Don’t Screw Up Your Cover Letter or Resume with These Clichés

HCcliche2You’re writing the most important documents of your career — the cover letter and resume — and you tell your prospective employer that you’re a “dedicated, hard-working, goal-oriented team player.”

It may be all true — but you’re inadvertently shooting yourself in the foot.


Don’t use clichés, says Michael Mercer, PhD, a business psychologist, speaker and author of Job Hunting Made Easy. Whenever you’re tempted to write or utter those tired metaphors or turns of phrase, try the following on-target alternatives instead.

A better way to write it

Here’s how to turn clichés into meaningful dialogue; first, the cliché, and then another way to say it.

  • I’m goal oriented: I fulfilled my goals underbudget and quicker than planned.
  • I’m a hard worker: I billed for more services than anyone else in the department.
  • I’m a team player: I am the department liaison, and the main contact with five other departments in the organization.
  • I’m a people person. I fulfilled the organization’s mission by delivering more and better care for patients.
  • I’m detail oriented: I have been commended in my performance appraisals for delivering accurate and on-time paperwork (forms, records, billable activities).

Say it with meaning

Never, ever forget that only two words matter to a company: productivity and profit.

“The company wants to know how you can help them make more money, save money, increase productivity and save time,” says Mercer. “Everything else is window dressing.”

Don’t talk about your job activities (yawn), but about relevant work experience AND bottom-line results. Yes, healthcare is about “caring,” but it’s a business just the same, says Mercer.

“Use the verb — that explains what you’ve done –on the resume, followed by something quantitative,” he says.

Resume example

Mercer shares this example of bottom-line accomplishments from a counselor candidate. “Although you usually think of a counselor as a ‘helping professional’ and not a contributor to sales and profits, this resume shows how to present accomplishments [with] financial impact,” Mercer says.


  • Increased referrals to clinic 47 percent . . . by delivering speeches and contacting referral sources.
  • Billed 24 percent more fees . . . more than any other counselor in the clinic.
  • Saved the clinic $48,000 per year . . . by reducing head count by one employee, and by replacing labor-intensive billing methods with a new, computerized billing system.
  • Reduced physician fees 62 percent . . . by negotiating a new MD contract.
  • Increased billings 19 percent . . . by marketing group counseling, which attracted a bigger client base.

Watch what you write

So while you’re jockeying for your next job, watch your words — and your candidacy will be off the hook and on a roll. After all, you’re one in a million and worth your weight in gold!

(Sorry for the clichés, but you know what we mean!)


About Stephanie Stephens

Stephanie Stephens is an award-winning journalist and copywriter, specializing in health and lifestyle topics, whose work has appeared in a wide variety of national consumer, custom and trade publications. She’s also the creator, executive producer and host of a multimedia channel for female baby boomers, “Mind Your Body TV.” Stephanie is based in Orange County, Calif., and when the mood strikes, New Zealand.


  1. BY Sandy Alzaidi, LCSW says:

    omg .What if I worked as a line social worker in Home Health 10 years ago and don't KNOW about any of those details??