Career Corner: Cover Letter Tips with Elle and Glenn

By Elle and Glenn 

As America's unemployment rate reaches triple digits, many of us in the white collar world are looking to find steady employment and leave unpaid internships and factory work to the recently amnestied immigrants. Applying for these jobs is a long, degrading process that makes working in a Tyson plant seem like dressing up as the Statue of Liberty for Liberty Tax Service. Nothing is more arduous in this process than writing a cover letter. Meant to showcase an applicant's familiarity with the company/organization and sell him/herself as the best candidate for the job, these letters take weeks to write and are never read - just like the "lost" Salinger novels. Here are some tips for those of you currently on the employment prowl.

By the time you finish reading this cover letter, I'll be dead.
By the time you finish reading this cover letter, you'll be dead.
What's a better attention-getter, threatening your life or your potential boss's? It's a judgment call, and your decision should be based on your knowledge of the company. Applying to the Florida Republican Party? Go with suicide. Looking to work for Goldman Sachs? Pick murder.

The problem with cover letters is that they require the applicant to demonstrate the very qualities that would make her an insufferable employee: arrogance, boastfulness, credit-taking, bad writing. I promise, I am not a jerk. I tell jokes and remember birthdays.
I started a couple cover letters like that. Well, either I did, or I pasted that to several friends over gchat before deciding the whole thing was pointless, someone else had already been hired for the spot, and I probably didn't even want that job anyway. (It is too embarrassing to re-read old cover letters to find out the truth.) Point is, bosses are looking for employees who are fun and clever! Who think outside the box! By writing to them about the art of writing to them, you are letting HR know that you will both agonize over every task you're assigned and never take your work -- or yourself -- seriously.


No employer wants someone who is "perfect." As the Bible and Thomas Hobbes said, people are flawed. If you present a cover letter with no mistakes you will come across as artificial, with your best quality being the ability to use Microsoft Word's spelling and grammar check. I always try to misspell a few of the "harder" words I might use, such as entrepreneurial, fastidious or methamphetamine. I've even gone as far sometimes to misspell my own name, which has the added benefit of making me seem like there are a million things racing around in my mind. Truthfully I often do, but most of them are mnemonic devices to remember how to spell my own name. The point is that you're letting your potential employer see the human side of you to the extent you have a "human side" left.


The point of interviews is to basically make sure the potential hire is not a psycho. Score points by showing upfront that all that weird office politics is totally not your fault. Write about the time you helped bring two factions together under the warm glow of fluorescent lights. For example, one of my coworkers could talk about the time she stopped someone from writing semi-offensive things on the chalkboard wall by the snacks (we are a fun office). Someone kept writing, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels," and someone else kept erasing it, because what if a third party has an eating disorder? "Nothing..." appeared and disappeared several times before my coworker took charge and wrote an inspirational quote from Eleanor Roosevelt by the snacks. That's team building.


"I strode blithely across the green, Hume[2] in hand, purposefully unaware of the petty politics that interested my classmates."

"2. [Something about Hume]"
One time my co-worker, in charge of hiring people to replace me, got a two-page cover letter with three footnotes. This young fellow told us the story of why transformation from a too-good-for-politics English major into an aspiring political columnist. This bit about Hume was from his pre-makeover days. And did he ever get the office's attention. We took turns reading it in high-pitched funny voices. I'll never forget that young man. I think his name was Robert.


Remember when your high school guidance counselor gave that career-building seminar, and she said you should list your hobbies so the boss knows you're a really well-rounded person? That was great advice. Of course your employer needs to know what you do when you are not in the office, particularly if it is an obnoxious hobby, like harassing your friends to buy your hideous crafts on Etsy. Taking a paragraph or two to discuss your recent success at a squash tournament shows you aren't all business - you like to have fun too! Make sure your hobbies come across as well-rounded and if you lie, make it one so outrageous no one can call you on it. Spelunking or calligraphy are two great examples of interests so obscure and useless that your interviewer is incredibly unlikely to know anything about the subject.


One of the most forgotten aspects of word processing is clip-art. If a potential employer opens up a cover letter in Preview and sees text only, the page might as well be blank. Clip-art helps your cover letter to stand out and captures emotions you cannot express with words.

For example, this picture shows you have religious tolerance. If one of your co-workers starts citing the Dead Sea Scrolls during a meeting, you'll take it in stride and be able to pivot back to the matter at hand.

This picture should be inserted at whatever point in the cover letter you start a sentence saying "Trust me." Personally I close most of mine with "Trust me, the only reference you can truly rely on is Christ."

Finally, this works great for most of the left-leaning jobs I apply for because it shows your support of collecting taxes. Make sure you point out that you have a lower body though so the potential employer does not think it can get disabled tax credits from hiring you.


A cover letter is one of those writing experiences that belie the "less is more" concept. Here, more is more. What better way to show attention to detail than going into the full details about how you came across the job listing?

Waking up next to someone I had never met, I immediately rolled out of bed and took my computer to the bathroom. I locked the door and loaded When I saw your job listing on the screen I began to weep for the first time since since the Columbia space shuttle exploded. I immediately called the police on the unwelcome guest in my bedroom before relaxing into a bath and beginning to type this letter. The hopes and fears of someone on the first day of a new job hit me like a cold shower (which I had accidentally turned on instead of a bath). Writing this cover letter, I believe, will end up being the most important decision of my life.

Career Corner is a new feature at One Year in Texas, helping all of us to deal with the shame of job searching. If you have a particular area of concern, please leave it in the comments section and we will tackle it once we've found high paying, successful jobs in the defense industry.


  1. Great job Glenn and Elle. I'm eagerly awaiting another installment of Career Corner.

  2. The only Hobbes that I'm familiar with is the one that pals around with Calvin. Not Calvin the theologian.

  3. OMG, I'm so excited Elle is writing for OYIT too!

    Glenn and Elle, I want tips on how to dress in an office environment ASAP.

  4. this is so wonderful. i hope "writing sample tips" is next.

    welcome to oyit, elle!

  5. This was fantastic! I loved it. Definitely going in the 'Best Of...' AND I am going to do all of these things the next time I apply for a job. Glenn are you hiring?

  6. This is time I applied to an american apparel and put a different thumbs up clip art picture for each section...the references section had a giant thumbs up with legs and appeared to be walking forward..


no more comments from spam bots. fuck off.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.