Cover Letter Controversy Collapses Countless Careers

This surprising excerpt is from Rob Rosner's Working Wounded column [ - October 23, 1998]:

Our winning cover-letter strategy comes from David F. in Tacoma, Wash.: "No. 1 mistake is closing the cover letter with 'I look forward to hearing from you.' When I'm looking for a new employee, I'm looking for a self-starter, not someone who does the least amount possible and hopes for the best. Applicants may think they're doing me a favor by not following up, but they certainly aren't doing themselves any favors. Other pet peeves are people who don't spell my name correctly and cover letters that spend more time telling me what the applicant wants, rather than what he or she can offer my company."

This honestly surprises me - Rob Rosner writes about how poor slobs like us are to survive a nasty work environment; here's a prime example of the sort of dope one should avoid in the first place, and Rob gives him a forum and accolades for being helpful. Yipes!

David F. is wrong - the #1 mistake in writing a cover letter in this case is sending it to David F. - a near perfect example of idiotic pointy-headed management. Any human resources manager who thinks "I look forward to hearing from you!" implies the writer lacks initiative represents a company culture one should avoid at all costs. Unfortunately, there are so many idiotic managers in the world this is extremely difficult. But this one manager at least has given us a warning: he proves he does not understand basic concepts of English language, meaning, and common forms of conversational courtesy. Not a good start for a future career.

To help David F. in his journey into rationality and hopefully, humanity, let's think of a letter closing or two that - within the rules of language and meaning - might actually indicate sloth on the part of the candidate. How about, "I realize I am sending this letter almost one year after you placed the job advertisement, but I simply couldn't find a pen..." or, "I really hope to hear from you, but not too terribly soon, please, because I am enjoying lazing around the apartment pool during this lovely warm spell we're having."

It is considered nice to say, in many many social situations, "I look forward to hearing from you." It's not smart or nice to say, "I really do not wish to hear from you. I fear you might not understand the English language, or you might be a nasty nit-picker, an anal retentard, and a short-tempered imbecile. However, I am willing to tolerate incompetence and nastiness for a brief period if you will pay me money which will allow me to keep myself fed and clothed and sheltered long enough to find a reasonable, intelligent, kindly manager for whom to work."

In my experience, 99% of Human Resources managers or other corporate recruiters never return telephone calls, answer inquiries, or do anything except totally insulate themselves from the candidates they have received resumes from or have interviewed. This constant flow of silence is a horrible experience for people in a job search; yet David F. insists they are to "follow up." Here is my translation of this corporate speak: "Keep banging your heads against the brick walls of silence and maybe we'll give you a call once in a thousand years."

Many, many people in the world are working wounded. They are convinced that the weirdness they experience every day is an essential part of life - that there's no getting around working in hell. This just isn't true. Here is a hard-earned word: No company will treat you better than they do in their recruitment and interviewing process. It's a honeymoon - you will never get treated better than this - and it tells you everything you need to know about the place you are attempting to work for. Everything.

And if the people and processes you experience suck, so does the company they represent. If the honeymoon sucks it's not a good omen for the marriage.

If you feel uncomfortable, mistreated, abused, disrespected, or treated in any way less than human kindness, respect, interest, and truthfulness deserve - it's a wacko outfit. Run away. If all you hear is silence, no return phone calls - ever - you have a big clue as to what the internal communication is like within that company. Ask yourself: "Do I want to work for people who consistently refuse to return my phone calls?" Follow up; but give them three strikes and they're out.

All this is hard to do - if not impossible - when you're desperate. OK - just don't plan to stay. Keep looking because you know there's some really well-run outfit out there looking for you, and you'll know it when you find it because it will feel perfect.

Cover Letter Controversy Collapses Countless Careers by David Pickens 1999
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