Why Your Rejected Cover Letters Matter
I always craft a personalised cover letter. I just can’t help myself. I seize any opportunity to write for a cause — for meaning — with both hands.
However, after you’ve poured all that care, time and attention into getting them just right, cover letters are barely acknowledged. Even if you get the job, you’ll rarely hear your cover letter alluded to.
“You’ve got a really strong CV,” they’ll say, “We love the part where you worked for free for 2 years.”
But let’s be honest, mostly you don’t get the job, and even more often you are rejected with an impersonal, automated standardised letter:
Not this time, pal.
But cover letters provide us with an opportunity to be revealing, insightful, funny — even if they are a little bit fawning and embarrassing. They can cover a wide range of topics, and depending on the dedication of the writer and the type of company, offer a great opportunity for storytelling. They provide a unique platform for self definition.
You get to say who you want to be, in their eyes.
That can get pretty interesting.
You are selling your potential employers a version of yourself that doesn’t exist yet. It’s a story of who you could be if you worked for them, based on projections of the past.
You carefully select facets of your personal and professional history and manufacture a narrative wherein landing that role is the perfect, nay, the inevitable next step in your journey.
You getting this job will validate these past experiences and turn them into a cohesive whole, a narrative that makes sense, with you as the hero in a triumphant upwards trajectory, arriving in the nick of time to offer the company your unique and optimally tailored skill set, in a life experience that largely doesn’t.
If they accept your self-portait, well, you get the role and you get to perform that person you invented into being. You step into the outlines and through consistently good performance, stamping time sheets and endless cups of over brewed coffee — you engage in an act of self creation, of manifestation.
If you are rejected or ignored, well, that apparition of future you goes out -puff! - and you get another opportunity for reinvention in the next job application.
The cover letter is a work of imagination, of invention, it’s a flight of utter fancy. And yet the more we write, the stronger our sense of identification becomes, until at last — we hope — we simply are.
Consider this a call to post your own rejected or ignored cover letters, the funny ones, the triumphant ones, the ones that educate, elucidate and the ones that emphatically enunciate: this is who I am, but this, this is who I wanted to be.