Work + Growth

How to Avoid the Narcissistic Cover Letter


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  • Give specific examples of your skills; don’t just list what you’re good at
  • Become educated about the position you’re applying for, and focus on how you can help the firm achieve their goals, rather than how they can help you
  • A strategically placed testimonial from a former coworker or boss can be helpful

While the task of writing a cover letter may seem straightforward, many job seekers have some difficulty finding the right town and deciding what to include, all while keeping things concise.

It can be hard to talk yourself up without coming off as narcissistic. Hiring managers are not exactly thrilled by cover letters that simply list skills the job seekers are somehow all experts in and consist mostly of sentences that begin with “I.” So keep these tips in mind to help you determine what to say and the best way to say it.

Show, Don’t Tell

Instead of the generic (“I’m a hard worker, organized, and would be the best fit for the job”) focus on the specific ways that your skills would be used in the position being offered. Don’t attempt to build yourself up by simply listing the things you know how to do. This not only comes off as arrogant, but doesn’t tell the employer anything about how you can actually help. Give concrete facts and examples, i.e., “With just over three years of experience as a litigator, I’ve argued more than x jury trials and settled more than x …” You get the picture—specifics.

Do Your Homework

Make sure to educate yourself about the firm before applying for the job. If you are able to show an understanding of what they do, what they stand for, the position you’re applying for, and how you can fit in, you’ll be ahead of the people who simply send a generic cover letter that could be sent to any job. Let your research guide you on which examples of how you can help this employer reach their business objectives you should use.

Avoid Overusing “I”

Your cover letter isn’t a personal memoir. While you do have the ability to show off your top skills, you should be focused on the needs of the employer. An essay full of “I’s” will paint you as someone only considering what the employer can do for you by hiring you. You want to present yourself as the answer to their problem, not as someone asking for something from them (aside from the opportunity to show them how you can make their organization better). Don’t mention anything about why you need the job.

Watch out for Drawn-out Anecdotes

While stories that show how you successfully accomplished a task and were valued in your positions are great, including too much unnecessary information can make you seem more self-interested than intended. Try to break the story down to three or four pithy sentences. This will force you to include only the relevant information.

Don’t Harp on Your Education

You may have attended a top school, but the most important factor for your job application is your experience and what you can bring to the organization. Your law school and where you received your undergraduate degree will be plain to see on your actual resume, so there’s no need to waste precious cover letter real estate by going on about it. In no way should your cover letter be a more wordy, more aggressive restating of your resume.

Consider Testimonials

While it’s fine to speak to your own achievements, a few quotes from former bosses, co-workers, or professors can be beneficial as well. When incorporated correctly, short testimonials from those who have worked with and/or supervised you can be an excellent addition of value to your cover letter.