Big news: Cover Letters for Creative People now available* at your local library

This is some big news, with some big caveats.

The short version: You may soon be able to borrow Cover Letters for Creative People for free through your local library.

The longer version: It might take a bit of work.

See, Cover Letters for Creative People is published through both Amazon and Smashwords just announced that it is partnering with Overdrive, the nation’s largest library ebook distributor, to make Smashwords books available in their catalogues.

If your library has an e-book program, it’s probably through Overdrive.

To be able to check out an e-copy of Cover Letters for Creative People, you need a few things, though.

First, you need a special app. It’s free, and you can get one for Android, iOS and even use these ebooks on old-school-style Kindles. I love the Overdrive app and use it for most of my e-reading, when I’m not purchasing books.

Here’s the other trick: Your library also needs to have bought one or more copies of Cover Letters for Creative People.

Libraries get a special discount when buying Smashwords books, so if you really, really want to read Cover Letters for Creative People, tell your local library that you want them to buy a copy through Overdrive. (Or two or three, I’m not picky. 😉

The Smashwords/Overdrive partnership is very new–just announced in the past few days–so your local library may not yet be aware of it. But give it a shot! Let me know how it goes. 🙂


Buy on Amazon, leave a review, I’ll look at your cover letter

Here’s a quick promotion for y’all, whether you’ve already purchased or if you’ve been holding off on buying.

If you have picked up the book on and leave a “Verified Purchase” review, I’ll take a look at one of your cover letters.

The review doesn’t need to be five stars–just informative. (I reserve the right to deny cover letter critiques to anyone who leaves a review that says nothing but “great book” or “terrible book.” I don’t care what you write as long as you write at least a few sentences!)

If you’ve already bought the book but haven’t reviewed it, all you need to do is log back in to your Amazon account and leave a review. If you haven’t bought the book, now’s a great time to do so as you’ll get a free cover letter critique with it!

Once you’ve done that, send me an email with a link to the review and one of your cover letters, and I’ll provide up to a page of feedback.

The feedback will be similar in tone and quantity to this example.

This promotion is for Amazon purchases only for now–sorry iTunes and Smashwords buyers–but I may open it up to other markets in the future.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Firms sign on to “Intern Bill of Rights”

Interesting news this month: InternMatch is asking big companies to sign on to an “Intern Bill of Rights” that would promise fair treatment and paid work…or if it’s not paid, then at least meaningful.

According to InternMatch’s petition, Viacom has signed on, as have others including marketing company Axciom, design studio Uncorked Studios, app developer MindSnacks, and more.

However, the bill of rights is pretty toothless as it stands.

You can read the entire thing here. It calls for official offer documents to interns (yawn), a formal definition of the word “intern” (“should only be applied to opportunities that involve substantial training, mentoring, and getting to know a line of work”), and a transparent hiring process. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

It also says interns should be treated with respect and that nobody should be “forced” to take an unpaid internship.

Big deal.

As Gigaom says, though, “The best we can hope from the Intern Bill of Rights is for it to exert positive peer pressure on bigger companies to follow the lead of the Atlantic and others who are committed to paid and meaningful internships.”

That would be nice.

Job applications What not to do

Can you reuse a cover letter?

It’s…not a good idea.

If you are thinking of reusing a cover letter to apply to more than one job, don’t.

I’m not talking about carefully picking and choosing parts that can be reused. (That’s a post from last year that explains how you can reuse at least some of your cover letter, so your hard work doesn’t go to waste.)

What I mean is copying and pasting an entire letter, changing only the company name (and that only if you remember to–yikes).

I hire (some) people now for one of my gigs. I have received applications with no cover letters (deleted), so-so cover letters (deleted), and honest to god bad cover letters (BALEETED). Once I received a great cover letter. “It all started with a murder on the roof,” it began. Ooh, I’m intrigued.

I was less intrigued when I got the same cover letter about a week later for a different position.

Are you creative and good with words only once in your life? Was that cover letter your only creative output, ever? Of course not! So why would you send the message that it was?

It takes a little bit of extra time to write or customize a new cover letter for each job, but it’s totally worth it.

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!


Back-to-school sale! Get Cover Letters for Creative People at more than 50% off!

Because internship deadlines are fast approaching (seriously, it’s true), we’re offering Cover Letters for Creative People at just $2.99, (more than half off cover price), until September 30.

Buy the book to get 18 actual, never-before-published cover letters that worked for real people in PR, journalism, marketing, and more.

You can totally buy on Amazon, no coupon code required, or on Smashwords by entering the coupon code HU26T at checkout.

Job applications

Cover letter writing is a muscle.

It’s one that you can improve with practice. It’s also one that can atrophy very quickly.

Believe me. I’ve been there. I’ve sat in front of the empty Microsoft Word document fearing that whatever I was about to type would be so stupid.

Photo by flickr user Aaron Cannon:
Photo by flickr user Aaron Cannon
But being able to write a great cover letter for that job that you just saw posted, without spending three weeks agonizing over each word, is important. If you wait three weeks, you’ll almost definitely miss out! So if you’re jobsearching, your cover letter “practice” is as important as your gym routine.

Here’s what BrightPlaces, a career advice blog, has to say about all this:

“We normally don’t read cover letters, we don’t talk about them and we feel relieved once we managed to complete ours. Since we lack the knowledge about what makes a great cover letter we quickly start to feel afraid about the topic.”

What will get rid of the fear? Practice.

I’m not saying you need to sit down and write fake cover letters. That won’t get you very far.

But if you’re jobsearching and see three great opportunities, and then you decide you only have time to apply for one today…stop and think. Maybe you do have time. If you knock out two or three cover letters in a day, even when there’s only artificial time pressure, you’ll get much better at writing fast, so when you do need to be fast, you’re ready.

