrases from my cover letters, but not having these crutches (horrible as they may be) makes composing a cover letter feel so much harder! Of course, my result is a thousand times better.

  8. Amber Rose*

    Ugh. I have sent so many cover letters addressed to the wrong company. And/or without my resume attached. It’s so embarassing.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I sent out two rejection letters and accidentally put each letter in the envelope meant for the other person. I’m sure they felt so special – not only did they not get the job, they didn’t even get the right rejection letter. I still feel guilty about it and it was 12 years ago!

      1. Kelly L.*

        I sent out acceptance letters to a program and mixed up two people’s letters (same first name and last initial). They both called me confused, not sure if they really got in. I was so glad it was the acceptances and not the rejections, and even gladder that the acceptances and rejections had been done on two different days and in vastly different envelopes, so at least I was only mixing apples with apples! Sympathy martini for you.

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh man, that actually happened recently with Carnegie Mellon, I believe. The school sent out acceptance letters to students who were actually rejected.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I had almost the opposite—a fancy-schmancy school sent me both a waitlist letter and a rejection. I checked with my guidance counselor, and it turned out I was waitlisted, but it left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t want to stick around on the waitlist. (It was an unpleasant rejection letter, too.)

        2. Lily in NYC*

          Oh thank goodness they were both getting in! I always feel so bad for those poor kids who get accepted by a software glitch and then rejected again.

      2. Ama*

        Augh, that is my nightmare when it comes to rejection letters. Thankfully the closest I’ve come so far is sending an award letter to a grantee and leaving the title of the previous grantee’s project in the letter — I still had to clarify that we did, in fact, mean to award his proposal but at least it was happy news.

    2. Ad Astra*

      This is something I would be quite prone to do, so I start all of my cover letters from scratch rather than using old ones as a template.

  9. Lizabeth*

    I’ve done a lot of these in the past job hunting (head hanging in shame…) Time to revisit the cover letter…

  10. LadyHope*

    I’m also over here sighing in relief! I am so glad to have this site as a resource when it comes to resumes and cover letters. I’ve had two phone interviews in the last week.

  11. Rachael*

    Ah, these are such pet peeves of mine! We still receive many resumes without cover letters even though our instructions specifically ask for a letter of interest. An alarming number of applications come from out of state without any indication of relocating; we also receive resumes from many applicants who have zero experience in the field and do not indicate wanting to change careers. What a relief when we receive resumes and cover letters that not only follow instructions, but are well written.

    1. Research Assistant*

      Do you expect out-of-state applicants to explicitly say that they want to relocate? I’m in the midst of a (so far unsuccessful) long-distance job search, so all of the jobs I apply for are in a different state. I always write a cover letter explaining why I think I’d be a good fit for the job, but I usually don’t explicitly say I want to move. I always thought it was obvious that if I was applying for a job in another state then I was willing to move there. Why wouldn’t I be? Is this really something that’s holding me back? It seems so awkward to say “I’m actively interested in moving to New City, which is why I applied for this position,” or something similar. Despite picking only jobs I’m well-qualified for and sending a good resume and cover letter every time I almost never even get a phone interview. It’s very discouraging and I’d hate to think that this is all because employers don’t think I’m serious about relocation. I can’t afford to move before finding a job, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go there!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, you need to say it. Lots of people apply for jobs hoping they’ll be able to do it remotely or just scattershot with no particular interest in the city it’s based in.

        1. Research Assistant*

          Thanks for the answer! I’ll definitely do this going forward. Hopefully it will help my search. I was starting to feel a bit like a professional leper.

  12. Julie*

    “I work well independently and as part of a team.”

    While I’ve never used this myself, I suspect it might have something to do with the zillions of job postings that ask for candidates who work well independently and as part of a team. Even though it should be a given, I’d say that at least 75% of the job postings I’ve seen have included this. And if you’ve been told to address every point in a job posting, you’ll probably just shoehorn this in somewhere. Yes, a good candidate will show how they work well independently and as part of a team (or perhaps just ignore this altogether, as it’s kinda meaningless in terms of showing why you’d be a good fit for a position). But if you don’t really know what you’re doing beyond what your guidance counsellor or career counsellor told you, then it probably seems about right.

    1. Ad Astra*

      In my experience, there aren’t a ton of people who truly work equally well individually and as part of a team, so this meaningless cliche often isn’t even accurate.

    2. Sif*

      Yeah, I remember the “I work well independently and as part of a team” thing being emphasized in my high school Work Education class.

    3. Yeah*

      I think you could be right about that! I see soooooo many postings stating this exact cliche. If they don’t want applicants saying it, it shouldn’t be listed as a requirement. Totally agree with the points above- it’s so ridiculously meaningless. Yes, you could potentially be ok at both, but chances are you either like one better or are better at one. Hopefully, what you are good at and what you like match up.

      …Sorry, I’m just a little disgruntled today. It’s been a long job search.

    4. Burkleigh*

      I am guilty of using this line in my cover letters, but only when that wording is used in the job requirements. The way many job ads are written, I often end up putting in a lot of cliched lines from the ad, like “I can work both independently and in a team, I am willing to work nights and weekends, I have good organizational skills” etc. near the end of my cover letters, after I write more thoroughly about the experience I’ve had that relates to the job. I try to make clear in my resume which jobs gave me which type of experience, to give more context to the “both independently and in teams” statement.

      1. Yeah*

        Same here, though always in the back of my mind, I’m wondering if I really want to work somewhere that can only regurgitate catch-phrases. I just try to hope it’s only HR, and not necessarily reflective of the Hiring Manager. But, if I were to find that was the case, that would definitely affect my interest level.

      2. Dana*

        I do take my cue from the posting because I never know who’s initially screening these–if I say I’m a landscape expert but the person is told to ditch anything that doesn’t say “able to mow lawns” then I’m shooting myself in the foot for no reason. I imagine they list things in the job posting because they’re looking for those things.

  13. K.*

    Whew! I’m job-hunting now and thankfully none of these are in my cover letters. (Still don’t like writing ’em though.)

  14. Katie the Fed*

    I hate, hate, HATE anything salesy like this: “I’ll call your office next week to schedule an interview.”

    It’s so obnoxious. It’s like my date ordering for me in the restaurant. How dare you assume you know what I want? I’ll decide, thankyouverymuch.

  15. Cruciatus*

    I was nervous something I do would show up here but I am pleased to report I do not use any of these cover letter killers. Whew! My time in Ask A Manager Land has taught me well.

  16. Audiophile*

    I started using “Dear Hiring Manager” a few years ago, after having a few people tell me that “Dear Sir/Madam” was too formal.
    For a long time, I still replied “Dear Ms/Mr. Last Name” when replying to emails or interview invitations via email.

    Then, of course, I found myself in the one scenario where that was impossible. I remember a particularly frantic email I shot off to a friend, after I got a reply to an application and it was signed “Bobby and team.” I was flummoxed as to how to reply to it, as I wasn’t sure if Bobby was the only one with access to that email address or he personally would be reading my email or who “and team” was.

  17. Merry and Bright*

    I think a lot of these cliches are clogging up cover letters (and CVs) because many recruiters love to put them in their job ads.

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