Cover Letters With Personality
March 29, 2011 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I am having the darnedest time translating my personality into a winning cover letter to my dream job. Help!

Like many people, cover letters make me a little ill. I cannot seem to adequately imbue one with the personality I need to catch the eye of a recruiter at any of the top animation studios I am currently applying to. After speaking with one recruiter in person after a phenomenal interview and an out of left field "no thanks", I know I'm the right fit for these places and it's not that I'm underqualified or anything like that. My cover letters, though, seem to be saying "bland" or "professional", not "fun, engaging, creative, and hire-able", and it's that mismatch that's making the recruiters go "hmmm".

After much trouble I finally got a hold of a cover letter (my boyfriend's) that made waves in a good way at the main place I'd like to work (big time animation studio). It broke the rules that I personally can't seem to shake: had some spelling/grammatical errors; was effusive and personable; and had some cheeky jokes that really showcased my BF's disposition and personality. I cannot reverse engineers this thing for the life of me.

How can I construct a letter of my own that will clearly show that I'm the right kind of girl for their team? I'm a warm, enthusiastic and capable college grad with talent. What's screwing me over?
posted by patronuscharms to Work & Money (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe there's something I don't understand, but… why not ask your boyfriend to introduce you to some of his coworkers, or join him if they ever go out as a group? You'll be able to bring up your interest in working at the place, they'll get a load of your warmth and enthusiasm. They might even be able to relay your resume and portfolio to whoever might be hiring, or at least put you in touch with them. A cover letter is a surrogate for a personal introduction, so why not just get a personal introduction?
posted by Nomyte at 5:59 PM on March 29, 2011

Response by poster: Nomyte, doing as you've suggested would make me feel profoundly yucky. I am very sensitive to the fact that he works where I want to work, and I don't want anyone to think that I'm dating him specifically for a personal introduction, and since the studio I am applying to has very few women in it to begin with, that kind of situation would blacklist me across the board. I am trying to find other avenues for a personal introduction, however. Thank you for the input.
posted by patronuscharms at 6:04 PM on March 29, 2011

Is there any way that you can meet some of the women in the company? (Request for informational interview?) Often, things that go over really well when when a guy does them (he's the cheeky jokemeister you'd love to have a beer with!) or are forgiven when a guy does them, just aren't received quite the same way when they come from a woman. In your shoes, I'd really be much more interested in how the women presented themselves.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:36 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Why would anyone think that you're dating him for a personal introduction? Are you somehow giving people a credible reason to have these suspicions? (Sorry if this is a dumb question. I'm prone to asking them.) If you have strong ethical objections to talking to your boyfriend's coworkers, I think you'll always have a fear of someone, somewhere, thinking that you got the job in part because your boyfriend also works there, no matter how you manage to get hired. I think it's best to keep in mind that you succeed or fail on your own strengths. Meeting with people from the company to give them a chance to see how awesome you are is not nepotism.
posted by Nomyte at 6:38 PM on March 29, 2011

And you know, maybe requesting an informational interview is a little too formal. Could you try shooting one of them an email saying, hey, I was browsing company website/linkedin/whatever and saw that you work for my dream company. I'd love to do what you do one day. I was wondering if you might have time for me to ask you a few questions about how you got to be where you are?
posted by Ashley801 at 6:39 PM on March 29, 2011

If someone else had success with a cover letter that doesn't match your personal traits, I wouldn't spend too much time trying to deconstruct that letter. You need something that matches you. My only advice is that your going to leave a bigger impression if you can make a statement about the job, and what you would do in it, that is a strength of your point of view or opinion and back it up with specific example.

It sounds like your boyfriend was able to do this because he has the sort of roaring humorous personality that allows him to barrel through with a mistake here and slight faux pas there, but that's okay because folks enjoy the ride. The company may have been looking for that from one guy, but I doubt it is the all out formula for success. What is it that YOU have to offer that will give them a different and valuable creative person in the room?

Try answering that question out loud in less than five minutes. Then listen to it and try again in two minutes. Then again in no more than a few sentences, ideally with the ability to back it up with a specific example of how you've taken that part of yourself and achieved with it before. That's the heart of a great proposal/cover letter.
posted by meinvt at 8:45 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

If there is a pattern of very few women working there, that may be telling you something about the place. Not necessarily something about anyone's explicit prejudices, but some places have a culture of believing that men can have certain ineffable qualities (brilliance, creativity, true artistic vision, mischievous personalities, whatever) - and golly, none of the women they interview ever have these attributes. It can hurt women in the hiring process in ways that may be very hard to pin down.

Ashley801's idea of trying to figure out who the women are and contact one or more of them might give you some unexpected insights about what the place is like and what they're looking for.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:28 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The hard thing about writing cover letters is that you feel locked into a "mode" where you're supposed to use all kinds of stiff and awkward corporate language and talk about yourself in a way you never would in normal life.

Often what I do when I need to write the more personal and less technical part of my cover letter, is open up a new document (or take out a new piece of paper) and just gush about how much I really want the job, how I've wanted it since I was in grade 1, and how I would omg so so good at it, you have no idea. Be as genuine, and as you as possible. Once you've poured that out, it's easier to revise it into something more cover letter appropriate, rather than shove that enthusiasm into the dry cover letter form.
posted by Rora at 8:00 PM on April 1, 2011

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