Cover Letter

Why You Should Avoid Overusing ‘I’ In Your Cover Letter

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Your cover letter is one of the first impressions you make on an employer. How would you like that impression to be you are a self-absorbed know-it-all?

And all of this can be determined by your use of the word “I.”

Most of us have probably heard the “Don’t Overuse ‘I’ Rule,” but do you know why you shouldn’t. Keep reading to find out…

Rookie Mistake

This cover letter mistake is one that is commonly made by inexperienced job seekers. Of course if you are a recent college grad applying for your first jobs you may get a little caught up in the idea of getting your career started and not realize the message you are sending out. Although the job you are applying for may only be a stepping stone for your career, you cannot make an allusion to that in your cover letter and expect to get the job.

Team Of ‘I’

This article on FastWeb.com warns the most important reason to steer clear of overusing “I” is to avoid coming across as self-centered or arrogant – especially if it’s used at the beginning of the sentence. A good rule of thumb is to try to limit your use of “I” to only once. Try to reword sentences in such a way that they will have the right impact without needing the word at all.

Check Out My Stats

One assumption to be avoided by the overuse of “I” is you are more interested in what the company can do for you instead of vice versa. According to QuintCareers.com, this is a common mistake among recent grads and inexperienced job hunters. One feature of your cover letter is to let the employer know what attributes you can bring to the company you are applying for.

They want to know how you being an employed for them will benefit the business. In some cases, overusing “I” on a cover letter can insinuate the opposite. Without knowing, you could give the impression of “this company needs me, don’t you see my accomplishments?”

Pass The Ball

Another reason for not overusing “I” is so you won’t come off as not being a team player. Employers need someone who is going to collaborate and work well with others. If you focus the cover letter on yourself too much, this may not be the image you are portraying. Remember, no one wants a ball hog. Use your cover letter to let the employer know from the very beginning you can play your part and pass the ball to others.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Shannon Moham

Shannon Moham is a recent journalism graduate from the University of Central Oklahoma. Writing, blogging, and event planning is what she sees for her career.

6 comments

  1. While this is a great tip, it’s not much help to those that would need help avoiding this mistake. Instead of focusing on why you shouldn’t over use I, a more useful article could have given some tips for how to avoid it. Maybe even some examples of how to rewrite particular common phrases used in a cover letter.

  2. So this is one more tip to add to the pile. I’ve come to the realization that getting a job really has nothing to do with your qualifications but more of how you know and apply all these tips that get posted on the web. With this article, you’re going to make people paranoid about over using “I”, which most people don’t over use anyway. I would think that generally most people know to focus the cover letter on how the company would benefit from your experience and talents. With articles like this, job seekers can become too focused on the mechanics of the cover letter and not on the actual content. Now in these days of 90% of job applications/resumes being submitted online, the game is definitely slanted in favor of the employer. On top of that we have to make sure to not use too many particular words in fear of coming off as arrogant. As human resources has transitioned into human capital, it has become so oppressive and slanted completely in favor of the employer where we are expected to spoon feed our resume into a single easy to swallow pill. Are hiring managers no longer capable of critical thinking skills enough to select a candidate from a common cover letter and resume?

  3. Nice article. Important point to remember is that a resume can generally be your “I’s” although it is not exclusively the case. Cover letters should follow your “I” with “therefore my contribution to the employer or organisation is …”. Linking your ability and achievement with what you can bring to the employer is key. Research about skills/qualities that people in your desired industry have through LinkedIn and develop yourself to their standards. Please feel free to ask any questions or share your thoughts @DrBF. Cheers Boris.

  4. Miriam:
    As a former Fortune 500 hiring manager who has reviewed thousands of résumés and cover letters, and hired hundred of technical, marketing, and communications professionals over a 25-year career, your cover letter has to have a tone that addresses the needs of the hiring manager. A hiring manager is interested in how what you have accomplished in your career will help him or her going forward. The hiring manager is looking for a problem solver, solutions provider, or game changer–not just another employee. Achievements and accomplishments speak loudly to the hiring manager much more so than “duties and responsibilities” because everyone with a job has duties and responsibilities. Your cover letter should have more instances of “you/your/yours” instead of “I/me/my/mine” and that’s a general rule of thumb to indicate your cover letter is written with a tone that is more to the hiring manager’s needs. It’s also what is taught in undergraduate advertising copywriting classes.

    Lastly, you MUST assume control of the next contact in your cover letter’s last paragraph by stating. “These accomplishments are just a sample of what I can do for your company. I will call you in a few days to discuss further how I am that value-add candidate your company has been seeking.” And then make the call. Doesn’t matter if you get voice mail or an admin…one of the keys to getting a job interview (and a job offer) is getting the hiring manager more familiar with your name. All the details of this approach are in my book, CONFESSIONS OF A HIRING MANAGER REV. 2.0 (Second Edition). I have lots of free career self-assessments, white papers, tip sheets, articles, and ebooks at http://www.donnleviejrstrategies.com.

    Good luck!
    Donn LeVie Jr.
    Donn LeVie Jr. STRATEGIES

  5. This is a great tip. It is extremely challenging to write a cover letter about yourself without using “I.” It also makes you evaluate your own writing and how to sell yourself without being the center of attention.

    Brent

  6. Hai Shanon,
    Am e recent graduate and your article was helpful but the I syndrome is killing me!
    I don’t really know wat to apply in the letter? Should it be filled with we? Or accomplishments made? Am so lost here,help!.Thanx in advance..
    Regards,
    Miriam N.

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