Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Would you interview this guy? I would.

A very reliable source sent me the following cover letter, along with evidence to show that it's 100% genuine (personal information has been removed, however, to protect the sender's true identity):


I have three middle names: Sterling , David, and Freeman. My favorite food is chili on rice. When I was 6 years old, I discovered at a Denny's that I could say the alphabet backwards. I was grounded for being a "sass-mouth" during the entire 8th grade. Orienteering, backpacking, and skiing are my three favorite activities and they keep me anchored while afloat in the chaotic sea of life.

I believe every person should step foot on all 243 nations in the world before they die. So far I've been to 9. A mere 3.7% but it's a start. My disinterest in being stalked and or tracked prevented me from signing onto Facebook, however the need to network in today's world has forced me to see the light.

I have a major sweet tooth (gummies, not chocolate) but I brush a lot. I like writing rhymes and taking pictures. I'm definitely an outdoors person, which I attribute to constantly being told to, "go outside and play." I'm a drummer, but lack rhythm on the dance floor (I tend to flail).

I possess a willingness to help others and do at least one good deed per day. I also possess great patience and a high tolerance of annoying people. I have a very open mind, but finicky when it comes to toilet paper. And when I die, I either want my epitaph to be an available ad space, or I'd like to have a Norwegian Viking style funeral, I haven't yet decided.

Be it e-mail, phone, or carrier pigeon, I look forward to hearing from you.


The problem with most cover letters is that they're boring. Most are repetitive to the resume they're packaged with, and they're written in a language that sounds nothing like human speech. Few make the reader laugh (for the right reasons) or even smile, and fewer still give you sense of the sender's personality. And that's what makes this one stand out. It's the one thing that most cover letters never are: unexpected.

Now, this approach definitely wouldn't work for everyone. If you're a wallflower, or you're an inherently somber person, your cover letter is no place to play the wacky card. The key is to leverage whatever makes you unique and whatever strengths you believe best compliment what's in your resume. If that's humor, go with it. If you have a great story to tell, why not use the cover letter to give an example of one time when you really came through for your employer, a customer, or a friend? Maybe you could use your cover letter to draw an analogy between a hobby and a workplace skill.

Your other option is to do the same same thing as everyone else. And while that might not hurt you, it's probably not going to help you, either.

Maybe you think your prospective employer would be turned off by too unique a pitch--and you might be right. But here's the thing: as long as you're authentic to your true personality, being unique is actually much less risky than submitting a blah-blah-blah cover letter that's nothing more than word processed camouflage. After all, if you pretend to be someone else in your cover letter, you're going to have to fake it during the interview, too (assuming, that is, that you get the interview at all). And on the outside chance that the interview gets you the job, you may have to keep faking it for a long, long time. Maybe a better approach is to stop worrying about
offending people you probably don't want to work for anyway.

So, would you interview this guy? (It depends upon his qualifications, of course, but let's assume he has the skills to do the job.) I probably would give him a call--and here's why: he sounds like someone who might be smart and fun to work with. You wouldn't know until you met him, but you'd probably want to meet him. He's done something that's a little risky, sure, but he's also set himself apart. Most of the time, that's enough to get your foot in the door. And when that happens, then your cover letter has done exactly what it's supposed to do.

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