Worst Cover Letter Advice: Use a Quotation in Your Cover Letter

Worst Cover Letter Advice: Use a Quotation in Your Cover LetterI came across an article in my travels, Season Your Cover Letter with a Great Quote, that recommended to job seekers that they use an inspiring quotation in their cover letter. In case any of you encounter the same cover letter advice, I want to warn you now NOT to follow it. I strongly discourage anyone from including a quotation in their cover letter, unless that quotation comes from you, a client or supervisor.

Examples of Vapid Quotations in Cover Letters

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” (Albert Einstein)

The sample cover letter in the article above included the above quote and stated, “You can count on me to live these inspiring words. I know the importance of influencing people for good and that is what I want to be known for. I’d welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person so you can judge for yourself.”

My reaction: Barf.

Some other suggested (and I believe empty) quotations from this article:

“Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” Norman Vincent Peale

“Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.” David McCullough

“Success depends on your backbone, not your wishbone.” Unknown Author

The problem with using these borrowed words is that just because you like a quotation does not mean you will live up to it! In your cover letter, give inspiring examples of what you have done and then say you will live up to your own examples. Hard facts always speak louder than flowery language.

When it’s Okay to Use a Quotation in Your Cover Letter

When I was a hiring manager I never received a cover letter containing a quotation, but if I had I would have mistrusted it immediately. Anyone can do a Google search for inspiring quotations. Not very many people truly meet the high standards set by those words, so I would caution you to avoid this type of quotation in your cover letter.

The exception to this rule is if you have a quote that you wrote yourself, and that you can back up with examples. Also, it’s a great strategy to put some testimonials from other people in your cover letter – either at the top or in the margin. You can get creative with carefully chosen quotations like these.

Another option is to use a tagline on both your resume and cover letter. For example, one of my clients says under her name, “Leading Teams to Performance When the Game is On the Line.”

Isn’t that better than some quote by Benjamin Franklin?

If you need help developing a cover letter that will help you get interviews, contact us for more information, or view our Resume and Cover Letter Writing Services.


    • You could use a brief quote within the body of the letter if you want to say something about how you are aligned with the company’s mission. I wouldn’t put the quote in a separate area of the letter or a text box or anything like that. This would be an individual situation and would depend on what you have to say about the mission.

  1. I am trying to go from a clinical research coordinator to a clinical research associate, which is often difficult and found an article from a respected organization (ACRP) that specifically states, “study coordinators make excellent monitors”. Would this type of quote be acceptable?

  2. So I want to work in the culinary industry and I feel it would be an amazing opportunity to learn, grown and have more knowledge. The quote that I used said

    “The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realise the less I know.”- Michel Legrand.

    Is it okay or should I try something else?

  3. I have had excellent results using quotes from the company’s website. My last paragraph usually ends with something like “I am excited to work for a team who is (something from the company’s vision or mission statement on their website, written as action verbs).” This, along with being sure to use the right name and mailing address of the hiring person, goes a long way toward telling the hiring company that you have done the research and know something about their company. This puts you several steps above the multitude that doesn’t make the effort.

    • Great comment, Donna! YES – quoting the company’s website is a great strategy. Companies love to see that you are applying to them specifically and that you understand their mission and values. I always recommend showing how you are aligned with their stated mission and values from their website; quoting them is a very effective way to do that.

  4. Hello,

    I am applying for an interpretive planner position at a museum and considering adding a requote in my cover letter. The quote in consideration was used by an author in his book, cited from another source. It directly speaks to the role of an interpretive planner. The quotation is, “Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection”

    Should I include the above reference quote or leave it out?

    • Hi Nicole, your quote is very specific to the position so you could use it to your advantage. Make sure you explain your interpretation of that quote and what it means to you, or something that adds to your cover letter, vs. just putting it at the top of the letter and not addressing it again.

  5. Using a quote on cover letter, What if is from an evaluation from my clinical instructor as a nursing student and I am applying for a job at that hospital?

    • How would you know who the hiring manager likes? Also any hiring manager would be much more excited about your accomplishments than about a quote from someone else that does not prove your accomplishments.

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