Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Taking a Chance: An Unconventional Cover Letter

I was going to do my first post about why I'm starting yet another blog, why you should read it, blah blah blah blah. Then I realized that it would be a waste of both my time and yours. Instead, I want to talk about a recent job application I submitted in response to this ad: 

Strategist Search

Everyone likes a smarty pants and zag creative group is no exception. We’re looking for a highly strategic thinker to join our team. We’re looking for uber strategic. “Kind of strategic”, “fairly strategic” and “what’s strategic” need not apply.
Now what does a strategic thinker need to do? Well think for one, but specifically we seek an individual that is experienced in the development of marketing and communications plans.
The person for the zag team should be able to develop ideas that are customized to meet the goals and objectives of a client and be able to explain how the ideas work and achieve results. This person can see the big picture and understands how all the tiny specks of colour work together to make that big picture.
This person also has top notch writing skills. You don’t need to be able to write ad copy (although that’s not a bad skill to have) but you do need to be able to convey your ideas as concisely, cleanly and as error free as possible. Clients kind of hate when you spell their names wrong.
Tell us why your strategic mind and mad thinking skills are needed on our team. Please forward your resume to XXX, partner/director of strategic development at xxx@xxx.com
Short listed applicants will be contacted for interviews.
posted 10/19/2011
Retrieved December 20, 2011 from here.
I decided that since they drifted significantly from a typical job posting, that I would take a chance and respond in a nonconventional way also.
Here is what I sent in:
November 17, 2011
Dear Ms. XXX,
Let me begin with some shameless flattery for your organization:
  • I love that your website and the job posting has a sense of humour.
  • I love that the company blog isn’t all cheesy “how to grow your business” advice that’s duplicated umpteenth times on various other blogs.
And now I’ll engage in some not-so-humble self promotion:
  • My past work experience meant that I had to make academic research (which can be inaccessible and boring) appeal to the masses, and sexual violence education (which can be outright traumatic) enjoyable for youth. I managed both quite well. As my psychologist says, “Lily, I have no doubt you could sell whatever you wanted to.” (Footnote: I see a psychologist because I believe in being as psychologically healthy as possible. Not because I’m crazy. At least, not more so than other people in the general population.)
  • I’ve always loved problem-solving, and it shows in how I spend my downtime. I spend much of my free time playing nerdy boardgames that involve a lot of statistics and probability calculations. I used to lead raids with 40+ people in World of Warcraft, while working full-time and enrolled in graduate school. (This also showcases my ability to multi-task, and manage my caffeine-intake for maximum productivity).
  • I’ve developed a strong eye for detail, especially in regards to editing. As a demonstration and a few editing freebies, you should know that as of 10:39 a.m., November 14, 2011:
    • On your website, under the heading “We’re zag”, an “a” is missing: “zag creative group inc. may seem like [a] typical ad firm”. 
    • In the job posting, there is an extra “the” in this sentence: “...ideas that are customized to [the] meet the goals and objectives of a client...”.
    • Also in the job posting, an “it” is missing: “Clients kind of hate [it] when you spell their names wrong”. 
  • I am good with people. So good that I use my ex-husband as a work reference if a position has any significant technical element, because I believe that no one can speak better to my technical literacy and limitations than an IT professional with whom I spent 10 years of my life. Also, I still have an open invitation from my first boyfriend’s parents to visit at any time (we dated 16 years ago, when I was 16). I also have excellent relationships with lots of other people that have nothing to do with my dating history.
I’ll close with a confession of my weaknesses:
  • I have two unfinished graduate degrees, one in Psychology and one in Communications and Technology. I seem to have a problem going through the motions  of finishing final projects, but my excuse is that I have been too busy actually using what I’ve learned to bother graduating. I do feel that my academic training has been exceptionally useful in the workplace, despite not actually having graduated (both programs are still open to me returning to finish).
  • I played World of Warcraft for 3 years. Leading large-scale raids taught me a lot about team work, but the amount of time I devoted to the game was problematic. There are some elements of my personality that could manifest in the form of addictive behaviours. Of course, this could work out well for an employer if I happen to become addicted to work, so perhaps it’s not all bad.
  • I do not eat my grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup, which according to your blog entry, would make me “seriously messed up”. I am willing to fake it for the sake of this position, but know that this would be bordering on sacrilege. That’s how much I want to work for you.
It’s obvious from Zag’s website and job posting that personal fit is a crucial element. If the job posting and the website content is any indication, my writing style and sense of humour may be an excellent fit. I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss this in person so I could further showcase just how awesome I think I could be as a member of your team.
Thank you for your consideration. 
Lily T.
P. S. I would be highly useful in a zombie apocalypse situation. This might seem a bit like a non-sequitur, but given that other than our friends and family, co-workers are typically who we spend the most time with, I do think that my usefulness in an end-of-the-world scenario is worthy of consideration. After all, a desire to survive should bring out the strategic thinker in all of us... and fantasizing about how one would act in such a situation makes for solid problem-solving practice!  

So what did I learn from this? I didn't make the cut for a second interview, but I was told that my cover letter made her "laugh out loud". I had so much fun writing the letter that I started sharing it with some of my friends, all of whom offered nothing but positive feedback. One person said that "not only should they hire you, they should give you retropay!". Another said that if I wasn't already dating somebody, this would have gotten me asked out on a date. Yet another proposed outright marriage, in response to the footnote about my psychologist. Several people laughed until they had tears in their eyes. 
The best comment came from a friend that I've known for over a decade: "When I read this, I can hear your voice inside my head. This is SO you!"
And in the end, shouldn't that be exactly what a cover letter accomplish? Show a potential employer who I am?
I am throwing this out now into the blogosphere, because I am proud of who I am, personally and professionally. This cover letter showcases a bit of that. I hope you, dear reader, enjoyed it. Feedback is more than welcomed. A job offer would be even better.
Until later,
Lily T. 

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