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Cover Letters: A Perfect Place to Let Your Creativity Shine

January 26, 2010

For the past couple weeks I’ve been spending a huge amount of time writing cover letters. I think there are people who write a handful of templates and then just plug in details when the time comes to send one off, but I’m an asshole perfectionist type, and I write a letter from scratch every time I apply for a job. If this blog has taught you anything, it’s that there’s almost nothing I can’t get a big fat kick out of writing–but since the day I applied for my first job, I have loathed writing cover letters. There’s a formulaic fakeness about them that I can’t effing stand. They make me feel like a liar: although I’ve never said anything untrue in a cover letter, I feel compelled to write in a voice that isn’t quite mine. I feel obligated to use phrases like “first-hand understanding” and “customer service experience” and “meticulous attention to detail.” The whole exercise is guaranteed to result in banal, brown-nosing drivel whose grammatical correctness and factual accuracy in no way detract from its overall insufferability.

The job I want is the job for which the following would get me hired instantly:

Dear Mr. or Ms. Whoever,

Like everyone else, I need money. I’m willing to work hard for it and I’m applying to your company because I saw on the internet that you are hiring for a job that I would be able to do. I wouldn’t say I am passionate about the position, but I don’t think you should hold that against me, because nobody is passionate about bottom-rung office work or the kind of customer service where the phone rings every 30 seconds and you pick it up and answer one of the same five questions. Jobs like that aren’t exciting or challenging or interesting and you know it. But they have to get done, somebody has to do them, and I could be that person.

I am an intelligent, introverted, weird, ambitious, absurdly capable human being who can learn exactly how your “office environment” works in about three days. I never need to be told anything twice, and when it comes to common-sense type stuff, I don’t even need to be told once. I can easily figure out all the minutiae like what’s good about the job and what’s annoying about it and who among the staff likes and dislikes whom and who appreciates a sense of humour and who can’t handle stress and who is anal and who is motherly even toward 30-year-olds and who is a doormat and who is only pretending to be nice and who doesn’t have a flaming clue what s/he is doing. Within a week I’ll know what’s being done effectively and what isn’t and who is responsible for the effectiveness and who is contributing in what ways to the lack thereof. I have this freaky intuition about people even though I’m sometimes super shitty at interacting with them. I can assure you that I will never make eye contact with anyone for any reason. I’m completely honest and I can’t fake anything so I’m a terrible salesman unless I genuinely think the person will be glad to have purchased the item s/he is inquiring about. I’m relatively patient but I will not tolerate being treated like a piece of garbage, either by staff or by customers. I earn the respect of others through my actions and I expect others to earn mine in the same way. Respect is not automatic and it has nothing to do with anyone’s position in a corporate hierarchy. You can’t buy integrity. I type quickly and if there’s anything that needs to be written or proofread, I can pretty much guarantee you that I’m the right person for the task.

You can look at my resume and see that I either have done or am perfectly capable of learning how to do everything related to this job. It’s obvious. I don’t need to tell you I have wide-ranging customer service experience because just look at the resume. I don’t need to tell you I’m independent or adaptable or good at time management or able to communicate orally and in writing, because the first thing beneath the “Education” heading is two humanities Master’s degrees. It’s all so obvious. Isn’t it? For any given job that you’re hiring for, aren’t all the cover letters virtually the same? Don’t you see that the system is designed to ensure maximum genericism? Don’t you just get so fucking tired of it? I know I do. The thing that terrifies me most is the idea that I’ll never, ever make it as a professional writer and I’ll have to spend the rest of my life applying for jobs like this one, jobs I don’t want, jobs nobody could possibly really want, just for money, just so I can pay the rent on the cheapest apartment I can find, pretending in cover letter after cover letter that I want these meaningless irrelevant jobs the successful performance of which requires that the employee leave her character and identity at home because in a place like the place where this job takes place, personality only gets in the way. And year after year after year, every night and all weekend I write poems and novels and blog posts and autobiographical lyric prose and nobody pays much attention, I’m slightly not good enough or my timing is slightly off and the rejection letters stack up and eventually I lose myself. I lose my self. What a waste. But the world wastes people all the time. That could happen to me. The world doesn’t owe me a writing career. It doesn’t even owe me an interview for this featureless job that almost anyone could do decently well even after having undergone a frontal lobotomy.

Obviously, you’ll see my phone number right at the top of my resume and you’ll know that it’s okay for you to phone me if you want to arrange an interview. Given that you posted an advertisement soliciting applications for this position, I’m sure you’ll forgive me for not thanking you effusively for considering mine. I wouldn’t have sent in an application if you hadn’t asked for it, and by asking for it, I think you strongly implied that you would consider it. Hire me if you want, or hire someone else. Either way, it’ll work out pretty much the same for you in the long run. In a few weeks, there will be someone at the desk, doing the things.



One Comment leave one →
  1. Joe permalink
    January 26, 2010 12:00 pm

    A diorama would be worth 31,622 words. More if you have labels.

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