Cover letters on letterhead?
January 7, 2019 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Is it professional and appropriate to put a cover letter for a job you are applying for onto your current job's letterhead?

I understand that in an academic setting (in the US) this would be appropriate. For example, if I am postdoc at Columbia and applying for professorships at Harvard - I'd put my cover letter on Columbia's stationary. But what if this was outside of an academic setting, for example if I worked at IBM and was applying for a job at Apple, would I use IBM's letterhead? What if this was a secondary school and you were applying to work in another school district?

There is some disagreement amongst friends, and I'd like to win the bottle of wine. One person says this is ok, one person says this is tacky, and one person says it's a fire-able offense.

Your opinion as an applicant or hiring manager is welcome, but if there are links to resources online that answer this question as well, that would be welcome too.

PS Extra points if you can tell us the history of letterheads in general.
posted by Toddles to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Noooooooooooooo. Letterheads are for your company's business! Getting hired by some other company is not your company's business! This is not even vaguely hard!
posted by praemunire at 9:43 PM on January 7 [47 favorites]

I would have thought this was a definite no-no, only exception being if you are self employed you could maybe use your own company letterhead.
posted by EatMyHat at 9:45 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]

Do not do this thing, it is bad. Unless of course you need to win a bottle of wine. In which case, the letterhead of your current employer is fine if you are selling your services on behalf of your employer. But then you’d be a consultant. A consultant with wine.
posted by bigbigdog at 9:48 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]

What? No. A thousand times no. A link to an article reiterating this here, but Gods no. So incredibly unprofessional and inappropriate. Documents on corporate letterhead represent the company, not you, and are interpreted as being their messaging. If I discovered, as your employer, that you did this, I would consider you to have a very short shelf life remaining with my organization (if not immediately fireable), both because you are applying for other positions, and you are using our resources (and implied authority) to do so.
posted by liquado at 9:58 PM on January 7 [7 favorites]

Ok, I'll consider this a win. I said "no, this is a fire-able offense". Thanks internet strangers!

**Pouring first glass***
posted by Toddles at 10:01 PM on January 7 [7 favorites]

Not only is it unprofessional, it would be grounds for almost instant termination almost every place I've worked. Work letterhead is exclusively for work communication. Full stop. If someone interviewing with me made that mistake, they'd 99% be a no-hire, no-interview candidate. Even beyond the letterhead issue, while most people use a little bit of company office supplies to some extent, advertising it to a potential employer is putting a bad face forward at a time when you need to be showing your best.

The only exception is business is if the company whose letterhead was being used was actively involved in placing the applicant at the other company and even then it's iffy.
posted by Candleman at 11:20 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]

Your characterization of academic cover letters is correct, though - if they're not on letterhead from your current institution, that is very strange. Not a fireable offense and it won't get your application tossed out on its own, but it's a mark against you.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:43 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]

I'll echo ChuraChura: in academia, for faculty jobs, this is absolutely required. In industry? Hell no.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 6:54 AM on January 8

Difference being that usually in academia you are in a term-limited position — a grad student, a postdoc, even untenured faculty — and it is the institution’s business to place you in your next position (in at least the first two cases).
posted by spitbull at 6:35 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]

Also for what it’s worth, having served on countless academic search committees, it isn’t really required there either and no one really cares if your cover letter is on plain paper. We read them as PDFs anyway. And your CV says where you work.
posted by spitbull at 3:20 AM on January 9

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