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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 March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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