The one thing I’ve found most frustrating about the job seeking process so far isn’t the rejection, the sort of transient lifestyle I’ve taken on, the up-in-the-air; down-in-the-mouth mood swings or just being flat out broke. It’s the cover letters.
Cover letters are the bane of my existence, and pretty sure they’re the bane of yours too.
I don’t mind grinding them out, but there’s this constant debate over what to write, how to write it, whether it’s good enough, if it will get noticed, or if I should just flat out not give a hoot.
I hit that wall last week while I was filling out an application for a job that I was almost certain I had absolutely no chance of even getting a sniff at, despite knowing I could do the job to exact specifications they required. I wanted the job, hell I just wanted a phone call acknowledging that someone knew I existed.
So I got to thinking, well, not so much thinking, but more of a glazed over, sick-of-it-all, throw-your-hands-in-the-air and wave them around like you don’t care, sort of mentality.
I remember reading on Fleet Street Blues about Alan Geere, editor-in-chief of the Essex ChronicleMedia Group being so sick of trite and silly cover letters recounting expeditions up the Andes and the hell of retail, he said sod it – and asked applicants to tweet him in 140 characters why they should do the job.
So I too said screw it and wrote a cover letter in 140 characters.
I sent it away with my resume. Then I sort of had that ‘Oh God, what did I just do’, moment.
I doubt I’ll get a call back and doubt I’ll get a sniff at the job – but for once, writing my cover letter was fun. It was challenging too, but not challenging in the way where I want to gouge my eyes out for basically repeating what the job application wanted, or writing some cliche mess about my achievements.
It was challenging to actually think why I wanted the job. Why someone would want me for the job. And then do it all in 140 characters.
In another Fleet Street Blues post I stumbled across was from an actual editor who talked about the disasterous job applications she’s received. Her point was rather summed up well in the last sentence, “A job application is a chance to show an employer that you have these skills by telling a compelling story about yourself. Why miss it?”
So there it is. We all struggle over what to write. How to format, etc, etc. Some of us are incredibly careless about our applications too.
Aside from the basics of spellchecking, knowing what you’re actually applying for, the exact name of the person who will read your letter and spellchecking again, here’s some tips that you may or may not follow:
- We’re journalists – we write compelling stories. Write compelling cover letters.
- Don’t send in some manufactured trash with bits dropped in like filler in a skeleton story you’re about to post to the web. Each one should be tailored to the specific job. If anything else, it’s honing a different writing style.
- Write your cover letter like an article. Start with a catchy and engaging lede – preferably not about climbing the Andes or working in retail, but about your job experience and how it relates to the position
- Use real-life reporting anecdotes. Crime job? Write about reporting on crime, death knocks, etc.
- And if you’re completely out of your mind (like me) send a cover letter with just a tweet. Write your application in iambic pentameter or make a haiku out of it.
Just recycling the same cover letter and inserting relevant bits only shows you’re good at being a churnalist. No one wants to hire one of those. Be bold and stand out.
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