By Jessica Langer
You wouldn’t believe the number of cover letters I see – both in my work here at TPII and as a hiring manager who hires employees and freelancers for my agency – that include some variation of the statement “I believe I am an ideal candidate for the position.” Sometimes it’s phrased “I believe that my experience and expertise make me a good candidate for the position.” Sometimes it’s even more aggressive: “My experience combined with my knowledge and education make me the ideal candidate for the position.”
Don’t do this. (And please recall Dr. Karen insists that on the *academic* side, one must never employ this trite, overused, desperate-sounding phrase). But, unlike in academia, you can – if you’d like – include an “I believe” statement as part of your cover letter. The key is to word it properly so that you’re pointing out a piece of information about yourself, not telling the hiring manager what she or he wants in a candidate.
My ideal “I believe” statement? “I understand from the job description posted on [wherever] that you are seeking a candidate with skills in [X, Y, Z] and expertise in [A, B, C]. I believe that my skills in [X, Y, Z, though rephrased slightly] and experience [A,B,C though rephrased slightly], as well as [other allied skills and expertise], fit this description well.
The detail of my “I believe” statement is the key here. It’s a suggestion rather than aggression. You’re not telling the hiring manager that you are the ideal candidate, because you can’t know what they’re looking for, and it’s rude and aggressive to presume that you do, and comes off badly; You’re not telling them what to think, how to feel, or anything else like that. You’re pointing out that, in your opinion, your skills and experience match well with what they say they are looking for. It’s not an assumption about what they are looking for. It’s a submission that, based on what they say they are looking for, you fit the job description.
This kind of statement is also key in getting through some non-academic keyword gateways; that is, a lot of major companies and organizations, particularly government organizations, will literally run a keyword data search on resumes and cover letters automatically, and automatically reject anything that doesn’t come close enough. So an “I believe” statement of this type is a way to get keywords from the job description into the cover letter. And it’s also a way to demonstrate that the candidate has read the description carefully and taken the time to determine that her or his skills and experience are a match for what’s stated there.
So: it’s a matter of wording, yes. But these statements are a lot more common and accepted outside of academia than in academia.
In my opinion, it really depends on the position and the organization if they will think “I am an ideal candidate” is aggressive (negative) or confident (positive). There are many factors to consider in terms of self-presentation, but I’ve heard hiring managers on the opposite side of this issue, saying that candidates present themselves in a wishy-washy way (if you are not certain you are an ideal candidate, how can a hiring manager be certain?)
This intersects with gendered advice that women receive to not present themselves too strongly or confidently. While it’s not a good idea to be aggressive, cover letters are self-presentation vehicles and there are a variety of self-presentations that might be seen as ideal.
Exactly, I agree with you 100%. If someone is not certain about himself, then how a hiring manager can be?!
This makes sense and is timely advice for me, which I will follow in my current job application. However, the prompt for their essay asks me to tell them why I’m “the ideal candidate”! I’ll do my best to show and not tell…
Thanks that help me : )