Job applications

A Huge Misunderstanding

Here’s a short one. I saw this written as a comment on another blog recently. After the original writer had proclaimed the importance of a good cover letter, a commenter wrote this:

How can you write a cover letter for every job application when 99% of them go into the black hole? Isn’t your correspondence with the hiring manager your chance to demonstrate your competency? Isn’t that better than a cover letter?

This demonstrates a huge misunderstanding of what a cover letter is. As readers of this blog know by now, your correspondence with the hiring manager is your cover letter.

To go a little deeper: lots of people ask whether they should write their cover letter as a Word document and attach it to their e-mailed application. In 99% of cases, the answer is no. Instead, just write the cover letter in the e-mail. Why is this such a hard idea to understand? I think I’ve figured it out.

Your cover letter doesn't need to be this serious. Thanks to the Beinecke Library for putting this image up under a Creative Commons CC-SA license.
Your cover letter doesn’t need to be this serious.
I, along with most of my readers, am a product of the American education system. At some point in your education, you were taught How To Write. This is how you Write: You choose a Topic, write an Introductory Paragraph including a Topic Sentence, use Transitions to move to the First Of Three Supporting Paragraphs and basically this is all bullshit. It’s a very good start if you’ve never understood how to organize your ideas on paper, but nobody ever tells you that at some point, you have to stop writing that way. I write for a living and it still took me a long time to figure this out. (I did figure it out before people started paying me, yeah, but it took longer than it should.)

So writing a cover letter doesn’t have to be this big, formal thing where you Write with a Capital W. Writing a cover letter should be…


Correspondence with a hiring manager.