Phrases in the application: these phrases cost the job

Blah, blah, blah… empty phrases in the application are the reason why personnel managers hate the cover letter. Numerous letters of application still begin with "I hereby apply for the position as…" Deadly! Copied sentences and hackneyed phrases are the surest way to application rejection. The rest of the application documents are then no longer read. Opportunity lost: first work sample inadequate – someone else gets the job. We show you which phrases you should avoid at all costs in your application and give you tips for better formulations..

➠ Content: What you can expect

What are phrases in the application?

General and recurring formulations, filler words, filler sentences and phrases are considered "empty phrases" (synonym: "phrases" or "word shells"). The information content of these generalities is correspondingly low to non-existent. The representatives of these hackneyed application phrases and interchangeable introductory sentences in the application include, for example:

  • "I hereby apply for your position as…"
  • "I read your job advertisement with great interest…"
  • "Referring to your advertisement in…"
  • "As you can see from my resume…"
  • "With me, your company will gain a(n)…"
  • "You are looking for a(n) ____? Then I am the right person…"

Top candidates write differently. The phrases may sound good at first glance and be nicely meant. But they remain empty text modules and self-evident phrases. The opposite would be the message! The fact that you are "hereby applying" is obvious in a cover letter. The same applies to the fact that you have read the job advertisement – otherwise it would be a speculative application. And that the company "wins" someone with you is not at all certain: You are just applying..

You’ll notice that as soon as you take typical standard phrases at their word, the phrases in the application will expose themselves on their own. Such sentences are also not individual, original, or creative. And that’s exactly what makes you so dangerous in your cover letter: personnel managers have read such phrases 1000 times. Without them the application letter would not be any poorer, but with them it is more boring, more interchangeable, more meaningless.

Standard applications have no chance

The higher the position and salary of the job, the more applicants compete with you, the less chance you have with an 08/15 application. Comprehensible: If the same hackneyed phrases and adjectives are used everywhere, such as "team player", "dynamic", "innovative", no applicant will stand out from the crowd. However, interchangeability and uniformity neither make you attractive, nor do they arouse interest or curiosity about your personality when you read them. Such candidates tend not to be invited to the interview or assessment center.

Quality comes from "torment". An experienced personnel manager can immediately see whether an applicant has made an effort to write clever, unique and polished sentences. Platitudes in the application quickly expose it as cheap mass-produced goods. And if you invest so little energy in your professional future, you might later work just as "innovatively" as your application file reads.

Keywords instead of phrases in the application!

Surveys have shown that recruiters only take between 2 to 5 minutes on average for the initial applicant selection process. Thus the first preselection is only a skim. It is therefore all the more important to make a good first impression. If you get into this with empty phrases, you are practically right out again – application rejection!

When applicants use phrases in the application, this often happens out of convenience, insecurity or carelessness. Many lack routine in writing and formulating. The temptation is then great to adopt or copy free application samples 1:1. Please never do that! Blah blah blah ALWAYS comes across as lazy in thinking and comfortable.

Study: The worst phrases in job applications

You should steer clear of the following buzzwords, phrases and empty words. According to personnel surveys, they are among the worst phrases in job applications. All worn out and inflationary devalued:

  • "I am a team player."
  • " I am dynamic."
  • "I am innovative."
  • "I deliver added value."
  • "I am experienced."
  • " I am (highly) motivated."
  • " I like to work with people."
  • "I think entrepreneurially."
  • "I work independently."
  • "I work effectively and efficiently."
  • "I behave proactively."
  • "I am highly qualified."
  • "I was successful."
  • "I think in a results-oriented way."
  • "I plan goal-oriented."
  • "My knowledge is up to date."
  • "My track record is impressive."
  • "I am a seasoned professional."
  • "I am a lateral thinker."
  • "I see myself as a problem solver."
  • " I want to develop myself."

On top of that, these phrases are around self-evident and pure assertions. It doesn’t make them more credible by including them more often in the job application. Again, the opposite would be the message. "Unfortunately, I am NOT a team player, NOT dynamic, neither experienced, nor do I like working with people…" This would at least be original, but of course has even less chance of getting a job application.

Facts instead of platitudes: Tips for alternatives

The trick in the application is to prove and describe relevant qualifications, special strengths or important soft skills by examples.

Tell precisely and concisely what you have done that is comparable or how you have achieved specific successes. Such short anecdotes (see storytelling) not only make your cover letter more interesting and lively. You also document your knowledge and qualities credibly.

On the other hand, those who emphasize the self-evident, only feeds the doubt that there is nothing else there. Or put another way: Whoever applies with what everyone can do, only documents that he or she is also only average. Usually in the literal sense. In any case, not a top talent or high performer.

Provide examples of competencies!

