I need a jumpstart on my cover letters.
October 11, 2005 9:54 PM   Subscribe

What should I write about in my cover letter if there is no specific job description?

I am in the process of writing cover letters for a dozen or so companies. Many of them are not listing current job openings, they just have a statement saying that resumes are welcome, that they are always looking for intelligent, interesting people, etc.

Most of the cover letter advice I have seen has recommended that a good chunk of the cover letter be devoting to telling specifically why you are a good match for that particular job and how you will meet the requirements.

Since there is no specific job description, how can I write a letter that will get me noticed? What should I write about? As an entry-level December grad, do I have a chance? Should I even bother with companies who aren't listing job openings?

Since I am mainly applying to ad agencies & pr companies, I think I can get away with a little more creativity than, oh, say, an accounting agency or the like.

Any other job-seeking advice is also appreciated, as my last two months of college life are flying by and I'm starting to panic!
posted by saucy to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Speaking as someone currently embroiled in the job search, I would say you'd have to have some kind of "in" in your cover letter--you'd have to mention something specific that made you interested in the company, maybe a specific employee you know or a project they've worked on. Something that would make you immediately seem more interesting or memorable than the dozens of other newly minted grads.

This isn't an easy thing to do. What you want to do is come up with something that draws a line between you and the company, though, and if you can't, you can't really know that you'd be appropriate for a position (any position!) there, and neither can they.

As for "should I bother": email & faxes are basically free. It can't hurt to have your resume in someone's pile, so long as you don't just dump Generic Cover Letters all over an entire department to the point where you'd become a joke.

Then again, I'm unemployed, so I could be completely wrong about all of this.
posted by bcwinters at 10:13 PM on October 11, 2005

To whom it may concern,

Further to your advert in <place advert was seen> for <position>, please find enclosed a copy of my current CV. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on <contact details>.

Yours faithfully,


The CV should speak for itself. Potential employers don't want to have to wade through paragraphs of text to find out about you. The level that you're applying at, they'll read your CV to ensure you have the correct technical skills, then book you in for a further interview. These people get many, many CV's every day, so the less work they have to do to work out who you are, and if you're suitable, the better.
posted by gaby at 1:23 AM on October 12, 2005

Saw this via lifehacker, just yesterday.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 1:26 AM on October 12, 2005

During the dot-com boom I was a Recruiter who had to read hundreds of resumes a week.

If there is no specific job that you're applying for I would keep the cover letter extremely short - and funny.

Start off with something off-key as the first paragraph. Write something very short and interesting about why you're attracted to the company in the second paragraph, and write something specific about your skills in the third paragraph.

For example:

Dear Duff Beer,

When I gave my two-week notice to my boss, he literally cried. Oddly, when I told my mom that I was leaving Budweiser she cried too. But she always cries.

Once I went on a tour of your factory and everyone seemed really happy. Not fake happy, real happy. I would like to work somewhere where I wouldn't have to be fake happy. I'm not a faker.

The reason my boss probably cried is because I'm hardly ever sick, I do what I'm told, I keep a clean desk, and I get my work done on time. I'd really like to stay in Springfield and remain in the beer industry. If anything on my resume intersts you, I hope you'll give me a call.


I definately would have given someone like that a call. And if they weren't totally wacky, I would have interviewed them even if I didnt have a job available, just so I could feel comfortable putting them in my Good file.

good luck!
posted by tsarfan at 1:33 AM on October 12, 2005

Pay close attention to how you say things. Avoid passive sentences, cloudy prose etc. If you are applying without a clear job in mind, try to include two or three things that aren't on your CV but are important (or at least interesting/funny) enough to include in a letter.

Oh, and tell them when you will be calling them to follow up. Then you can always tell the secretary "s/he is expecting my call"
posted by markovitch at 8:20 AM on October 12, 2005

Then you can always tell the secretary "s/he is expecting my call"

Which technically would be a lie (if they're getting tons of resumes, especially, they can't take calls from everyone), and boss will ask the secretary post-call "Who was that?", and the secretary will say, "They said you were expecting their call", and then they will laugh at you and throw your resume away. Don't fuck with the person answering the phone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:26 AM on October 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

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