It is hard to get a job in today’s world. Economy…blah, blah, blah….unemployment rate….recession…blah, blah, blah. It’s hard. I have friends who graduated in the top ten of their elite and prestigious law, poly sci and every other graduate degree programs who are currently working on doctorates at Kinkos in job application filling and resume photocopying. We all have friends, family and peers who are facing this struggle. It’s true, the job market is not an easy place to be. But, what I believe is also true – is candidates can do A LOT to stand out from the crowd, and don’t for whatever reason. I have learned so much from being on the opposite side of the hiring equation, but one thing I see people mess up over and over is the cover letter moment. And if you mess that up, you are done-zo. Here is some unsolicited advice, hope it helps you land that dream job! What does this have to do with productivity you ask? You will be more productive if you do good work, the right way. Duh.
A Bad Idea
I understand writing cover letters is irritating. What most people do is write one “really good one,” that has been vetted by parents and friends, copy it a million times and mail and email it like mad. This is actually a totally awful plan, so sorry to say. It is so obvious to me when I am reading the same cover letter everyone else is, and it turns me off in no time flat. When I read these letters, this is what my brain thinks they say:
Dear Brook, (name almost always misspelled, your email just got deleted)
I’m Clueless. I don’t know anything about your company beside the fact that you may be hiring, and employ people who have a similar skill set to the one I possess…I think.
I graduated from this great place with this great degree, which means you should probably consider yourself lucky to have me.
Big words, misspellings, misused commas more big words.
Something, something, thanks for reading this.
That tells me you haven’t researched my company or me one iota. I’m not being egotistical, or not being totally egotistical, but if you don’t care where you work, why do I want you to work for me? This letter could have been personalized by adding a few sentences gleaned from a sensible Google search of me or my company, but you didn’t take the time to do even that – although you probably spent copious time the very same day googling things like “talking cats.”
Now, none of this may not be true of you, but this is what a cover letter like that says about you. And I don’t want to even talk to anyone who doesn’t have time to learn about a place they might consider working. I hire people who care about themselves and their lives and the lives of my clients. From this letter, I don’t think you do actually care about…anything. If you do care about stuff, are a passionate person and have an active desire to join one company or another – stop writing crappy letters lazy people write.
A Good Idea
In direct contrast to the mass mailed, generic, super yucko cover letter referenced above – is this one. I received possibly the best cover letter ever for BSLM a few weeks ago. This well crafted, perfectly targeted cover letter landed the candidate an appointment regardless of my lack of time (I made time, as she did to write this thoughtful letter) and the fact that I was not expressly looking to hire someone at the moment her letter came in (told her that, she was lovely and I called her as soon as I had room on my team). Here are a few excerpts from her letter:
Greetings from a recession-movie-loving, chronological-list-making, pencil-sharpening college-compatriot of CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE! I recently met him for a lovely gelato and walk in Central Park where, after the requisite recounting of recent romantic rendezvous, we talked about you and your company – CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE had only the most incredible things to say!
Since graduating from Yale in 2009 (with a B.A. in Anthropology), I’ve been studying opera at Mannes Conservatory on the Upper West Side. I got a Master of Music degree there, and currently have a scholarship to be studying in a special diploma program that is aimed at being the intermediate step between the cocoon of the practice room and the emerging as a (Madame) butterfly. (Actually, I’m a mezzo-soprano, so I will most likely be emerging as her maid.)
It’s such an honor to be working every day toward (the holy grail) of being a totally honest, generous performing artist (something I discussed at length with CURRENT BSLM EMPLOYEE as we were rounding back toward Columbus Circle) – but I think in order to fully spread my wings as a musician it’s necessary that I use more than just my musical muscles. And that I have a job which allows me to support my singing habit!
I think your blog says it all. (I confess, I probably would’ve written to you sooner, but got caught up in reading all of the incredibly useful, fun and well-targeted posts – and being inspired to do things like book plane tickets…) In everything from posts about focusing on details in the context of the “big picture”, to letting go of the fidgeting in life, to feeding your passion by surrounding yourself with passionate people, it seems like your company operates through the idea that life and work benefit the most from a deliberate and holistic approach. For the past few years, I’ve practiced yoga myself, and I think it’s truly unique to find a company whose business model seems to operate within these powerfully useful principles – a company which keeps such a deep sense of the big picture in the background, while giving clients a leg-up on the details and practicalities of life.
In that spirit, I give you, what it doesn’t say on my resume: I am a laid-back organizer, a pun-making hard worker, a fun-loving natural-born designated driver. I don’t balk at doing any task, large or small, but instead find satisfaction in a task’s graceful and thorough execution. I like to get things done efficiently, but with a sense of humor and a sense of kindness. I am a great confidence booster and listener – while I deal nuts and bolts of editing a speech or a piece of correspondence, I can also coach the preparation to make the prospect of public speaking or participating in a big meeting seem less daunting. I can adeptly scale the internet to purchase a gift or plan a party, but I can do it with a great aesthetic sense that draws upon other information to make it specifically tailored to what would be most personally targeted for the occasion. I can assist on a stressful project – anything from college admissions, to a presentation at an important conference – while keeping a cool head and making the mood light. I know how to sew, knit, crochet and kickbox. If I’ve never done it before, I can probably figure it out. I rock at self-assembly. I have a “Spidey-sense” for bargains and budgeting. I am really good at research. I have torrential brainstorms, so I go through a lot of umbrellas.
Now, this is a person I want to meet. This is a person who has spent time and energy reading our website, blog, asking a current employee pertinent and thoughtful questions. This is a person who is writing in the tone and style of my company! She GETS it. She speaks kindly of our company, but is not gross and effusive. She tells me about all of the things I won’t find on her resume, and is proud of her strengths and quirks. She is funny. This cover letter says to me:
I know who I am, and it seems like you know who you are. I think we are similar. I think I would be a great fit for your company, also I’m funny.
Be the Awesome Person. Take the time. Do it right. Instead of spending your time photocopying 100 bad cover letters, take the time to write 2 well researched, targeted ones – chances are you will get both of those jobs and none of the 100 you didn’t care enough about to Google.
Post authored by Brooke Stone