STEP 1 – The Cover Letter
I have written more cover letters than I care to count. They are mostly the same: half-veiled suck up attempts that begin with “To Whom It May Concern” and end with “Sincerely.”
It is important, in a cover letter, to let your potential employer know how perfect you will be for the job. You must also explain why you think their company is so wonderful (and it is, of course), and you must be sure to mention how much you are looking forward to hearing from them (you hope).
STEP 2 – Emailing the Cover Letter and Resume
I email my carefully written cover letter and resume into the void of cyberspace, where it either vanishes without a trace, or results in my email inbox getting spammed to death with get-rich-quick scams, ads for Russian mail-order brides, or coupons for free samples of Viagra. None of which is very encouraging.
STEP 3 – Waiting
Feelings of failure
Thoughts of becoming a Subway Sandwich Artist
STEP 4 – Invitation to Interview
This happens sometimes.
For example, last month, I got a call from Tom, my contact at a temp agency. Tom called me because he’d set me up to interview at a large office building in Providence. It was a “front desk” type position, and I readily agreed to go.
I really did not wish to work at Subway.
I organized my paperwork, picked out a professional looking outfit, and waited – trying not to get too hopeful.
Not surprisingly, the day of my interview coincided with a massive snowstorm, so I left an hour early for a drive that should have taken fifteen minutes, and I drove down 95 going twenty miles an hour.
I made it to Providence, meandered through several side streets searching for parking, and managed to drive my Honda into a snow bank that used to be a parking space. I fed two dollars worth of quarters into the parking meter, and trekked my way back into to enormous office building where my interview was to take place. I thought I was doing pretty well, considering the circumstances, and I was still ten minutes early, which would give me time to readjust my horrible winter hat-hair, and attempt to de-fog my glasses.
Tom had informed me that my interview was taking place on the twelfth floor, so I headed for a bank of elevators at the back of the building. Before I could make it that far, a security officer behind a huge marble desk flagged me down, and demanded to know where I was going.
Officer: I’m sorry, you can’t go up there without a guest pass.
Me: Can I have a guest pass?
Officer: Where are you going?
Me: I have a job interview with Mrs. So-and-So.
Officer: What is your name?
Officer: Stay right there, I’ll check.
(The officer calls upstairs and checks that I am not a crazed stalker).
Officer: All right, Emily, she is expecting you.
(The officer hands me a “hello, my name is _____” name tag.)
I am almost to the elevator. I press the button.
Officer: Oh…wait! Where did you park?
Me: Um…outside? Down the street a little ways?
Officer: Oh, no – I’m afraid you can’t do that. There’s a city wide parking ban. It went into effect half an hour ago.
Me: Okay? So where should I park?
Officer: Well, you can’t park on the street.
Me: Are you saying I can’t park anywhere in the city of Providence?
Officer: Well…I guess you could park at the Convention Center.
Me: Okay…and where is that?
Officer: Oh… (gestures vaguely towards a large window, mostly covered with snow) Do you see that domed building? It’s right near that.
Me: …Can you be more specific?
Officer: Just go that way, you can’t miss it.
While the officer called back upstairs to tell Mrs. So-and-So that I was going to be a little late, I slogged back to my car, rocked it out of the snow bank, and headed towards the “domed building” that was somewhere in the distance. As far as I could tell, there were three. Eventually I found the Convention Center, where I had to pay seven dollars to park for an hour, and I ran about a half mile back through the snowstorm so that I could be only a “little” late to my interview. My shoes were the opposite of appropriate.
I got back into the building, slapped my nametag onto my shirt, and rode up to the twelfth floor.
Mrs. So-and-So: You parked in the garage under the building, right?
Clearly, we were off to a wonderful start.
It is probably obvious that I did not get hired for this particular job. Not only was I late, with matted hair, a runny nose, and exuding a stench of wet wool; I was also unable to successfully answer Mrs. So-and-So’s questions. Perhaps my half-mile run through the snow in dress shoes had wrung every last drop of “suckupiness” out of me, but I found myself unable to give Mrs. So-and-So the answers she wanted to hear.
Mrs. So-and-So: So, what are your long-term professional goals if you are hired for this job?
What I should have said:
I love being at the front desk. I love challenges, and working with people, and seeing tasks through to their finish. I’m really organized, I’m a spreadsheet wiz, and I really, really, really enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. I love working in an office environment, so hopefully, I will learn many new skills from you, and I will be able to work for you in the future as a full-time hire. …did I mention that I think you are awesome?
What I really said:
Well, honestly, I am looking for a job that provides me with a stable income while I work on my own projects. I’m hoping to eventually work as a freelance artist. (pause) Which is why I am working as a temp. (another awkward pause) (I decide Mrs. So-and-So looks irritated.) …But I would work very hard for you. I would take this job very seriously.
Starting my sentence with “honestly” was my first big mistake. My second was the word “freelance” and the third was my horrible attempt at ass kissing.
The all-time worst thing I said during the interview:
Mrs. So-and-So: Do you have any questions?
Me: Not really. Well, actually, what do you do, exactly?
STEP 5 – Waiting
STEP 6 – Success or Failure
(in my case, failure)
STEP THAT IS NOT A STEP, BUT SHOULD BE –
Write an honest cover letter
If you have to suck up anyway, why not just cut to the chase?
Here is my new and much improved cover letter. The one I can never send.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am awesome. I have a Master’s degree, so clearly I possess follow-through, and I am not a slacker. I am a professional person, who knows how important it is to wear a bra and appropriate pants to work. I shower daily, and make an effort to smell nice.
I would be perfectly suited for this job because even though I am a socially awkward person, I am also outgoing and friendly, and I am a person who learns quickly. I am always efficient and on time. I am a strong writer and editor, and I know the proper uses of the words “there, their, and they’re.” I can spell “tomorrow.” I can use a computer and a telephone and a fax machine.
I hope you contact me for an interview because I really need a job, and I know I would be fantastic at this one. Thank you very much for your time!
P.S. I can also draw unicorns really well.