Monday, May 24, 2010

How come cover letters aren't easier?

No matter how many times I write one, I still find cover letters difficult.

Perhaps it's the pressure of knowing the letter is my one and only chance to make a good first impression.

How intense is that pressure? Well, a yet-to-launch, online-only local news site in Washington, D.C., which in the past has talked about employing 50, said last week it's swimming in 600 to 800 applications.That pool of competition certainly includes journalists like me who are jobless and others who are gainfully employed but may see a grass-is-greener opportunity at, an experiment by the company that built into a print and online dynamo.

TBD says it puts a lot of stock in cover letters, calling them "the ultimate test for a writer." (Oh no!) It's also posting applicants' really bad errors to Twitter as a series labeled #resumetip to scare off typos, bad grammar and clichés. (Double oh no.)

Most recruiters and career gurus counsel jobseekers on the importance of cover letters. Joe Grimm, who once worked as a recruiter for the Detroit Free Press but now is a free agent, urges applicants to write "killer" letters. Others say they should be written with as much care as the résumé is.

But I have to admit I liked the hint of rebelliousness from Nick Corcodilos in an Ask the Headhunter post. He didn't get many to sign on, judging from the comments offered in support of cover letters. So he was blunt:
"I really don’t get the idea of a résumé + a cover letter. It’s as though you’re admitting your résumé doesn’t cut it, doesn’t justify your application and doesn’t explain in itself why you should be considered."
A résumé is a cinch. A cover letter? Still a chore.

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