Why Cover Letters Suck

For me, writing cover letters is hard.

It’s not that I don’t know how to write a good cover letter (I was able to get a couple interviews for internships last summer) or that the stakes have changed (applying for a job is a lot different than applying for an internship IMO).

Writing cover letters is hard because cover letters suck.

Well, at least the traditional cover letter.

The traditional cover letter is outdated – a remnant from the stone age when people actually wrote letters and mailed them at the post office.

They’re dry, they’re formulaic, and they suck.

You start out by listing your name and address, and the employer before writing this:

Dear Mr. Smith

I am writing to express my interest in…

You then proceed to briefly talk about your past jobs and experiences before requesting an interview at the end.

Dull. Boring. And more importantly, sucky.

Where’s the room for creativity and personality? How am I supposed to express myself when I’m boxed in by custom?

Sure, you can add a little bit of creativity and personality here and there, but the traditional cover letter just isn’t optimized for it.

I’d prefer to write my cover letters like I write my blog posts – conversational in style and tone, with a good story to draw the reader in.

This way I can show off both my skills and my creativity to a potential employer.

Although blog writing my cover letters might not work for every job I apply to, I think it can work for certain employers.

Take this cover letter I wrote recently. Instead of starting out by explaining my interest, I began by telling a story.

When a job posting shows up in my Google Reader with the title “Marketing Assistant” or “Account Executive”, I’m inclined to pass them by.

The jobs themselves might actually be interesting, but you wouldn’t know it from the title.

If I write a blog post with the headline, “Improving Your Writing Skills”, readers are less likely to click on my post than if I said, “10 Sure-Fire Ways To Improve Your Writing Skills!”

So when I saw a post asking for a “Creative Social Technologist”, I thought to myself, Now that sounds like a cool job!

This is only the second time I’ve written a cover letter like this, so for me to suggest that you throw all caution to the wind and write your cover letters this way wouldn’t make much sense. Unless you hate them as much as I do.

But if I do hear back from those two employers (fingers crossed), I’ll be able to make that recommendation.

I guess the only downside is that I can’t just copy and paste from cover letters I’ve written previously. But it will be all the more better when I hopefully hear back from employers requesting an interview.

What do you think of the traditional cover letter? How do you write yours?

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About Ssunmonu

Sam Sunmonu is a Duke University Senior majoring in History with a minor in Political Science. He is interested in the marketing industry with a strong online tilt. You can catch him blogging at Sam Sunmonu's Blog, or follow him @NewInfluential. View all posts by Ssunmonu

2 responses to “Why Cover Letters Suck

  • Josh B.

    I think the regulations on cover letters and resumes are going out the window. Employers need to be interested in reading your content, and breaking from the norm is a great way to do it. Good intro to your cover letter, by the way!

    • Ssunmonu

      Thanks! I agree that the regulations for cover letters and resumes has completely changed. It’s great to see people use their online activity in creative ways to prove their worth to employers.

      Much better than writing a stale, old resume or cover letter.

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