If your cover letter contains any of the four statements below, you may be sending the wrong message to potential employers. Even if you mean well, statements like these can be misleading and may come across as potential red flags. And if the applicant pool is large, you may not get a second chance to explain yourself or reframe your candidacy in a different light.
1. "Honesty is important to me, so I’ll just come right out and tell you (insert something negative about yourself)."
You were fired from your last job for stealing staples from the supply closet. Or you don’t intend to keep this job for more than six months if you receive an offer. Or you just don’t work well with others. Or you simply have nothing to offer these employers that they won’t find in every single other candidate.
If any of these are true, don’t include them in your cover letter. Everyone respects and appreciates honesty, but every single day, in every walk of life, people make fast, irrational decisions based on impressions. And in this case, your honesty can and will be overshadowed by the negative message that follows. Address these issues in your interview, not in your initial application.
2. "I may seem overqualified/I may seem under-qualified."
Let your readers and reviewers decide how over- or under-qualified you are. They know more about the demands of this position than you do, and it’s their job to make this assessment, not yours. As far as your letter is concerned, you’re the perfect match for this job in every way. Your readers can agree or disagree as they choose.
3. “You’re probably very busy/tired/annoyed/frustrated/burned-out, etc.”
This statement is usually a just a way of saying “I respect you and I don’t want to waste your time,” or "I know you’ve seen a million similar boring candidates, but I’m different from all of them." These are well-meaning messages, but when you express them in this way, they can seem presumptuous and insulting.
4. "I'm a very hard worker."
Try not to call yourself a hard worker, or "hardworking," in either your cover letter or resume. While you’re at it, don’t describe yourself as a "go-getter." These terms don’t have much value if they don’t come with specifics. They're also a bit cliched to include in a cover letter.
If you really do believe that you work harder than everyone else in the candidate pool, explain how and why. Write about a project or task in a previous or current job that involved insurmountable odds, and then write on how you rose to the challenge through particular actions.
Let Your Application Materials Tell Your Story
Who we are is expressed by what we do—and by what we’ve done in the past. Add mileage to your cover letter (and resume) by focusing on concrete examples of the things you’ve accomplished during your professional career.
Turn to LiveCareer for guidelines and How to Write a Cover Letter tips that can help you explain your credentials. You can also use LiveCareer's Cover Letter Builder or Cover Letter Templates to crank out a cover letter in no time at all.