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8 Things You Should Never Say In Your Cover Letter But Probably Have

8 Things You Should Never Say In Your Cover Letter But Probably Have

Even more than your résumé, a cover letter is a chance for you to demonstrate to a company why you are a good fit for them. It gives you the chance to show off your personality, brag a little, and point them to your salient qualifications so that they don’t gloss over the parts of your résumé that are important. Sadly, while writing a cover letter is a great opportunity, it is one that often goes horribly wrong.

The reason the cover letter causes problems for many people is they use one or more of the following phrases which are immediate red flags to any employer and will make them throw your résumé away and leave you jobless for yet another day. If you want to keep yourself out of the “Do not call” pile and land an interview, avoid these common cover letter errors.

“To Whom it May Concern”

Any banal, impersonal greeting is the kiss of death right from the outset. If you are starting a cover letter with this or “Dear Hiring Manager” it looks like a form letter that you just copied and pasted. Address it to a person whenever possible. If no name is given, try doing a little research to find out who their HR manager is. They will admire your pluck and ingenuity. If you can’t find anyone, don’t address it to a person and instead include a formal greeting such as “Good morning” or skip the greeting altogether.

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“I’m a hard worker”

This should only be included if you have never had a job before in your life. Employers all want hard workers, but more than that they want efficient workers, smart workers, intuitive workers, and dynamic workers. They aren’t looking for someone to plod through the day. They want a personality that solves problems, creates solutions, behaves positively, and gets results.

Rather than highlighting that you would make a good drone, give examples of ways you improved companies with which you have worked, added value to a brand, helped your fellow workers, or dazzled your clients.

“Looking for a more challenging position”

This statement makes it sound like the work your are doing is beneath you, which can make you seem arrogant and discontented. An employer wants to hear that you know how to challenge yourself and can expand the reach of your position on your own. They want someone that will be happy with whatever task they have rather than looking for greener pastures.

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“Seeking Advancement”

You don’t even have one job yet and you already want a promotion? Employers want people that are motivated and upwardly mobile but they also want someone who will prove they can do the job they are assigned. Nearly any company has opportunity for advancement. The key is proving that you deserve to be advanced, not telling them they should help you climb the ladder.

“I am perfect for this position”

This is a classic case of “show, don’t tell.” Words are very cheap in cover letters and if you just flagrantly point out that you are the right choice they will almost certainly dismiss you. The reason for this is they do not want to be told how the world is, they want to decide for themselves. Give examples of why you are perfect for the position and get them to make that judgement on their own.

You also come across as cocky if you tell them you are perfect. No one wants to hire a blow hard to work in their office. They want a hard worker who is happy to be there. If you come off as a braggart, expect to go to the bottom of the pile.

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“I don’t have any experience”

You never, ever want to confess that you aren’t well-versed in the functions of a particular job. Even if you don’t even know what the job entails, you should not point out where you are deficient in a cover letter. You might as well say “I know I’m wasting your time but keep reading anyway.” It annoys the hiring manager who has a stack of résumés to go through. The good news is they won’t be reading it much longer, since it will be in the trash.

If you don’t have any experience, just omit that fact and focus on facets of your personality and résumé that are related to the position. Show enthusiasm for the job. For most jobs they will train you to do it anyway so there is no reason to make yourself look weak before they even meet you.

“I have experience”

While you certainly don’t want to say you have no experience, simply stating that you have experience in a field or industry doesn’t say that you were good at it, just that you did it. It’s a generic statement that nearly everyone adds to a cover letter and makes you seem like a dry, dull candidate.

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State what you have done, why you love it, and the ways you made a previous job your own. Be specific about what you have done. Include sales goals you reached, number of people you managed, or how you expanded or streamlined the company. Add as many facts and statistics as possible to show that you aren’t just blowing smoke.

“Thank you for your time”

While it is true that everyone appreciates being thanked, this phrase and those like it take a very passive stance. They are also conclusive making the person reading it feel as if no further action is necessary. They have read your letter and you have thanked them. It is over.

Instead of just thanking them, add something that implies the conversation hasn’t ended yet. Use a phrase such as “I look forward to hearing from you” or “I anticipate your response.” This motivates them to take the next step and puts the ball in their court.

Once you have written a good cover letter, it is time to prepare for your interview.

Featured photo credit: Antonio Litterio via upload.wikimedia.org

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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