For creative writing, Joyce Carol Oates got it right when she advised, “Be daring, take on anything.”
But when you are trying to make a good first impression on your future boss, concision and confidence sets a qualified applicant apart from one who doesn’t sound sure of her own experience.
We’ve scrutinized corporate-speak, and begged office jargon offenders to end the madness.
It’s easy to use these common fluff phrases in writing that’s trying too hard to impress. Read your work out loud, and these meaningless filler words will reveal themselves; then, it’s time to start cutting.
1. “I think”
Using “I think” or “I believe” weakens statements. “For these reasons, I believe I would be a great fit at your company.” If you only think you’re right for the job, why should the hiring manager be convinced? Owning your words is intimidating if you’re used to softening every phrase, but it isn’t pushy–it’s an exercise in clarity.
2. “I feel”
Similar to “I think,” feeling something in writing makes your message weak. “I feel confident in my abilities” becomes “I am confident.” And hey, you sound confident!
3. “In the city of…”
The reader knows you’re naming a city from the context and doesn’t need to be told: “I moved to San Francisco.” Add the state if the city isn’t well known, rather than padding with filler words.
4. “In the month of…”
Similar to the place-name padding above, saying you were hired at your last job “in the month of November” or in “the year 2010” doesn’t add anything expect for a road block to getting to the point.
These good-intentioned words show up in writing like verbal tics. Omit them, and the meaning stays the same while strengthening your writing backbone. “I’m very enthusiastic about data entry,” and “I’m enthusiastic about data entry,” mean the same thing.
Saying you’ve “never been more excited to apply” or “have always wished for this opportunity” seems insincere and probably isn’t true. Don’t exaggerate with absolutes, but don’t be tempted to replace them with “often” or “sometimes,” either. Omit the word altogether, and see if the phrase still holds up.
This word is fat and lazy, and takes up precious space where a more specific word can work harder. “There are several things in my experience I’d like to note.” Like what? Replacing “things” with meaningful abilities leaves a lasting impression. Don’t tell the reader that there are “things,” tell them what those things are.
8. “The fact that…”
If it’s a fact, state it. Simple as that.
9. All Excess Adverbs
Don’t stop at “really” and “very.” Channel your inner Hemingway: Hunt down adverbs and cut them ruthlessly. A phrase like “I eagerly await your response and appreciate your attention to my application” becomes, “Thank you for your time.”
Jargon has its place in industries that rely on technical know-how. Clichés, however, are white noise: The reader glazes over whole phrases (“in my wheelhouse,” “detail-oriented,” “team player with a track record of success”) and your material is dulled by dead spots. Ask yourself what you mean by “dynamic leader,” and then say it, straightforward.
After weeks of searching and networking, you’ve done it. You’ve found the perfect job for which to apply.
Of course, the first thing you want to do is impress the employer. In fact, you want to make such a great first impression they can’t turn you down. So what do you do? You wow them with your cover letter.
When it comes to applying for jobs, many job seekers are apprehensive about experimenting with their cover letters. There’s so much pressure to impress the hiring manager, and one slip-up could land your application in the trash.
In addition to writing an impressive cover letter, 18 percent of employers say a creative cover letter is valued. This is why you should allow your personality to shine through in order to differentiate yourself from other job seekers applying for the same position.
If you’re searching for some unique ways to make yourself stand out to employers, here are five unconventional ways to start your cover letter:
1. Break it down.
Employers like numbers. They especially like numbers when they have meaning. If you choose to use numbers to illustrate your experience in your cover letter, use them within context. This will allow employers to understand your accomplishments and how they qualify you for the position.
Example: 640 hours. 50 volunteers. Eight weeks. One event. That’s what it takes pull together Spring City’s Annual Community Expo.
As a special events professional, I’ve gained experience pulling off extremely successful events under tight deadlines. This is why I believe I’m qualified for your Special Events Manager position for Flowerville’s Chamber of Commerce.
2. Use a quote describing your work ethic.
Although it may seem cliché to use a quote in your cover letter, when used well and in context, a quote can add more value to your cover letter.
Select a quote that relates to your experience, passions, and the position for which you’re applying. Once you find a quote, tie it into the elements of your experience and explain how it summarizes your qualifications.
Example: Stephen R. Covey once said, “Accountability breeds response-ability.” As an experienced manager, I believe accountability is the key to success in any work environment. In every management position I’ve had, I’ve encouraged my employees to be accountable for their successes and failures, which is why my leadership style will be a great fit for this position.
3. Tell a mini anecdote.
Telling a story in your cover letter allows employers to see your more personal side. When employers search for candidates, they’re not only looking at your qualifications, but they also know if you’d be a good fit for their culture, too. By telling a story that relates to your career path, it will allow you to reveal your genuine self to the reader.
Example: I fell in love with basketball at a very young age. Not only do I love the sport itself, but also I loved the numbers behind the scores. Because of this life-long interest in sports and numbers, I believe I would be an excellent candidate for the Data Analyst position for the Washington Wildcats.
4. Illustrate your passions, dreams, and goals.
Employers not only want to hear why you’re qualified for the position, but they also want to know why you chose your career path. Employers want to hire passionate employees because they know these individuals will be motivated to do their job.
Example: Content marketing, social media, and research are my passions and areas of expertise. Not only are these my passions, but also I believe these skills are the foundation for any digital marketing professional. These passions, combined with my enthusiasm, would make me a great candidate for your Digital Media Manager position at ABC Marketing, Inc.
5. Speak as if you’re already hired.
When you jump into writing your cover letter, shift your mindset to as if you’re already hired. Pretend you’re in the break room and one of your coworkers or manager asks you why you chose to work at their company. This is a great way to show your interest in your cover letter.
Example: When I discovered Accounting Solutions was hiring, I knew I had to apply. I’ve been waiting to find a company where I feel like I can make a difference while working as an accountant. Not only are your clients awesome, but the overall mission of your company is something I believe in, too.
6. Say it in 140 characters or less.
Brevity is key when applying for any job. The shorter and more powerful statement you can create, the stronger your cover letter will be. Remember, employers don’t have a lot of time to review cover letters and resumes. However, if you can make your introduction short and sweet, you’ll help the employer decide if they should keep reading.
Example: Design and nature are my elements. Let me tell you how my web design experience will help you protect the environment.
There are endless ways to write a cover letter and there’s no perfect formula. Just keep in mind your audience and how you can relate to them, and you’ll be able to write a much stronger cover letter that will land you an interview.
What tips would you add to ensure a cover letter stands out to an employer?
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