Career

7 Surprising Phrases That Should Never Appear In Your Job Application

You’re doing your weekly rounds of the job search websites and come across a role that sets your heart a-flutter.

It’s a step up from your current role but you’re more than qualified for it, it’s close to your home and there’s an OFFICE DOG! Oh yeah, and the pay doesn’t completely suck, either. You fish out your CV, smash out a cover letter and send off your application as quickly as humanly possible. And then… you wait.

Weeks go by and you haven’t heard squat. ‘It’s all good, they’re probably just busy!’ you tell yourself, while obsessively checking your email yet again. But one day, you finally spy an email from the hiring manager — and it makes your heart sink. ‘We regret to inform you that your job application was unsuccessful.’ Bummer.

You scour your CV and cover letter for reasons your application has ended up in the trash heap. Did you overlook a spelling or grammatical error? Did you accidentally upload a video of a website model involuntarily pumping up the jam, like this poor soul? But everything seems to be in order.

While it could just be that the competition was fierce, there are also a few phrases that make hiring managers throw your application straight into the trash heap.

Read on for 7 surprising things that should never appear in your CV or cover letter.

#1 ‘To Whom It May Concern’

When it doesn’t explicitly say on the job ad, it can be hard to know who to address your cover letter to. However, most hiring managers agree starting with ‘To Whom It May Concern’ seems impersonal and let’s face it, lazy. The same goes for ‘Dear Sir or Madam.’

It’s a much better idea to do a little digging on LinkedIn or the company’s website to determine who’s likely to read your application. Then, you can simply address is as ‘Dear [insert hiring manager’s name.] Even if you shoot a little too high, you’ll still get bonus points for taking some initiative and doing your homework. If you’re really stuck, ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ is your next best bet.

#2 ‘Passionate’

Yes, you may very well be extremely passionate about selling car parts/grooming ferrets/whatever it is the job entails. But this consistently pops up in LinkedIn’s yearly list of overused buzz words in job applications and quite frankly, hiring managers get sick of seeing it.

Rather than overtly stating you’re passionate about what you do, why not show it? Give examples of times you’ve gone above and beyond or any voluntary experience you have outside of work that demonstrates your passion.

#3 ‘I’

‘What, I’m not allowed to talk about myself in my own job application?’ you may protest. You can, but try to avoid going overboard talking about why you want the job.

The purpose of your cover letter is to demonstrate the value you can add to the company — not the other way around. Writing in the first person should also be avoided in your CV.

#4 ‘Really’

‘Really’ and ‘very’ are examples of filler words that clutter your cover letter, when it’s supposed to be short and succinct. For example, “I’m very experienced in digital marketing” or “I’d really appreciate the opportunity to discuss my application.”

They’re not adding anything to your application and if anything, they make you sound like a 15-year-old (sorry not sorry), so ditch em’.

#5 ‘Proven track record’

This is another overused and unnecessary phrase in cover letters. You shouldn’t have to shout from the rooftops that you have a proven track record of success in your industry — the experience listed on your CV should speak for itself.

#6 ‘I feel that…’

There are two issues with this statement. Firstly, this isn’t your diary, so there’s no need to discuss your feelings.

Secondly, it can come across as though you’re unsure of your abilities. ‘I am confident that’ sounds far more assured and authoritative.

#7 ‘Team player’

It’s not hard to see why everyone includes this in their cover letter. After all, nobody wants an employee who refuses to collaborate and cooperate with other employees. But again, it’s a massive cliche and you’re better off listing examples of times you’ve effectively worked within a team.


Emma Norris is a Sydney-based magazine journalist and freelance writer. When she’s not playing with words, she’s either doing pushups or stuffing her face with pizza. You can follow her on Instagram @emmajnorris92