Friday, March 4, 2011

The Finer Points of the Cover Letter

One of the worst things about applying for jobs in a shaky economy is the sheer number of applications you can send out without ever hearing so much as a peep back from anyone. (There are other worst things, but I'll stick to this one for now.)

The correct way to go through this process is something along these lines, according to "experts". Note here that anyone who is an expert at applying for jobs is either a terrible worker, just making shit up, or is flat out lying. Or, maybe just really, really unfortunate, but I'm not leaning that way. As one such "expert," I will leave it up to you to determine which one I am, while offering my incredible advice, absolutely free of charge.

So, here is what I believe you are supposed to do, based on my interpretations of countless (okay.. maybe four) work search classes, websites, and a pamphlet on prostate cancer that I found in the stairwell of a parking garage:

  1. Locate a company that you would like to work for. Research the company thoroughly, determining the specifics of their culture, goals, operations, et cetera.
  2. Once you have spent weeks of your life determining that they are the ultimate combination of all magical unicorn fairy happiness cuddly love fuzz and that you simply cannot take another breath without contributing to their worthy causes and/or profit margin, look to see if they have any jobs open that you could do.
  3. Research the job thoroughly, determining the specifics of the job's merit as it compares to your talents, skills, and ability to lie about your talents and skills.
  4. Update your resume, utilizing the best of your abilities to lie about said talents and skills, so it looks like you were manufactured in the (Company_Name) (Job_Title) worker factory especially just for them. Print enough copies of this resume to choke a donkey, even though it is only relevant to applying for jobs at SpumCo as a journeyman acrylic faux-cotton-candy trophy mounting machine operator.
  5. Sit down, and use your brilliant and thorough research, the results of your soul-searching, and a generous dose of PCP, and write a cover letter.

Now, there are other steps, but today, I'm covering step 5. Write a cover letter. So, we'll stop here.

The art of the cover letter is to manage to not repeat anything that already exists in the resume that you drafted for the express purpose of applying for This One Perfect Job. So, you should tell them why you're awesome, which you already did in your resume, but without actually restating anything that they could already learn by reading your resume. This way, you don't look like you're just being redundant.

Therefore, if your resume already states something like, say, you have been attending college and have earned a degree in acrylic faux-cotton-candy trophy mounting machine operations, you should not remind The Reader that you have this degree. They know. Or they will know if they read the other page(s) of what you handed/faxed/emailed/pigeon'd them.

As you may very well be aware, or at least imagine, this can be a sticky sort of task. If you are not aware and are unable to imagine this, it is possible that you are either a house plant or a zombie. If this is the case, congratulations on your excellent English skills; you are an exceptional house plant or zombie, and I am brimming with pride that I have as one of my esteemed readers an exceptional house plant or zombie. Also, I would love to interview you.


In my efforts to accomplish this task, I have hastily carefully crafted what I believe to be the largest time saver imaginable for the unemployed: The Perfect Cover Letter. I have written it in the format of an open letter, but you may adapt it to suit your personal tastes by replacing the greeting with "Dear Stan" or "Hey, Asshole" as necessary. Just don't use Comic Sans as the font. Nobody takes that seriously.


The Perfect Cover Letter

To Whom It May Concern,
I realize that the purpose of a cover letter is to detail exactly how my qualifications match the desired qualifications for the position that I am applying for.
However, after some consideration, I believe that it is possibly more important to inform you of the following:
 1.) I am utterly and irrefutably badass at everything.
 2.) That includes numbered lists, and levitation.
 3.) I'm actually writing this list while I hover six inches above the ground.
 4.) I use hyperbole and sometimes outright lies in this cover letter. But the badass part is totally accurate.
So, the question is not whether or not you want to bring me in for an interview. The question is whether or not you want to bring me in for an interview right now, or whether you need some time to collect yourself.
 5.) I'm not even done with that numbered list.
-(Your Name Here)
P.S.: Seriously. Badass.


  1. bbbbbrrrraaaiiinnnnsssss.

    I love your work so far Scott. It's helped me to not feel so bad about my situation. Here's hoping someone realizes what they are missing out on.

  2. They're missing out on BADASS, is what they're missing out on!

    Now, if I can just find someone looking to hire a guy that likes to ramble aimlessly about whatever happens to be topical that day, I'm golden.

    Last night, for example, I had a dream about going to the arcade with Felicia Day.

    I'm not really sure how marketable that is. Still working on that.

  3. P.S. Felicia Day is dreeeaaaammmyyyyy. Okay, I'm done.

  4. you say that as though it's not obvious.

  5. I actually had a click-through from Felicia Day's blog pop up in my stats the other day after I'd said something gushy in a comment.

    On the one hand, it'd be awesome if Felicia Day giggled at something I wrote.

    On the other hand, I probably look like an idiot.

    No, I definitely look like an idiot. That's alright, though. I have no shame. ;)

  6. I think, the next time I am forced to apply for a job, I will actually use this cover letter. Thank you. I'll let you know how it goes!

  7. ...if it works, I want a thank-you postcard! :D