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8 words and phrases to cut from your cover letter

By Emilly Parris

One of the best ways to show an employer you are right for the job is to go the extra mile and craft a cover letter. A cover letter is a chance to outline your experience and explain why you are the ideal candidate for the job. It also allows you to address things like gaps in employment, reasons for wanting to relocate and other information that you may not have in your resume.

Crafting an effective cover letter takes time and consideration, so it’s important to get it right. In this article, we’re looking at 8 words and phrases to avoid using in your cover letter, so that you can improve your chances of getting the job.

1. ‘I’m passionate about’.

The words ‘passion’ or ‘passionate’ in a cover letter are at best overused and at worst, insincere. If you want to strengthen the wording in your letter, it’s best to avoid them entirely. Try to tie in your passion by aligning the role’s responsibilities with your own experience. Mention that you are excited to develop your skills in an organisation that you admire.

2. ‘I feel/ think/ believe’.

Avoid using words that suggest or imply doubt in your abilities. Go in strong and showcase your accomplishments and any positive results you’ve achieved.

3. ‘I’m not sure/ I don’t know if’.

There is no place for uncertainty in your cover letter. If you have questions about the role, you can save them for the interview.

4. ‘To whom it may concern’.

man typing on laptop

This phrase is considered a formal business salutation, but it is somewhat outdated. Where possible, you should aim to address a person by name such as “Dear [Name]”, or “Dear [Title] [Surname].” This shows you have taken the time to do your research and is an effective way to get someone’s attention.

If you do not have a name to address, it is perfectly fine to begin your letter with “Hello”, “Hi there” or “To [Job Title] at [Company Name]” e.g. “To the Hiring Manager at Google”.

5. ‘I think I’d make a good fit/ I’d be perfect for the role’.

Rather than saying you’ll make a good fit, try to include examples that highlight how your skills will benefit the employer. Refer to your experience, cite specific examples by examining the job listing and make it obvious to whoever is reading that you are the obvious choice for the role for a number of reasons.

6. ‘Salary’.

A cover letter is your chance to introduce yourself and highlight your suitability for the role, it is not a place to discuss salary or compensation. This is something you can address with your employer once you’ve received a job offer and are aware of all the responsibilities of the role.

7. ‘I used to’.

Although it is better to write how you speak, there are situations when you’ll want to dial it back. Keep your sentences short and your language simple. Instead of saying “I used to work at Facebook, you can say “I worked at Facebook.”

8. ‘Basically/ essentially’.

Filler words are unnecessary in your cover letter and when overused, can serve to undermine your skills and abilities. Try to keep your sentences simple by using only words that are necessary to make your point.

For example, instead of “essentially, I’ve had about seven years’ experience managing the social media accounts of small businesses”, it is better to say “I have seven years’ experience managing social media accounts for various clients including [Business 1] and [Business 2]. Not only does this read better, it’s also more specific, which is something you should aim for when writing your cover letter.

Other tips to improve your cover letter

woman shaking man's hand

  • Read the entire job listing. Some job listings contain specific instructions about what to include in your application—this is a way for hiring managers to weed out unsuitable candidates. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully before submitting your application.
  • Only include relevant information. A personal touch in your cover letter is great, but you do not need to tell your life story. Keep things brief and to the point and try to stick to the most relevant information.
  • Use powerful verbs and an active voice. For example; “I analysed/ improved/ coordinated/ monitored/ regulated” instead of “the project was coordinated by me”.
  • Be specific. Address the responsibilities of the role and how well you can fulfil them through your experience and/or willingness to learn. Avoid being too generic in your language.
  • Don’t make it all about you. Make sure you include some information about the company as well, so the employer knows you’ve done your research.
  • Proofread your cover letter. Too many spelling or grammatical mistakes can send the wrong message to employers. If you can, get a family member or friend to have a look over your cover letter to make sure there are no errors or typos.

Getting your cover letter right.

A cover letter affords you the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself and highlight your strongest qualifications. Although it takes extra effort, employers look favourably upon candidates who have taken the time to craft a cover letter. By strengthening your cover letter, you can improve your chances of being noticed and securing the job of your dreams.
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*By providing your information, you agree to our Privacy Policy and to receiving email and other forms of communication from Upskilled. You are able to opt-out at any time.