We’ve all been told that if we want to sell ourselves to employers, honey attracts more attention than vinegar. And when they step into a room, lions and bulls make a more memorable entrance then mice. If we have to choose, positive spin will win the day over negative truth. And the loud, aggressive fool in the room will always earn more respect than the quiet, hesitant expert.
Under some circumstances, these assessments may be unfortunately true. But when it comes to your cover letter, it’s a good idea to scope out the landscape, research the company, and consider your audience before you bombard your reader with aggressive, positive statements and endless exclamation points. Here are a few thoughts that can help you find the line and tone things down before your decisions cause more harm than good.
Volume & Positivity Can Lead to Clichés
The path to aggression and positivity is well traveled. Marketers, salespeople, con-artists, and class clowns have taken this wide highway for generations in order to attract attention and get their way from others. So be careful—some of the terms and you use in the name of positivity and enthusiasm may sound original to you, but they’re so threadbare at this point that your readers will simply roll their eyes. Watch out for terms like these, and if you spot them in your letter, rephrase or delete:
- Whatever it takes
- Get the job done
- Hard working/hard worker
- Will to win
- Make it happen
This list is by no means comprehensive, but here’s a rule of thumb: if your positive terminology can be applied to any person or situation in the world, not just you, then it isn’t helping you. Take it out.
When Aggression Can Backfire
If you use phrases like the ones below to praise and describe someone else, your words will be taken to heart and received as they’re intended. But unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well when you use them to describe yourself. There’s an old saying about power: if you have to tell people you have it, you don’t. Rein in self-references that use these terms:
- Going in for the kill
- Going for the jugular
- Wolf in sheep’s clothing
- Crushing/killing/destroying when referring to competition or successful professional projects
Formatting and Punctuation Make Strong Statements
In a professional written document, a single exclamation point can go a long way. So can a single word in italics or all caps. Use these formatting decisions the way you would use a very strong seasoning while making a meal—you don’t have to avoid them altogether, but think carefully. Are they really necessary in this context?
Watch out for Exaggerations
An over-the-top, enthusiastic attitude can show your readers that you’re super excited about the subject matter. But if your emotions seem to be carrying you away, your readers will think twice before they trust your words. Even an innocuous, reasonable, perfectly truthful claim can sound questionable if it’s being shouted by a madman. So if you’re just making a statement, don’t cross the line into exaggeration. And if you’re exaggerating, don’t cross the line into outright lies (no matter how impossible they are to verify).
Keep a Cool Head
Your phrases and resume claims can be positive while still remaining concrete, honest, and straightforward. Turn to LiveCareer for templates and tips than can help you deliver a strong message without getting in your own way.