Covering all the bases

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
  1. State the logistics — show off. State clearly which school you went to, what you studied, when you graduated, what job you’re applying for, how many functioning kidneys you have, who your father is. You know, the usual. [2–4 short sentences]
  2. Work experience — chances are you’ve done an internship, volunteer work, or been lucky enough to have experienced a salaried job before. Write about it. Don’t waste too many words on mentioning the title, or how you took a picture with Esther Duflo. Before you add a sentence, ask yourself if this information isn’t already in your resume. Spend time on describing the tasks you performed. Be specific. Give us a ‘for instance’. If you wrote a paper on the impact of financial aid to developing countries where you used MATLAB, R, Tableau, Python, and STATA to do analysis, don’t forget to mention the outcome of the analysis! Use short sentences in the active voice. Don’t pull a fast one by claiming to excel at excel. Take pride in your past experience. If all you did was add numbers to a datasheet, say it as it is. Nobody really does glamorous work anyway. Except maybe Oprah or Esther.
  3. What makes you stand out? Most of the time, we meet some requirements that are obviously mentioned in the job description. According to recent findings, men feel more comfortable applying to jobs despite the “missing requirements” than women. So to all the women, apply anyway. Now that you’ve set the context of your past experience, use the verbiage from the job posting. If they’re looking for a ‘highly collaborative person’, remind them that you worked with 5–4 data scientists, economists, and statisticians to write that report on financial aid. By applying these ‘qualities’ as verbs, you’re providing the evidence they’re looking for. Keep the verbiage consistent but obviously you’re not going to copy-paste the entire job description as is.
  4. Bring it home — Wrap up everything here. Remember that thing about ‘resonating with the mission’, write it. Mention how you feel about the position, place, or how you’re excited to be a part of their company. Hopefully, if you’ve made it to the end you actually do resonate with their values and culture. [Don’t thank them for reading your letter, just send them a briefcase of hard cash. No, I’m joking.]
  5. Enshrine your agency — While we are trying to impress the hiring manager at this stage, remember that you bring value to any company. It’s never a bad time to remind ourselves that we have agency too — of the job, of the salary, of the process of conduct. That job might be important to you, but you should feel important to the company.



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Iti Bhargava

Iti Bhargava

Iti Bhargava is a Research Manager at J-PAL South Asia, based in Bangalore. She graduated with a masters in economics from Yale University in 2019 and has been