But you have to try to think with an outsider’s perspective as well–what are the people who read your resume and cover letter going to think? What will stand out to them?
One thing that will stand out is a document that doesn’t contain typical clichés. But you’ve only ever seen your own materials so you don’t know if you’re avoiding clichés or not!
Here a few key clichés to avoid and suggestions for what to try instead:
The Ho-Hum Opener
Cliché: Opening with “My name is…and I’m writing to apply for…” It’s hard to open with anything else, but this opening–like much of the cover letter–should be about the employer and its needs.
Try this instead: Say “Like company X, I am committed to…” or “My first experience with Company X…” and then tell a positive, but short story about how you first noticed that company.
The Warm Fuzzy Approach to Diversity
Cliché: When talking about diversity, saying something like, “working with other people made me realize we are all really just the same.” This realization is an important stage in intercultural competence, but everyone says some version of that. To stand out, you have to push past it.
Try this instead: tell a short, clear, concise story about one experience that you had. Draw a practical, professional lesson about yourself (not about others) from that. Then apply that lesson to a specific workplace need whether it be international customer support, overcoming language barriers, or comfort with travel to and interactions in new environments.
The Teacher Who Learns
Cliché: When talking about teaching or mentoring, saying something like, “I learned more from the students/mentee than I taught.” Again, an important realization to have, but everyone has it early on in the role of teacher/mentor.
Try this instead: think of a time when you truly understood something from someone else’s perspective that you had never thought of before, then tell how that changed your interactions going forward from that moment. And, as always, bring it home with a “here’s how that will benefit your company…” statement.
If you can successfully avoid these three clichés in your job search materials while including enough of the key words & content from the job description, you’ll be well on the way to getting noticed by hiring managers!
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in training students to highlight their language studies so they stand out in the job search and workplace. For one-on-one coaching or to set up a workshop, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org