In November, thousands of writers band together for NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words–the length of a fairly solid novella or a very short novel–within 30 days. That’s about 1,667 words per day if you don’t take any breaks.

The people who succeed at NaNoWriMo have a few things in common. One: they’re all crazy. (I know this from firsthand experience). But two: the only way you can get to 50,000 is to shut up your inner voices that tell you what crap you are and just WRITE. And at the end of it, you have a pretty crap novel (although Water for Elephants was originally a NaNoWriMo novel) but you’ve built up your writing muscles. Super important.

This isn’t an invitation to be sloppy. Don’t forget to proofread. Twice. But it’s an invitation to tell that inner voice to shut up, write, and flex your muscles.

Job applications

A cover letter critique: Take risks. What do you have to lose?

A reader e-mailed me his cover letter. I agreed to send him some suggestions in exchange for permission to put some of them into a blog post. So: this cover letter is 100% real (except for the redacted parts) and 100% posted with permission.

April 25, 2013
Morgan Edge
News Director, WGBS
2 Main Street

Dear Morgan:

It was a pleasure meeting you briefly late last year when you came to give a talk at Metropolis University to the master’s in journalism class. I’ve now completed the program and am looking for job opportunities in news reporting.

I’ve a curious and critical mind with regards to news judgment and the experience of working in fast-paced newsrooms through internships in Metropolis at WKRP, WXYZ and KBBL. I’m also very comfortable using an ENG camera and with computer programs including iNEWS, QNews, Avid, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop and Adobe Audition.

As you can see on my blog and in the demo reel, I’ve covered a wide range of stories – from human trafficking and the grassroots INM movement, to a local dance group chosen to perform at the 2012 London Olympics.

My work was recently recognized by the Metropolis Association of Journalists. A short documentary I hosted and co-produced on voter apathy has been selected as a finalist for the 2012 Student Award of Excellence.

Please find my resume attached for further details on my background.

The reasons I would like to work at WGBS are the focus on local stories and that an independent station is able to successfully compete with the big networks in Metropolis. I would love to speak with you regarding what I’ve to offer and possible opportunities with WGBS.

Thanks for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Jimmy Olsen


Okay, Jimmy, so this is not an objectively bad cover letter. I count exactly zero “to whom it may concern”s and no “it is my pleasure to apply for the open position of” crap.

It’s also great that you have a contact at WGBS to address your letter to, because it looks as if WGBS doesn’t have any open postings at the moment and you’re applying “cold” in case there just happens to be an opening at the time your cover letter and resume crosses Morgan’s desk. However…did you actually meet this guy, or were you one in a hundred students who filed through to shake his hand after his talk? The former will help you get much farther. The latter, not so much, but it probably can’t hurt. Either way, applying cold like this is a long shot, but you’ve got little to lose.

But because you have little to lose, you may want to try taking more risks. This cover letter isn’t bad, but it’s also not awesome. Your second paragraph detailing your qualifications tells me little more than I can find in your resume. Presumably your resume will also list your awards (4th paragraph), so the only paragraphs that tell me something new about you are the third and fifth.

As for the fifth graf (“The reasons I would like to work at WGBS…”) Your heart’s in the right place, but this feels forced. Actually, forced isn’t the right word. It feels slotted in, as if the rest of your cover letter is a template. (Jimmy, you sent me two cover letters, and each is relatively different, so perhaps this cover letter is not a template–but that’s how this paragraph feels.)  Don’t leave this bit til the end.

And as for your reporting chops…you’re a student who covered human trafficking? Say that again. Human trafficking? Okay, Jimmy, I’m not Morgan Edge and I don’t know what’s running through his head, but holy cow, I would want to know more about this. Again, you have little to lose. What about putting this shit right up top there? Maybe not above your hello to Morgan (depending on how thoroughly you actually met this guy), but right the hell below it. How did reporting on human trafficking affect you? What was it like? What did you learn? Tell a story with your cover letter. Don’t necessarily skip over your qualifications, but Morgan can look at your resume for details. Maybe you want to dedicate two paragraphs to human trafficking and a sentence to your internships, tech skills and awards.

Anyway, that’s what I’d do. What do you have to lose?

Job applications

How to write a cover letter for a “creative” job: show, don’t tell

Too many people, when applying for a job that says “attention to detail is a requirement,” simply write, “I have great attention to detail.”

Show your attention to detail by sending a perfect cover letter and resume with no mistakes.

Too many people, when applying for a job that says “writing skills are important,” just write, “I have excellent writing skills.”

Show them by writing excellently.

Too many people, when applying for a job that requires creativity, say “I am creative.”

Horsepuckey. * Show me. Either write one hell of a creative cover letter or do something outside the box.

Know your audience. A government contractor looking for “creative problem-solvers” may define creativity differently than does the startup ad agency.

To that startup ad agency, a #hireme campaign may be old hat. To that contractor, it may be very creative. Maybe too creative. Think about the skills you’d be expected to use on the job, and use them in your application.

Don’t just say you’re creative. Or a good writer. Or whatever. Show how you are.

*Insert your preferred expletive here.


#Resuchat Wrapup

Last Tuesday I hosted my first Twitter chat, on optimizing your cover letter for entry-level jobs, with Jackalope Jobs. I was expecting it to be overwhelming, and it was (kinda), but mostly it was fun and energizing. Thanks to everyone who participated.

If you missed it, Jackalope Jobs has posted a great summary of the chat here.


I’d like to do more of these so if you know of a great Twitter chat looking for guest hosts, let me know!