I have a confession. When I was on the job hunt, my cover letters were… well, they were poor. Very poor. I wrote about cover letters recently, with the idea that still, after nearly 10 years of knowing I want to be a journalist, I’m not sure what works and what doesn’t. I understand there should be a creative element, but what’s too far? And what’s not enough? What’s too bland, and what’s too obscure that it gets chucked in the bin?
Well, according to the Guardian careers, they have ‘excellent’ examples of cover letters. I receive quite a lot of emails from Guardian careers, some more helpful than others. To be honest, I don’t read a lot of them but obviously this one caught my eye, as I’m sure it did for many others. It doesn’t focus on journalism, but gives an insight into the different types of cover letters for different industries. Have a look at the examples they gave…
Standard, conservative style:
The Guardian described this style of cover letter as being ideal for sectors such as business, law, accountancy and retail, mentioning that for CREATIVE sectors (i.e. journalism!), this is less appealing and could actually work against you. This was the type of standard letter I sent out when applying for jobs. Completely wrong when applying for journalism jobs who are looking for creativity in a person!
“Dear Mr Black,
Please find enclosed my CV in application for the post advertised in the Guardian on 30 November.
The nature of my degree course has prepared me for this position. It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation and a wide range of skills. For one course, [insert course], an understanding of the [insert sector] industry was essential. I found this subject very stimulating.
I am a fast and accurate writer, with a keen eye for detail and I should be very grateful for the opportunity to progress to market reporting. I am able to take on the responsibility of this position immediately, and have the enthusiasm and determination to ensure that I make a success of it.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this application and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
For creative jobs:
This was the example for more creative jobs, using a copwriter applying for a job. They explained that the aim of a ‘creative’ letter is to be original and show you have imagination, and yet still understand what the job entails: “Balance is essential: don’t be too wacky, or it will turn off the reader.”
“Dear Ms Green,
· Confused by commas?
· Puzzled by parenthesis?
· Stumped by spelling?
· Perturbed by punctuation?
· Annoyed at the apostrophe? (And alliteration?)
Well, you’re not alone. It seems that fewer and fewer people can write. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who can read. So they’ll spot a gaffe from a mile off. And that means it’s a false economy, unless you’re 100% sure of yourself, to write your own materials. (Or to let clients do it for themselves.)
To have materials properly copywritten is, when one considers the whole process of publishing materials and the impact that the client wishes to make, a minor expense. Sloppiness loses clients, loses customers.
There is an answer. Me. Firm quotes are free. You can see some of what I do on my multilingual website at [insert web address]. If you’d like, I can get some samples out to you within 24 hours. And, if you use me, you’ll have some sort of guarantee that you can sleep soundly as those tens of thousands of copies are rolling off the presses.
Luck shouldn’t come into it!
With kindest regards”
How do yours compare to the above? Although this is loosely connected to journalism, it’s given me a very clear picture about what I was doing wrong… Thanks Guardian careers!