Saturday, 10 April 2010

Cover Letters (Part 2)

Ah, cover letters. The necessary accoutrement to your CV which proves you are the best possible person for the job, and that the recipient may possibly be smote by God if they don’t hire you.
Or a mindless wad of cack in which you employ stock phrases such as “transferable skills” and “time management” and then press the “send-to-all” button.
There seems to be a sliding scale of cover letters, ranging from the standardised “dear-employers-I’m-sending-this-to-everyone-but-please-give-me-a-job-anyway” to the so gushing “I just love this company and I’ve wanted to work here since I was three so please oh please give me a job I’ll do anything.”
FACT: The former makes you look sterile and devoid of personality. The latter just makes you look mental.

FACT NUMBER TWO: The elephant in the room is that everyone *knows* that you’ve written to a thousand other companies. You're initiated the first part of the game in which everyone makes believe that they are the number one company you are applying to, and that you can't even contemplate working anywhere else.

I was at an interview yesterday and mentioned that I was interning at another company. They asked how I’d managed to get it.

“Um, because I spent about 5 consecutive hours on Tuesday working through a list of companies, of which you were one?”

Of course I didn’t say that, I laughed nonchalantly and waved away the question with “Oh, I just emailed them and they happened to have a last minute opening…” Breezy. I'm being breezy.

So, how do you tread the fine line between facelessness and wack-job when writing a cover letter? Your friendly Intern is here to tell you now.

DISCLAIMER: Long periods of cover letter writing may result in the following: the shakes, mild schizophrenia, periods of doubt or depression, typing fingers (similar to tennis elbow), bleeding eyes from scaring at the computer screen, increased thirst, mood swings, the voice in your head starting to talk like a cover letter (i.e. like it has been tattoed with inverted commas)...

Or may that’s just me…


Idiot. Not a great start when writing a letter pertaining to your interest in the company. You can’t be that interested, now can you? There’s no silent g in Price Waterhouse Cooper.

2. Make sure that the right cover letter is sent to the right company.

No joke. I have actually accidentally copy and pasted a cover letter to two companies and forgotten to change the names. Shit. “Ah ha ha, of course, when I sent a message to “Red Communications” addressed to “Dear Blue Communications,” it was because I was thinking of how much better Red is than Blue. Ah ha ha ha. Mmm…job?”

3. Don't forget to ATTACH YOUR CV
Again, an mistake. You get all excited about the cover. You finish with the flourish of "please find my CV attached." You press the send button. Hm, something seemed to be missing...Oh CRAP.
Don't. Do. it.
4. No-one wants to hear your life story.

Succinctness is the key. They don’t give a shit about where you went on your Gap Year, or what you ate for breakfast. They just want to see that you’re not a moron, and gather a basic understanding of why your email address has inconveniently turned up in their inbox and wasted valuable time when they could be checking Facebook. Short, sharp and snappy, please.

5. But at the same time, make it personal.

Ok, so I know I vetoed your life story, but you want to give a cursory few lines in reference to the particular company you’re emailing, even if you’ve just read the website and seen something vaguely interesting. Flattery gets you places, as long as you’re not over-saccharine. Think Grace Kelly, not Shirley Temple. And for God’s sake, DON’T PUT KISSES. These people aren't your friends. And they never will be now.

And finally:

6. Create a template

The fact is, it takes a fucking long time to write thousands of cover letters. It is incredibly boring and time consuming to write a brand new cover letter for each and every company you email. Create a Word document with the basic boring information you can’t be bothered to type out: “I graduated from the Monkey School of Communication in 1920 with a BA in Pig Latin. Since graduating, I have been de-worming orphans in Somalia, working in a sweat shop and eating cheese. I am scared of people and better working alone in the cupboard in my room, hate computers and speak conversational binary code.” You get the gist. See previous post. Now you can simply copy and paste these bits and add the personal shit they want to hear, which should cut down your time by, oh, at least an hour.

Only four more to go!

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