Job applications

How and why to write a cover letter with personality

DSC_0051What’s your personality?

Are you serious? Funny? Hard-working? Creative?

Your cover letter should show (a little) of your personality. Dial it up or down depending on the job you’re applying for.

Here’s a job posting for an experienced reporter to cover energy policy in D.C.

Congressional Quarterly is looking for an experienced reporter to cover energy policy. We seek a versatile, exacting and enterprising reporter who can track and translate developments in energy policy online and in print. This is a demanding beat that will go to a journalist with demonstrated abilities and an eye for enterprise. A track record of covering federal energy policy and Congress is strongly preferred. The reporter we want is able to produce copy with news, sweep and depth, and juggle multiple assignments for, CQ Weekly and Roll Call.

Here’s a posting for a web startup.

If you know LA or SF better than the back of your hand, Rundown wants you as our new city editor.

With 10 editions and over 1 million subscribers, we’re the fastest-growing daily email newsletter around. If you have two to three years experience writing and editing lifestyle and/or men’s magazine-style content (plus hands-on experience with web-based content management systems), we want to meet you.

Here’s one final posting for a startup seeking a community manager.

Tripfilms ( is a building an online travel channel that brings travel experiences to life with informative and inspiring videos from real travelers. We’re a profitable, 6 year old NYC-based startup.
We are looking for an eager, creative, and energetic community manager who can also coordinate our social media and community development efforts.

Candidates must be able to enjoy Chipotle, BBQ, and musical talents are a plus!

The amount of personality you show in your cover letter will vary greatly depending on which of these jobs you are applying for.

If you are a fun, easy-going person, then in your cover letter to Tripfilms, you could gush about your favorite styles of barbeque (in addition to spelling out your qualifications, of course).

If you are a serious, hard-driving journalist who works 75 hours a week and is never away from your smartphone for more than a minute, you might mention that when applying to CQ, but might come across a little too intense for the other two ads.

Toning your personality up or down in a cover letter isn’t the same as using a fake personality, though.

A wise woman once said that a job interview is like a first date. She told me that if you go on a first date, and your date says he likes rock climbing, unless you love rock climbing too, you shouldn’t pretend you do. Otherwise, you might get into a relationship with this person and find yourself climbing mountains each weekend, but your relationship is built on a lie and won’t make you happy.

The same goes for jobs. If you pretend to be a workaholic because you assume that’s what the position requires, you’ll be really unhappy when it’s 8 p.m. on a Friday and you’re covering a meeting instead of doing what you’d really like to be doing. If you pretend to love BBQ but are actually a vegetarian, you might be miserable at Tripfilms–or at least teased a lot for eating TofuBQ (which really ought to be a brand name; you’re welcome).

To sum up: Tweak the amount of your personality in your cover letter. Best of luck!