10 Words and Phrases to Keep Off Your Cover Letter

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but the same can’t be said for cover letters. A cover letter exists for one sole purpose: to be scrutinized by a hiring manager. Your cover letter is your first impression with a potential employer. We’re here to help ensure it’s a positive one. Before you apply for your next job, verify that your cover letter doesn’t include these ten words or phrases:

To whom it may concern

This five-word phrase spells a nasty four-letter word: L-A-Z-Y. Buck up and show a little initiative! Do you research and find out the “whom.” If a job ad doesn’t list the name of the hiring manager, call or email the human resources department for more information, or browse the employer’s website for a staff directory.

Team player

Aww, really? You’re a team player? Do you and your team run around in matching outfits? It’s all well and good that you are willing to work for the greater good but choose a more purposeful and powerful way to state this to your potential employer. Describe how you worked with your colleagues to draft new policy measures or explain that your regional sales team broke the commission record for three consecutive quarters.


Saying that you are hard-working puts you in the same category as everyone else applying for the job. If you weren’t willing to put forth your best effort, then why would you submit your application? Set yourself above the other applications with hands on examples of your entrepreneurial spirit and strong work ethic. Replace this adjective with real world specifics, especially if your employment history isn’t extensive or if you have a habit of not spending quality time with the same employer.

Good job

This phrase is a cover letter sin. First, you never want to submit a prospecting cover letter for the purpose of simply looking for a “good job.” Cover letters should never be generic. Research available positions and plainly state your intentions. Second, never use the phrase “good job” to explain your performance level with your current or former employer. Be specific about your skills and achievements and save pleas for pats on the head for your parents.


Using “ideal” on a cover letter is anything but, especially when referring to yourself as the ideal candidate. Presuming to know precisely what your potential employer needs in an employee is as foolish as it is arrogant. Make the boss take notice of you by utilizing your cover letter to highlight your talents. Provide clear examples of how you can benefit the company.


You know what, you may be detail-oriented, but throwing this adjective on your cover letter is like getting your significant other’s name tattooed on your arm. It’s a curse! This word is a junk description that has a less value than Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France titles. It’s also an invitation for your employer to test the accuracy of your details. If your hiring manager teeters on the edge of tossing out your resume due to a grammatical or punctuation error, then claiming to be detail-oriented will solidify your employment status as “unemployed.”


The word “had” will make your chances for employment a thing of the past. Use active verbs to discuss what you can do rather than talking about what you have done in the past. This term implies that you used to have the skills and experience. Don’t give the impression that you’re an old dog that can’t learn any new tricks. Don’t send your cover letter to the kennel.

Contact me anytime

Nothing raises the “I’M DESPERATE” flag faster than being too accessible. Even if you’re sitting at home in your sweats, elbow deep in a bag of potato chips, waiting for the “We’d like to bring you in for an interview” call, your potential employer doesn’t need to know about it! Simply state, “I look forward to your response. Don’t “anxiously await” it, either.

Please see the attached/enclosed resume

Tagging on this phrase to the end of your cover letter is a complete waste of time and word count. Your potential employer knows you have attached a resume. Illustrate that you have attached your resume by listing your enclosures under the signature section on your cover letter. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to attach your resume when submitting. Such an omission is a major no-no.

References available upon request

Psst…they know this already. If a potential employer needs a list of professional references you will most certainly receive a request for them, and if you want to continue as a candidate you will produce said reference list. Leave this phrase off your cover letter.

Hold it right there! We see you quietly tucking away your cover letter in a drawer. Don’t be embarrassed about making any of these cover letter mistakes – it happens all the time. Fix ’em and tell us your additional cover letter tips by leaving a comment.