If we were allowed to be honest in job applications: An imaginary cover letter.

Dear Sir, dear Madam,

You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. I feel like this is the best start to our correspondence: neither of us knows anything about the other so we are willing to start off fresh. My name is Marta, and I am a student in European Studies. I am writing to you because faced with the perspective of impending unemployment, I feel the unstoppable need to apply for jobs. 

Cover letter rules say that I should write here why I want to work for you and what makes your company special. I guess that the right approach would be to say: Your company is COMMITTED to DELIVERING the BEST QUALITY services and stuff like that.

But I don’t like lies, so I will be honest with you. I had no particular interest in your company before applying for this job. I know absolutely nothing about your ideas except for what your website tells me, and that is really the same thing that 80% of websites tell me. The real reason I am applying for your company is that you have an opening. But don’t be mislead: you are, just like me, by no means unique. I will be applying for other companies and I will tell them the exact same thing: Your company is COMMITTED to DELIVERING etc. So let’s just skip this part, shall we? I’m applying for this job because it’s a job, that’s it.

Now comes the part where I have to shortly describe my experience and say why I am the right person for you. I read the person specifications and i thought “Yeah, I guess I could do that”. Why did I think that? Because I think that even though I have a deep knowledge of almost nothing, I have the potential to do -almost- anything. This sounds a bit pompous of me, or even megalomaniac, but it’s the only way I can express concisely what my education has been about. I studied political science, which consists of teaching you well-educated superficiality. Concretely, this means that with my ability of learning anything, I can become an expert in everything.

I worked a bit in the past. Over time I have done internships in blogging, translating, and I shortly worked in a think tank. Only one of my internships was actually paid, and that is also the reason you will notice that I have very little work experience. The truth is, that I didn’t quite have the time for unpaid internships or not-well paid internships in a remote country where my expenses would surpass my earnings. But I haven’t been idle. My numerous other work experiences include: baby-sitting, transcribing interviews, serving beer at concerts, picking tomatoes in Sicily, data transcription, teaching English, translating, and I’m pretty sure I am forgetting something. None of these will ever figure in my CV, but I would like you to know that I do have some work experience; it’s just not relevant. 

I’ve learnt a lot from all of these experiences: I learnt how to work in a hostile job environment, I learnt how to do alienating jobs, I learnt how to do a job I hated just because I had to. I think that what I learnt in the end was to take life as it comes and not complain too much about whatever it is you are doing. Or at least, to do it in spite of the fact that you really wished you could be doing anything else.

I am reliable and a fairly responsible person, the kind that walks drunk friends back home. My personal notion of “late” is 10 minutes early and missing a deadline is an inexcusable crime. As I said before, I can be extremely patient and I tend to grow fond of whatever it is I am doing after a while. I really like being around people (although my social record seems to say the contrary). I think that the worst problem I have is that I am really lazy, but that never got in-between me and my productivity; it just prevented me from having a social life.

In my free time I like reading and writing. My goodreads profile is my favorite profile and I enjoy blogging about non-serious stuff because the world is so full of serious people that sometimes I get the feeling that what is desperately needed is some lightness. Lightness doesn’t mean stupidity; it just means looking at life from a different angle and laughing about problems instead of being completely overwhelmed by them. I also love languages and listening to really random eastern European music on youtube. I can curse fluently in at least 7 languages and with a little bit of effort, I can even make Deine Mutter jokes in German. I can sing Serbian turbo folk songs and I still know the lyrics to Dragostea din Tei by heart. If you call me for an interview, I will gladly sing it for you just to prove I am not lying. 

I think you should hire me, or at least give me the chance to meet you. I don’t really know why you should pick me over the other definitely more qualified desperate students applying for this position, but I do hope you will. I am sure I can contribute with my lack of experience to whatever it is your company is doing. I have no clue how to do things, but I am willing and able to learn. I just need someone to decide that lack of experience is an asset and not a drawback. 

Yours sincerely,

Marta Lorimer

8 comments

  1. Amazing post, as a fellow job seeker it gives me strength to read your statement. Here’s what I posted about it on Facebook :
    “Haha it’s very accurate. Even though it’s not true that cover letters are completely coded. They are for a part, but you also get to say what really makes you choose this application over another. I would like to write that I am the kind of person that walks their drunk friends back home in a cover letter though. And that the “team-player” thing I write in an edulcorated way is not bullshit, that I really am capable of team work.”

    1. Thanks for your comment (and thanks for sharing!).
      I also believe that cover letters are not entirely fake, but I do believe that most of the time, you end up giving an image of you that is not entirely honest (or where you have to limit your honesty). I imagine part of the problem is that the employer will not see the human being in you, but only the potential employee, and I think it’s a pity to miss the possibility to appear as more than a mere future colleague.
      Good luck with job searching! Just, please don’t steal my future job 🙂

      1. I hope I won’t steal a job offer from you and that we both find neat, exciting positions! Overselling yourself in a cover letter is also a reflect of a general trend in the professional world : if you are able to emphasize what you say about yourself, it means there is a good chance for you to be able to sell the company hiring you when it’s facing competition. I also find it weird to take on this mindset, but isn’t it just the way business goes?

  2. As a person that reads a lot of cover letters, I can tell you that especially if you are just out of college, jobs such as teaching English can give you an advantage. If you taught a class, it shows you can speak in public, in general it shows that you can explain things well and have the social skills needed to speak in front of a class (well or at least you should…).
    Generally speaking though, I believe that in some areas this cover letter would actually get you an interview. Namely in those places where there are tons of applicants and you want to stand out. Maybe try the music business or media? In general, if you find yourself writing the same ‘lame’ things, why not try to make it better and more exciting? A recruiter will be much happier if it is a good and entertaining cover letter than to read a letter they read thousands of times before. If you want to work in a bank, scratch all that I wrote.

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