Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Need a good, blind cover letter

I'm applying at a largish company.  I used to consult for them, and have several friends who work there.  The way hiring goes is, all resumes go through HR.  Period.  They cull them, then call some people in for interviews.  You interview 4 people, and, if hired, go into a general  "engineer pool".  The day before you start they figure out who needs you most, and you work for that group.

They want a cover letter.  It says "Cover letter (cut and paste cover letter into the box".  I like to tailor my letters based on the job I'm appying for, but here I can't do that.

So, ahhh, any good B.S.'ers out there who can come up with a generic cover letter that will impress an HR person?
I'm a software type, good at C and hardware, have done C++, Python, Java, Linux, Perl.  I can write assembly, and do a lot of firmware.  They have openings for everything from low level ASIC firmware engineers, to higher level C++ apps engineers.

Anonymous coward
Thursday, August 28, 2003

To whom it may concern,
  Hire me for your job.  I'm a good techie person, but a little lazy at times.  If you ask me to do something I may post on a web board asking other people to do it for me.  Don't worry, I'll make sure that they don't get any trade secrets unless they pay enough.
  So, in summary, hire me.

-Anonymous Coward

A little tounge-in-cheek, but it should get you the job.

Andrew Hurst
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Andrew Hurst nailed it. I also like the students who post their practice sets on mailing lists as questions.

Tom Vu
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Sigh.  OK, forget I asked.  Been out of work for a while now, and tired of it.  I'll come up with something on my own.  I just really suck at this blow your own horn bullshit.

AC

Anonymous coward
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Write a letter to your friends that work there about why they should hire you.  Then make it easy enough for your mother to understand.  I'd get more specific, but I usually get paid for this sort of thing so I'm not going to help you any further.

URLs
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Sometimes I sit at my desk, and see potential employees walk past heading to an interview with someone in our firm.

I think 'good luck', and then wonder at the fact that I made it. I am sitting in the chair with the weekly paycheck. I wonder why. Did I say something amusing, did I share the right interests? Did my resume say the right thing?

I go for other jobs, jobs more suited to my skills, and they knock me back. Did I not say the right thing? Did I not laugh at he right jokes? Did they not enjoy my conversation?

I don't understand. I wish all job interviews included an aptitude test. 'Test me' I scream. I will knock the socks off you. I am on the Australian Olympic team for playing with red and white blocks. The American pyschologist, who conducted my test, told me so.

but they do not.
Instead they ask me to describe a situation in which I was a team member. "How will you make our organisation better". I don't know. I don't know what type of people are in your organisation, I do not know what you are lacking in, so I cannot explain how I can meet that need.

'Test me' I scream.....as later a young lady, a mensa candidate, is dragged away by men in white coats, shaking there heads, "if she has been content cleaning out the pimply faced accountant's in-tray this never would have happened"

An Aussie Chick
Thursday, August 28, 2003

You guys, this is a VERY fair question.  The HR people in most companies are in a powerful and unanswerable little feifdom that treats candidates like ants under a magnifying glass.  They look for buzzwords, they kick out candidates who have too much, too little, or sometimes too diverse experience.  A lot of times, their selection criteria seems completely random.

Most of all, they're generally looking for reasons NOT to consider or hire someone.

AC - all I can say is, ignore the dickheaded "doing your homework" responses you've gotten.

And perhaps call the personnel or HR office directly and ask them what they need to see to consider a candidate for this job. Then make *sure* that's what you say in your cover letter...  A bit of "recon" would not hurt here and it's what I would do.

Good luck, I know where you're coming from. Applying for a job usually means getting toyed with by people who love their power.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, August 28, 2003

Perhaps http://www.asktheheadhunter.com will have something you can use?

It's an excellent site for writing CVs, Resumes and most likely cover letters.
Even if there's no info. directly, you can at the very least take his advice into consideration when you do write your cover letter.

Good luck.

Mickey Petersen
Friday, August 29, 2003

Just to add a serious comment.

