Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cover Letters – It’s All About “I”

One of the biggest misconceptions in writing cover letters is that the writer (the applicant) should never refer to himself in the first person; that is, he or she should never use the word 'I' in the cover letter. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Remember, when it comes to applying for a job, remember, it's all about 'I.'

There are some very good reasons for this. First of all, referring to one's self in the third person throughout a cover letter requires a goodly amount of writing skill; often, it means utilizing elaborate grammatical constructions in order to state what should be a simple idea. Look at these examples:

"In 2010, I earned the Top Employee of the Year award for my work on the Johnson project."


"In 2010, the company presented the Top Employee of the Year award to Sharon Nicholls for her work on the Johnson project."

See the difference? Not only did switching to the third person lead to a longer sentence, but it could also create confusion for the person in the HR office who is reading the letter. He/She might very well wonder who Edward Nicholls is, and why the writer is talking about him. This type of confusion is more likely to happen than you might think; remember, the person reading your cover letter is also reading dozens – perhaps hundreds – of letters per day. Chances are very good that the reader doesn't have your name memorized yet when they're reading your letter.

Another factor to consider is that business letters – and cover letters are business letters – need to be clear and concise, without excess wordage or difficult grammar. You want people to be able to scan through your cover letter quickly and easily.

Remember, when it comes to cover letters and other business communications, less is more.

Finally, referring to one's self in the third person can be seen as a sign of arrogance or weakness, whereas using the first person makes you come across as strong and confident. Read these two sentences:

"I established a new department and grew it to $3M in sales in one year."


"Mr. Smith was selected to launch a new department, and the sales reached $3M in one year."

Which sentence makes you (remember, you are Mr. Smith) sound better? If you were the HR Manager, which cover letter would be more likely to make you read Mr. Smith's resume?

The reality is, when it comes to cover letters, the 'I's' have it.

Thanks to Teena Rose / Resume To Referral


1 comment:

Sian Phillips said...

I completely agree with this. If you are writing the letter it would sound very strange to refer to yourself in the third person. Thanks for sharing on