Three years ago, job search expert Jenny Foss wrote one of my favorite articles on cover letters. It was called, “Bad Pick-Up Lines: They Don’t Work in Bars, They Don’t Won’t in Cover Letters.” (Yes, I remember it even three years later.)
Even after reading that article, it took me some time—longer than I’d like to admit—to step outside of the “I am writing to apply for [position]” lead-in, because it’s what I was comfortable with. But it’s 2015, and people are still writing form letters, which leads to the spread of terrible advice like, “No one reads cover letters anyway.”
It’s not that no one reads them. The hard truth is that if your letter looks like everyone else’s, the hiring manager will read it—and promptly forget it.
So, read on for the five of the most cliché lines to strike from your cover letter immediately. (Bonus points if you have yours open in a separate screen, highlight any offending lines, and promise to change them before you submit your next application.)
1. “I Am Applying for the Role of [Title] at [Company]”
Years ago, when applications were sent through the mail and secretaries sorted through letter after letter, it was probably really important to dedicate your opening line to the job you were applying for. But nowadays, I’d guess you’re applying via some system that makes it clear what position you’re interested in—such as an online portal where you can check that box or in an email with the subject line: Application: [Name of Role]. In other words, the person reading your cover letter knows why you’re there.
Of course, I’m not suggesting you never mention the position. The very opposite is true: You should absolutely mention the position, the company, and why you’re a fit for both. What I’m saying is that if you open your cover letter with the line above, you’ll have the same opener as several other candidates. Translation: You’ll have wasted your first impression as well as valuable space.
So, start your letter by grabbing the hiring manager’s attention (more on that here), and then leading into why you’re a fit for the particular role and organization.