Bryan writes in:
I have been out of work since December and I am dying to get back to work. I read what you had to say about cover letters and it makes sense but I am having a difficult time simplifying it. I have been sending out resumes like a mad man and I haven’t gotten even one interview. Is it the cover letter?
Who knows? There are a thousand various reasons, ranging from bad timing to you’re not qualified to someone’s nephew got the job.
But, while I have mentioned cover letters before, now’s probably as good a time as any to go into some detail. I’ll use your letter as an example.
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
Nope. No one uses last names. I’d be on a first name basis with Steven Spielberg, if I ever met the guy.
Good morning/afternoon, Firstname!
I graduated with honors from Kean University with a B.A. in Media & Film with an emphasis in Broadcasting. As an experienced and versatile media student, I believe that I would be an asset to your company.
Not bad, but keep it short. This isn’t an industry for intellectuals, so “with honors” isn’t going to impress anybody. “With an emphasis in Broadcasting” is equally pointless, bordering on redundant.
As you can see from my enclosed resume, I have completed an internship with Fuse TV followed by a PA position working on a benefit concert featuring Kanye West as well as a live concert with John Mayer. As a student, I took part in many facets of what my department had to offer. I was selected to be part of the university’s advanced production team, Production Company II, to help produce Kean’s professional soap opera, “Union.” I was a DJ for WKNJ-FM 90.3, Kean’s college radio station, and worked as a Distribution Supervisor for the Equipment Center. I am also familiar with a variety of professional software including Final Cut Pro.
You better hope whoever’s reading this is thinking, “He’s a DJ and an editor?! What a coincidence! That’s exactly what I was looking for!” Otherwise, they’ll think you’re a jack of all trades, and a master of none.
Besides that, this paragraph is closing in on Anne Rice-length, at least by the standards of someone who reads scripts all day.
Since you’re writing to me, I’m assuming you’re looking for some kind of PA job. Here’s how I would condense it:
As you can see from my enclosed resume, I interned at Fuse TV, followed by PA positions on concerts by such performers as Kanye West and John Mayer . As a student, I [co-?]produced Kean’s soap opera, “Union.”
In what way is the soap opera professional, if shot by students? Even if you have a justification for it, that’s what the employer is going to think.
I wouldn’t mention the equipment center or FCP unless it somehow specifically relates to the job you’re applying for (like a rental house or a post production facility). Nor would I capitalize your title, like you’re writing in the 1700’s, when they capitalized fucking everything.
I look forward to having the opportunity of meeting with you and to further explore how I might be an asset to your organization. Thank you so much for your time and consideration and I hope to hear from you soon.
(Obviously, I changed Bryan’s last name for privacy. Although, wouldn’t it be awesome if X was his last name?)
Boy, you don’t use one word when seven will do, huh? Take Strunk and White’s advice: omit needless words.
Thanks for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!
One important thing about what I did there, in case you missed it: I assumed that the employer is going to call me back, without being heavy handed about it. I don’t know if that little nudge will work, but you never know.
Now, if any of you readers actually have hired someone (unlike me, who has only been on the being-hired side of the table), feel free to chime in with your comments on or disagreements with my advice.