A *solicited* opinion on cover letters

India
India
Mar 9, 2018 · 3 min read
Image for post
Image for post
photo: rda

A fellow alumna of my programming bootcamp DM’d me on Slack today to this effect:

Hey, sorry to bother you, but I had a question, saw you were online, and highly value your opinion. I just got my first referral (yay!), but I don’t know if I should send a cover letter with my résumé. I’ve gotten mixed answers.

Aw, gee, shucks. I am ever ready to give an unsolicited opinion, as friends and foes alike would probably attest, but it’s nice to be asked!

My response

  • highlighting how the job matches my experience and interests,
  • pointing out anything relevant that might not be obvious from looking at my résumé, and
  • touching on why I’m interested in working at that company.

Then if that person wants to, they can either forward the whole e-mail or cut and paste, per their discretion. The goal is to make it easy for them to refer you.

And if you’re applying through an online form but then adding a referrer’s name, you should still include a cover letter, because you never know whose hands your application will actually end up in.

Pro tip: Use your imagination

Imagine someone who likes you, someone who wants you to succeed, someone who cares, and give them the information they need to pitch you to their boss.

Because that’s essentially what’s happening. Everyone wants to be the person who finds the person who gets hired—even when there’s no referral bonus involved. They want to be able to fill that position. So they’ll be excited if they see a note that lets them believe that you might be that person.

Image for post
Image for post
visualize whirled peas • photo: Tim Ellis

Applying for jobs can make you feel worthless and like everybody’s slamming doors in your face all day, but in reality it’s not all antagonistic, behind those closed doors.

Even if you don’t know for sure who’s going to be reading your cover letter (and you did at least try to research this using teh Google, didn’t you?), it helps to imagine that you know them, so you can strike an appropriate tone of warmth, respect, and poise.


[Intellectual property theft alert: I expressed similar sentiments when I first discovered this correlation between readable cover letters and relative familiarity with the recipient, nearly a decade ago. If you wish to read that crankier batch of advice, which was issued from the perspective of a hiring manager who had no HR department to screen candidates, see the post Job application tips on my non-Medium (Maximum?) blog.]

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store