I think you post was fine. Research is good. I want a new job, and the hardest part is the initial resume.
If I get to the interview and get to the job, then I am comfortable that it is my own fault, and can usually see where I have gone wrong.

But the initial application.....well that is anyones guess.


I hope you go well

An Aussie Chick
Friday, August 29, 2003

Oops. "If I get to the interview and *don't* get the job" is what I meant to say.

An Aussie Chick
Friday, August 29, 2003

> So, ahhh, any good B.S.'ers out there who can come up with a generic cover letter that will impress an HR person? <

I used to think BS impressed people, but now I don't think so anymore. Anyone whose been around long enough knows BS when they hear it, see it, smell it. Be honest, don't try to pad your words, and most of all, don't try to be generic. Generic will get you generic results.

www.marktaw.com
Friday, August 29, 2003

>I like to tailor my letters based on the job I'm appying for, but here I can't do that.

I'm not sure I understand that. You're not supposed to do that or you can't bring yourself to write a custom letter?

Anyway, I've found there is a single trick that makes applying for jobs really easy. I discovered this when I was involved screening applications some time ago. You would not believe the crap that  people will send you. The trick: try to get into the mindset of the person doing the hiring, and ask yourself if they'd call their coworkers over to have a quick chuckle at your expense. Obviously, this is more difficult when the applications are filtered through the HR Department, because as a programmer you can't be too sure about the criteria they're sorting by.

Try to find out what the company is looking for, look through there website, try to figure out the philosophy of the company, if you know anyone who works there, talk to them, to findout what the company is like. Look through newsgroups or mailing list archives and search for post from email-addresses in the company. CALL them to clarify what type of hire they're looking for and to find out the name of someone to address your application to.

Most cover letters start with: "I saw your offering for job so-and-so on monster.com and thought it would fit my skillset." Every once in a while, you get stuff like "My mom says I'm very amicable and sincere". What are people thinking when they write that?

The point is: there's a lot of application advice that you can ignore. E.g. unless you're applying through some anonymous HR department that's ruthlessly screening, it doesn't matter what sort of paper you print your application on, what font you use, how many inches your photograph is from the edge of the page, sure it needs to look neat, but the only thing that's important is to be honest with yourself with the question "Would I take this application seriously?". (which obviously you wouldn't if it was written on scrap paper, had coffee stains on it and just looked crap)

The content is way more important, though.  Is the cover letter self-important, obviously inflating any knowledge or experience you have, stating the only reason you want the job is 'cause you're unemployeed or is it honest and fits the position in question.

a2800276
Friday, August 29, 2003

Assuming that your experience consulting there was a happy one, make a point of mentioning it with the name of the managers involved.  In effect this will give HR a chance to get a reference before calling you in. 

Remember the main point of covering letters and CVs/Resumes is to cut down the number of applicants to something that can be handled. 

A cynic writes
Friday, August 29, 2003

Post you request on some rent-a-coder board. ;-)

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, August 29, 2003

You could say you're internationally renowned (JOS being international.)

.
Friday, August 29, 2003

>>I like to tailor my letters based on the job I'm appying for, but here I can't do that.

>I'm not sure I understand that. You're not supposed to do that or you can't bring yourself to write a custom letter?

I mean, normally I'm replying to a specific opening.  With this company, they don't work that way.  They bring in people to interview, if you pass you go into a pool.  Just before you start all people with open job reqs bid on new hires.  This company does everything from Ph.D level math for communications devices, to Java, to Brew, with stops at C, C++, assembly, firmware, perl, etc in between.

The guy I used to work for there is a director of engineering, yet even he can't sneak me past HR.  He'd hire me in a heartbeat (he's pointed me to some consulting work), but he can't.

Trust me though, every reference I give them will be somebody I worked with at that company.  And it's a great place to work, my 3 years there was the best 3 years I've spent anywhere.

Anonymous coward
Friday, August 29, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home