Four covering letter blunders (and how to avoid them)

21 Jun 2023, 15:38

Find out about the phrases you should avoid including in your covering letter for an internship, work experience placement or graduate job, and why.

A black laptop keyboard with an oops written on a blue enter key, signalling covering letter mistakes

Graduate cover letters and application form answers take ages to craft well, so don't waste all that effort by including a clichéd statement that, however well-intentioned, might undo all your good work elsewhere. Here are some sentiments and phrases that you should avoid when writing covering letters for work experience placements or graduate jobs…

Don't say: 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 (and make it specific to the job at that company, not just wanting to work in that career sector in general).

Don't say: My skills and past experience enable me to excel in any role/task I take on

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

What the recruiter thinks: Doubtful – no one can excel in everything. And, more importantly, I don’t want to know how you can do any role or task well; I want you to tell me 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.

Don't say: 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 us. You obviously don’t want to work for us in particular; you’d be happy working for any ‘prestigious and vibrant’ employer, whatever that means. Go apply elsewhere. (I'm not flattered.)

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.

Don't say: I have great atttention to detial [sic]

What you probably think you’re saying: I have great a tt ention to det ai l.

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

What you should do instead: Saying that you have great attention to detail in an application is fatal; you’re bound to make a mistake after writing it. 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.

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