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You should hire me because you already know I'm cool!
March 25, 2014 7:20 PM   Subscribe

A new position has popped up at a small office where I interned as a college student. How to best play this?

Recently my old boss forwarded me a description of a new job position at her non-profit. I worked as an intern there for a few months last year, and know practically everyone in the office, including the people who will probably be interviewing and supervising this position. Plus, I know (and like) the person with whom I suspect this position will be working closest.

While some of the job duties are almost exactly what I did as an intern (yay!), the other responsibilities are in an area I have little to no experience, although I am interested in learning skills in this second area.

Basically, I'm not sure how to write my cover letter. I know that my familiarity with the non-profit's programs and mission, as well as its work environment (and nice office!) will be an advantage for me, but I don't want to push it. Not sure if writing something like "I'm a perfect fit since I already know I enjoy working with Anna!" would work. Or overstate my ex-boss' fondness of me. She's already said she would advocate for me.

Thanks for any advice!
posted by myntu to Work & Money (10 answers total)
 
How to best play this?

In simple terms, you're being all but offered the position. It is entirely appropriate to indicate your connection with your ex-boss - "[Ex-Boss] referred this position to me and recommended that I apply". Feel free to refer to your familiarity with the position - "While at X organization, I was impressed by its advocacy in Y area as well as the professionalism of the workers". Knowing a second person there is even better - "I look forward to a chance to work with Anna again; I thought she was exceptional at [doing stuff]".

The cover letter is a bit of a formality to get past HR - don't worry too much about overstating anything, since you're now being judged by your work last year rather than your resume/cover letter.
posted by saeculorum at 7:26 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]


Well, to clarify quickly, I noticed that they posted the position on a job site today. So it's not as if I'm the only candidate so far, but I'm planning to write to the person in charge of the job search tomorrow since they're looking to hire ASAP.

Thanks for your suggestions though!
posted by myntu at 7:41 PM on March 25


It's perfectly fine to refer to the things you know about working there as well as the people. Please take this as seriously as any other job search. Write your cover letter well and proofread it. If you go in for an interview, dress like you would for any other interview.
posted by advicepig at 7:47 PM on March 25


If your old boss forwarded you the job listing, definitely mention her in your cover letter. Say that, as your track record shows, you have previously demonstrated X and Y skills working at Nonprofit as an intern, and that since that time, you have also developed Z and A useful skills. While you have not done B yet, it is an area you have been looking to work on and feel that you would be able to quickly get up to speed with for C reasons. C hopefully being some talent or ability you have already demonstrated while working there.

Nthing to proofread, proofread, proofread! I have definitely been in a situation where I was so excited to submit for a perfect job I was obviously a shoe-in for that I accidentally submitted something with a typo or formatting error. It may not matter, and if these are friends they'll probably look kindly on you, but still. Don't rush.
posted by Sara C. at 8:16 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


In simple terms, you're being all but offered the position.

I would not at all assume this. It's great that your ex-boss wants you for this position, but this is not a guarantee.

Apply like you would for any other job, including tailoring your cover letter and resume to the position and your relationship with the organization.

Not sure if writing something like "I'm a perfect fit since I already know I enjoy working with Anna!" would work.

You should hire me because you already know I'm cool!


I know you're not really planning to say either of these things (right?) but do be careful about relying too much on people liking you or thinking you're cool, etc. Those things are great and will help you, but focusing on that too much at the expense of talking about your experience and skills will make you appear immature. I say this as someone who has worked with a lot of interns and recent college grads (and hired some of both).
posted by lunasol at 8:22 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


DO:
-Describe your knowledge of the non-profit and its mission
-Discuss the work you did as an intern, referencing anything that an outsider wouldn't know about how work gets done/what's valued/challenges that will come up in that role
-Note your connections to people at the organization

DO NOT:
-Use a more casual tone than you would normally because you know people there
-Write the cover letter like you might an email to colleagues ("I'm a perfect fit since I already know I enjoy working with Anna!" is much too casual)
-Focus only on your relationships at the organization - use the letter to primarily highlight your skills and knowledge

Finally...If your boss forwarded you the position, and they're well-respected at the organization, you can pretty much assume you have an interview, at least.* So I wouldn't worry too much about the cover letter in and of itself. Instead, I'd think of it as practice for how you should conduct yourself in an interview at the organization. You want to be professional, knowledgeable, serious, and warm but not over-familiar. As lunasol correctly points out, being liked helps but isn't everything. Don't focus on that getting you the job - focus on the work you've done there and the knowledge you'd bring to the table.

*This is true at most organizations, it may or may not be at yours.
posted by leitmotif at 8:22 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


While you probably can't screw this up if the hiring manager knows your work and explicitly asks you to apply, you never know who else they find to bring in to 'validate' the search.

You absolutely do want to highlight the personal connections, and your understanding of the the mission and programs, but use these to persuade. It would not be persuasive to say "I'm a perfect fit since I already know I enjoy working with Anna!" It may be true that you enjoy working with Anna, and they may believe you, but it's not particularly relevant to employers if you like the job you're applying to. Instead you need to persuade your potential employer of your value to them. Consider how someone without your internship would be at a disadvantage. Something like "My pre-existing professional relationships within the firm will help me perform this job with a minimum amount of drama" or "I am already familiar with the policies surrounding the administration of the Herps for Derps program" would be arguments in favor of you over other candidates.

Also, I might not mention in the cover letter that you were directly invited by management to apply; the cover letter gets read by many people and it could potentially start you off on the wrong foot if coworkers / supervisors feel you were hired for a reason other than being the best candidate for the job. You can certainly mention that she managed you, list her as a reference, etc, and that will give her a chance to advocate for you without giving any 'the fix is in' vibe. But this may be a personal preference, rather than a universal rule.
posted by pwnguin at 8:28 PM on March 25


Wait, this opening is at the organization you interned for? Then don't say anything about "Anna suggested I apply" -- instead talk about how you are familiar with the organization from your internship, and how in the intervening months you've learned or improved X skill set, and are very excited to be able to bring those to work for the organization as an [x role.]

Talking about Anna in your cover letter would be weird, presumptuous and have a whiff of "I expect nepotism" about it. Talking about how you love the org and want to contribute to its success is fine and reminds them that they already know you're a good match for the org.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:18 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Be sure to let former boss know that you have applied and explicitly say "thank you" for the heads up.

Do not indicate, especially in tone or subtext, that you expect special treatment. Say that various *great things* about the organization are *great* and you are whoo-hoo about the opportunity to perhaps be a part of the *greatness*.

It might help to write a totally casual note first - in a text editor so there's no chance of an accidental send - and then restyle your thoughts in professional non-profit job applicant clothes.

Good luck.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:19 AM on March 26


I have been your former boss a few times. I do this for students I think would be a good fit to the job. I am not offering them the job, but I think that they would be a good candidate in an open competition. S/he's giving you a leg up in advance notice, but it's not much more than that.

I'd apply as if to a regular job advertisement. Do emphasize your previous work with the organization. Don't mention personal ties in the cover letter ("Anna's my bud!", or "I'm cool, you know me!"), however you should give your former boss as a reference.
posted by bonehead at 6:15 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]


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