11 Terms You Should Never Use in Your Cover Letter: The Pachinko Jobs Series

Summer is coming only too soon, and with a tight employment market for graduates (as older job seekers are handed a blanket and pointed toward the woods), the arena for qualified workers is in high gear.   And there hasn’t been an arena like this since ancient Rome. 

As part of Pachinko’s long-running commitment to public service, this continuing series on employment will focus on resume letter don’ts, interview skills, the best and worst job markets, and the exit interview.  Keep checking back for all the basics, and you’ll be in the know, and possibly employed. 

Here are some suggestions about red-flag terms in your resume cover letter.  

Yes, of course your trainer is important.  And your commitment to animal rescue.  Your pregnant sister?  She’s important, too.  And your dedication to a drug diversion program, well, who could argue?  But, hey, you’re joining the company now.  So everything else will have to be done before 7a.m. or after 11p.m.  Unless you want co-workers leaving anonymous threats in your uniform locker.  Your mantra here is: I am yours, I am yours, I am yours.  Capiche?

I like working with people
Unless the job involves your being studied in a flotation tank, sending in your work from a hermitage, or running with feral cats, you’re probably going to be working with people.  Ideally, you brush your teeth, too.  You’ll be working with people, like it or not.

My Lucky Shirt
In most organizations, casual dress is not just for Fridays.  But don’t mingle it with superstition.  You’ll probably be working shoulder-to-shoulder with people with a keen olfactory sense.  Save the lucky shirt for weekends in Laughlin.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Don’t be ashamed to admit to dyslexia.  Own up to being a member of “the recovery community.”  Tell them that you’ve overcome any number of challenges in your life.  They really want to know, because it gives them a more rounded view of the applicant.  Just keep it above the shoulders.

If you mean “payroll,” spell it right.  And be advised—mention of your ankle monitoring device will raise a red flag, and set off most security systems.

The Mothership
“Waiting for the mothership,” though mentioned in good humor, is a bad way to assess your summer.  There is no Mothership.  You are alone in this world because your self-image has been sanded by years of reading marginal blogs by people with a shared belief in their singular uniqueness.  Think about it—there are thousands of you who think this way, people whose daily vitamin D comes only through the dead glow of a computer screen.  You have the individuality of a Pringle.  No one is coming back for you.  But we understand. Marsha in Personnel doesn't.  Best to focus on being a “team player.”

“…an’ shit”
This catch-all rider in modern conversation may work well within your social hive, but it will certainly curdle the milk in your attempts to get the job.  “I defended my thesis on the influence of culture (including biculturalism) on cognitive or social processes an' shit” only diminishes the obscurity of what you spent four years and $100,000 in student loans to achieve.  If you have a tendency to slip into this peppy reptilian kind of summary, practice the interview with your parents.

Golden Parachute
It’s tacky to start discussing golden parachutes before the plane has taken off, so don’t.  The golden parachute benefit doesn’t kick in at $8.00 an hour, so best to wait till you’ve gained a little altitude in the boardroom.  

The Beast With Two Backs
You’re best not to get all Shakespearean about your post-graduation physical "activities" with the HR personnel.  They're smart, but their reading is often limited to Powerpoint.  And it’s w-a-y oversharing. Even your closest friends don’t want to hear about “tupping,” “the poperin pear,” “Petruchian tongue action,” “country matters,” or “the pleasant fountains.”  What happens in the parking lot of Applebee’s should stay in the parking lot of Applebee’s.  This is the other pole of “fiscal-licious.” 

Don’t be cute.  Cute people grow up to be like characters in a Stephen King story or a Saw sequel.  Somber up.

Al Qaeda-like
Never describe your previous employers like this unless you want to be escorted out by security.  Beware of freighted language.  Corporations are people, but they’re humorless, jingoistic, robotic people.  You may think it’s a short cut to understanding, but what it nets out as is your face on a “do-not-fly” list 'n shit.

Other "red flag terms" include "outside the box," "push the envelope," "office sex," "my years in the compound," and "kitties." You may write Pachinko for any terminology that doesn't feel right, and we will calibrate you.

Next week, we’ll share valuable tips on the best and worst job markets.  Let Pachinko be your guide.


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