Are self-described personal attributes helpful in a cover letter?

Example: “I am a dynamic, goal-oriented individual with a strong desire to succeed and lead others to success.”

I’ve been looking through some sample cover letters, and a lot of them include language like this. Would an employer believe any of these statements without some experience or achievements to back them up?

And even with the achievements, is it helpful to include a laundry list of personal attributes? The problem is that I feel like a tool whenever I think about using the example above to describe myself to another person. There is no reason why anyone should believe my opinion of myself in a cover letter.

But this approach seems to be recommended enough times that I’m starting to think that I might be missing something. Am I missing something?

No you’re not missing anything. It’s better to list specific accomplishments that you were responsible for that demonstrate certain attributes. Self aggrandizing statements are usually read with rolling eyes.

No no no no! I see hundreds of these and they drive me up the wall - of course you’re going to say you’re hard-working, driven, dedicated etc, etc, but if your work experience, as demonstrated on your CV, doesn’t back it up, I am going to notice, and I’m not hiring you.

Show, don’t tell.

This sounds pretty generic. If you’re going to include personal attributes in a cover letter, (and I like to), try to make them something specific to your skills and abilities, and follow up with concrete evidence.

Example from my own:

How about something more generic and all-encompassing, like, “I am capable of regulating my body temperature. My metabolism controls heat production, and my sweat glands help cool my body. I walk upright on two legs.”

I would so hire that person! When I finally stopped laughing, that is.

I’ve hired a lot of people, and I virtually never even read the cover letter. I might skim it to make sure the person didn’t do something stupid like name the wrong company, but I don’t even always do that. Most candidates would do well to spend more time on their actual resume, and even more importantly, their SKILLS, than trying to write a perfect cover letter.

I’m a recent law school graduate. The only skills that lawyers have are research, writing, and communication skills, which everyone has on their resume.

A good cover letter can go a long way in the legal industry.

I couldn’t disagree more with the assertion that lawyers only possess three skills. A lawyer who possesses only three skills (or who views him/herself as only having three skills) has bigger problems than those identified on the resume.

Cite, please?

I’ve been on the hiring committee for new law grads. The more puffery I see like that in the cover letter and the resume, the less interested I am in the person.

Like Jennyrosity, I want to know what you’ve done, and like NGC2024, I agree that good young lawyers can show that they’ve got more than just research, writing and communication skills. If that’s all you’ve got, a puffery cover letter isn’t going to get me to put your cv into the interview pile.

I would, but I don’t want to give people unrealistic expectations. :frowning:

Ditto. In writing you learn that you should show and not tell, and that goes double in resumes.
What I would love to see in a cover letter, but never have, is some indication that the candidate has done some research about my company, and is thinking in terms of how their skills would help us. Even if it isn’t a perfect hit, even if it isn’t very close, the effort would be very effective. It requires real work, of course, not carpet bombing companies with your resume, so it is unlikely to happen.

If you do any job applications on the internet (and who doesn’t these days?) it can be a good idea to use terms like that to get past potential keyword-sniffers. Not every HR department uses programs like these, but I’m under the impression that enough do to make it worthwhile. The whole sheet shouldn’t just be self-aggrandizing adjectivery, but throwing a few in there at the beginning couldn’t hurt.

What’s all this crap about showing and not telling? You can and should do both. Also,

this is very good advice. I revised my resume yesterday to include stuff about how I would add value to the company I’m applying to, and indicated that I’d done some basic research on the company. I got three callbacks (well emailbacks, same thing) today alone.

The problem with trying to both show and tell is that you have only a limited window to get attention. Saying self-aggrandising generic things about yourself buries the lead, as it were, and dilutes the impact of the good stuff.

Just today, I was going through the applications of a dozen lawyers for a fairly senior job. You just have to ignore the self-flattery because it doesn’t differentiate anyone from anyone else. What works is information density - brevity, clarity and real information about what you’ve done.

Allow me to backtrack on my statements.

I think every legally relevant thing I’ve done is listed on my resume. There isn’t anything there that I can improve. However, in my cover letter I have a chance to make my experience relevant to whomever I’m applying to. That’s why I can’t really spend more time on my resume.

Until every company that’s hiring stops listing this as a requirement, you will always find sentences like these in cover letters.

“You must be a dynamic, goal-oriented individual with a strong desire to succeed and lead others to success.”

So goes the dance.