Cover letters for the rest of us

May 4th, 2010 Posted in jobs, me, reflections | 6 Comments »
275/365 - form letter

Creative Commons License photo credit: jypsygen

While I was looking for a job I read a lot of advice about cover letters, yet I never felt entirely sure that I was doing it “right.” There are lots of examples, but I found few examples specific to the library world.*

In hindsight, I’m pretty sure there’s no one “right way.”  However, I’m sure there’s a right way for YOU. Looking at other people’s examples might help you find your way. I know it helped me. What also helped me:

  • getting feedback from the ALA Placement Center at Midwinter ’10
  • getting feedback from friends, colleagues, and family

You’ll need to highlight your own skills and accomplishments, obviously. But I think it’s also important for you to find your own “voice.” I’m not sure I found my voice until I had written 30 (or so) cover letters.

I wrote a different cover letter for each application I sent, because every single job ad is different. Each of the cover letters I’m sharing landed me an interview.

It’s important to address the job requirements directly. I frequently copied and pasted the requirement wording directly from the job ad, like in this example:

I also played around with being less rigid, but when I did so I made sure to use lots of the same words that were used in the job ad, and I still explicitly addressed the ad’s qualifications:

This job was particularly suited to my background and experience. I was offered an interview just after I had accepted my new job, even though I applied to this job several months earlier.

There’s a lot to say about cover letters, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Mostly, I wanted to share some examples of cover letters that got me an interview. None of these cover letters were for the job I ultimately got, however. That example will be in another post.

What kinds of difficulties do you have with cover letters?

* Colleen Harris, librarian at University of Tennessee Chattanooga, posted cover letter examples online. I met Colleen at Internet Librarian 2008, and I’m sorry to say I haven’t kept in touch. Her blog, Guardienne of the Tomes, is going to my feed reader immediately.