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To Whom It May (Not) Concern

October 5, 2009

There are some things I just don’t get about online job postings. For one, why every job qualifications list includes, ‘excellent organizational skills and attention to detail.” Every time I read that, it’s always me yelling,

“Oh come on, I’m totally not qualified for this! Where are the jobs for the messy, detail-disoriented college grads without analytical or interpersonal skills?** This recession must be hitting us hard!

Please forgive my sarcasm. For the last few weeks I’ve been hammering out cover letters and researching companies like it’s my job (ha ha, or an unpaid internship), and I’m little burnt out. It’s rough, since I write a new cover letter for each job I apply to. It’s good writing practice though, and I gain a better feel for what works. With each letter, my writing gets a little more personal and a little less what my peers refer to as “professional” but which is really “stilted BS.”

In terms of cover letter advice, not that I am a good source of advice: research the company you’re applying to and set your tone accordingly, ranging from ‘Thus, I would excel in a position at your firm, and that is why you should hire me,’ and, ‘I would totally kick ass at taking dictation! Hire me dude!’

I don’t recommend the second one, by the way, unless Jon Bon Jovi is seeking a personal assistant. And the first one is too pretentious, so unless Kanye is hiring… (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Anyways, the point of targeting cover letters to each job, and not sending out a generic one, is to catch someone’s attention. The internet is great and all, but there’s so much out there. One minute I’m reading an article about health care reform, and the next thing I know, I’m on Youtube watching a hamster eat popcorn. God knows how I got there, but my point is that our scarcest resource nowadays is attention. So standing out among your thousands of peers is important.

That’s why I don’t take it personally when a company doesn’t respond to me. It has to read hundreds of applications, and that leaves a lot of buzzwords to sift through (expertise, achievement, enthusiastic, experience, perspective, extensive…that’s a lot of E words).

So my advice about cover letters to the unemployed, not that it’s worth anything, is as follows.

  • Get rid of the buzzwords, or at least grab a thesaurus. Make your letter stand out. Yes, companies will appreciate the fact you are excited by the prospect of ‘facilitating communication among different departments,’ or , ‘providing swift beverage service to the CEO and his bros,’ but all the other applicants will be excited too. Make the case for why you deserve the job over everyone else, whether you’ve done the same thing before and rocked it, or, in the case of the coffee monkey job, you know the menu at Starbucks inside and out (I will have a short, 140-degree latte please, and yes, that does exist).
  • You’ve spent years and years building up your accomplishments, but you’ve probably spent two minutes writing about them. Make someone read your letter for typos, because I guarantee no company will hire you as a ‘capable profreader.’

So, that’s all I really have to say about this. To be honest, I really am excited about finding the perfect job. And some day, when I’m in charge of reading through all the cover letters, they better say, “Dear Mr. Jacoby,” instead of “To Whom It May Concern,” because you better know my name.

And if you don’t, I won’t be very concerned with you.

-ben

** This isn’t true! Because actually, I am organized, detail-oriented, terrific, and super-excellent (and also handsome).

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