Instead of continuing to shoot off empty phrases, you should formulate statements that really hit the mark and catch the mark. Fortunately, there are numerous, first-class alternatives for phrases in job applications. Mentioning these here, of course, bears the risk that they become empty phrases again and you simply copy them. Please do not! They are intended solely as an example and for inspiration…

Instead of writing: "As you can see from my resume, I excel in teamwork and goal orientation…" choose a phrase like:

As the project manager, I was able to motivate my team to achieve the result five days before the deadline. We were even awarded for this.

Instead of writing: "Because of my flexibility, I am able to integrate perfectly into your company culture." write better:

When I read in the job ad that you are looking for someone with flexibility, I immediately remembered the situation when my boss sent me a text message ten minutes before the start of a meeting asking me to give a short presentation on Project ABC…

Instead of listing soft or hard skills and alleged abilities, tell a mini-story episodically. This is how it becomes a concrete and experienced fact. The more personal you write the application text, the more powerful it will be.

These 9 mistakes lead to empty phrases

The following application mistakes are examples of the "formulation-before-content syndrome". The other way around, your application will be more convincing: First, select which unique selling points you can offer and what is overdone. Then formulate it to the point. These typical mistakes, however, regularly lead to application phrases:


A classic phrase is: "I would be delighted to be invited for an interview." The subjunctive may signal politeness. However, it weakens your statement and makes you shrink to a supplicant. He takes the strength and determination out of every formulation. Adverbs and phrases such as "actually, possibly, possibly, perhaps, under certain circumstances, quite" have a similar effect. Absolutely delete!


Almost every job requires communication skills, the ability to work under pressure and to work on one’s own initiative. This is what you are paid for. Formulations such as "I am communicative and able to work under pressure" or "With me, you will gain a committed employee" are generalities. Absolutely taboo! Rather look for the special and emphasize that. For example: "During the 2-week rebuilding phase, I organized – in consultation with my supervisor – alternative offices for the entire team".


Formulations such as "Your position appealed to me immediately" or "I knew right away that this position would suit me" are not wrong in principle – if you explain afterwards why this is so. Unfortunately, many applicants just write this down – without giving reasons and arguments for it. Already the statement seems arbitrary to cliched. Even if it is true.

Question rhetoric

This point probably needs no explanation, does it?? The rhetorical question makes it clear how awkward the stylistic device can seem. The implicit message of the rhetorical question is: This is so clear that everyone should really understand it. Stupid, if it is not immediately clear to the personnel manager. Then give him the feeling of being limited or ignorant. Do you really want to say that?


The expression "I will gladly contribute my competencies to advance your company and the necessary improvements" is certainly meant with commitment. What you are actually saying is: "Your store urgently needs an upgrade – through me!" A sentence like hot air. Implicit criticism of this kind is more than just a phrase: it’s a faux pas!

Scope for interpretation

Statements of the type: "My achievements have already attracted a lot of attention in the industry" can be read either way. You may have been successful – but you may also have been the laughing stock of the scene. In both cases you are sure to attract a lot of attention. Therefore, always formulate as precisely and concretely as possible. Avoid any speculative surface.

Blanket statements

The same applies to sentences such as "Your company offers me excellent opportunities" or "Your job is ideal for me". Such statements sound good, but are also quite sweeping. Any applicant can write this. Only when you specifically state why the job is a perfect fit does it make your enthusiasm credible.


Superlatives always boomerang. Whoever has to certify himself to be the "best employee" or to have shown "excellent performance" was possibly the exact opposite. True brilliance speaks for itself. Although false modesty in the application would also not be good. Exaggerations, however, quickly come across as arrogant. They are also considered an indication of a lack of self-reflection. Less is more.


Examples are important. But be careful with comparisons! Phrases such as "In contrast to my colleagues" or "As one of the few employees" are enticing. Comparisons, however, always cast you in a bad light and make you appear anything but collegial. You should absolutely refrain from using such phrases.

Without empty phrases: Tips for the perfect application

Finally, we have three simple tips on how to write a professional application – without using empty phrases.

  • Research
    Before you start, read the job advertisement carefully and research as much background information about the company as possible. The better you anticipate the challenges of the job and future tasks, the more tailored and fitting your cover letter will be. By the way, this starts with the name of the contact person – instead of "Dear Sir or Madam".
  • Synonyms
    To avoid empty phrases in your application, you should vary the way you express yourself. Many worn-out terms and words have synonyms. You can use them to say the same thing, but sound fresher. Instead of "ability to work in a team" you could talk about "willingness to cooperate", instead of "commitment" you could call it "readiness for action".
  • Change of Perspective
    I-messages with an egocentric perspective are always unfavorable: "The job offers me great opportunities for development."Or: "I would like to develop myself further." That’s nice for you, but what does the employer get out of it?? The goal must be to formulate the cover letter in such a way that you solve the problem of the employer in spe. Tell the hiring manager what they get out of hiring you.

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