These past few months, I have been pawing around for job and schooling options that are palatable to a creature like me. Inevitably, this process has thrown me up against my ancient nemesis, the cover letter. It seems strange to have such enormously clashing feelings about a rather homogeneous type of writing, but somehow cover letters manage to fill me with terror, bafflement, and satisfaction, all at once.
I thought that you, my abundant readers, might also have trouble with this fiddly art form, and so I have prepared a very serious guide to the cover letter writing process. I hope you find it useful.
Hermitina’s Guide to Writing a Cover Letter, in Six Steps
(If you were familiar with the company prior to applying, skip Step 1.)
1. Familiarization. Before writing a single word of your cover letter, it is vital to have a solid understanding of the company’s history and philosophy. Check if they have a website; if so, read over their entire website while nodding sagely. Then, see if Wikipedia has a page about them, before resorting to desperate Google searches like “most important things about McSpove Bros. Jellyfish Emporium.” For bonus points, figure out what “synergy” means.
2. Connection. Since you know all about the company, it should be easy to communicate why you and it are an ideal match, right? Of course! However, your grasp of this central point will disappear the moment you open a blank document to begin writing, like so many cockroaches at dawn. Instead, you must begin from scratch. Start with “I like otters and you have a picture of an otter on your website,” and work up from there.
3. Swagger. Once you’ve figured out why you fit the position and company, you must convince them that they cannot live without you. I believe the standard approach to this part of the process is to toe the line between “confident boaster” and “insufferable braggart.” Describe your education, your work experience, and your interests, and then highlight the fact that everything you have ever done was mere practice for the sacred moment when you first read their job posting.
4. Application. You’ve read through your letter and résumé at least fifteen times. Go ahead and push the “send” button. After one more re-read.
5. Infatuation. Now that you’ve written a letter to convince the company that you’re perfect for them, you’ve come to believe it yourself. Every time your inbox displays a new message, your heart leaps in anticipation that they might have written to you. You picture yourself in the workplace, your cheek muscles aching from all the smiling you’re doing. On weekends, you imagine, you will meet up with all your new coworkers to gallop through fields of daffodils, hand in hand.
6. Bitterness. If you haven’t heard back from the company within four days, transition into a period of sullen mourning. This should involve moping any time you hear the company mentioned, as well as disdaining any work or products of theirs that you secretly admire. Occasionally, you may adopt an air of long-suffering patience to tell your friends about that perfect job you applied for, concluding your tale with a tremulous “but I haven’t heard back yet.” If and when the company does call you back (having read your masterful cover letter), immediately revert to Step 5 as you euphorically prepare for the interview.