Cover letter blunders (and how to avoid them)

Find out what you shouldn't write in your cover letter to a prospective employer, why you should avoid these mistakes and what you should say instead.

It comes as no surprise that graduate cover letters take ages to craft – and all that effort will be of waste if you include a cliché statement, just like everyone else. It might even undo all your effort to showcase your potential as a suitable candidate. Before your recruiter tunes out on your application, here are some sentiments and phrases that you should avoid when writing covering letters.

1) 'I just can’t convey on paper how excited I am about this opportunity.'

What you probably think you’re saying: I’m very excited about the vacancy and I hope I get it.

What the recruiter thinks: You can’t communicate.

What you should say instead: Articulate your reasons for applying for the vacancy (make it specific to the job at that company, and not just about wanting to work in that career sector in general).

2) 'My skills and past experiences enable me to excel in any role/task I take on.'

What you probably think you’re saying: My skills and past experiences mean that I’ll be able to do the role well.

What the recruiter thinks: Doubtful – no one can excel in everything. More importantly, they don’t want to know how you can do any role or task well; they want you to tell them how you can do this particular role (or the tasks you would be given) well.

What you should say instead: Go into detail about how your skills and experiences help you to meet as many of the job description’s criteria as possible.

3) 'I’m applying to you because you’re a prestigious and vibrant company.'

What you probably think you’re saying: You’re a well-known and well-regarded employer – you’re really good at what you do and I’d get a lot out of working for you (and it can't hurt to flatter you).

What the recruiter thinks: Any number of companies can be described in those terms. This reason for applying is so non-specific that you probably haven’t done any research into them at all. You obviously don’t want to work for that employer in particular; you’d be happy working for any ‘prestigious and vibrant’ employer, whatever that means.

What you should say instead: Avoid meaningless jargon and write something about the company that sounds very specific to them and the role. This could be a project/product that they’ve taken on, their training for new recruits or how they support their employees' career development.

4) 'I have great atttention to detial [sic].'

What you probably think you’re saying: I have great attention to detail.

What the recruiter thinks: Oh dear, you didn’t show great attention to detail there.

What you should do instead:  It’s probably safer not to state it in writing at all and just let the recruiters assess your attention to detail through the accuracy of your application. Or rather, if you want to make claims such as these, you have to be doubly sure that you live up to them (and avoid all typos!)