The Truth About Cover Letters


Cover letters suck. I mean really suck. They are my personal seventh circle of hell. I could write an entire novel on the behavioral habits of snails more easily than I can write an upbeat, one-page, single-spaced description of my abilities.

Bragging about myself? I could do that all day. I’m freaking awesome. But the whole “humble brag” thing? Not so much. It either comes across as incredibly pretentious or ridiculously cheesy. I refuse to believe that HR representatives even read these bullshit letters. Read my resumé. I’ve spent hours upon hours perfecting it. If you want to get to know me as a person, call me. Email me. Ask me anything you want, because I promise you’ll get more authenticity than with any sentence you’ll read in a cover letter that I wrote begrudgingly and full of disdain.

There’s already enough that we postgrads have to deal with in the job search. Not only do we have to overcome the ridiculously time-consuming process of online applications, but we are stuck between the stages of “too qualified for the job I have” and “not qualified enough for the job I want.”

We apply for dozens of jobs just because we’re so desperate and tired of rejection that we’ll take pretty much anything at this point. But even after the painstakingly depressing job search process, you make us take another step. Damn you, cover letter. We’re already stressed enough. Why are you making us write paragraphs about how (un)qualified we are and how much we would (definitely not) welcome the opportunity to work for such a (mediocre) reputable company? I’m already humiliated enough that I’m lowering myself to apply for a job I don’t even really want and know I will hate, so why are you making me beg for it? Do you want me to have a mental breakdown at 22? I hate you and your passive aggressive ways, cover letter.

When my parents ask me for updates about the job search and I whine about the cover letter horrors, they tell me to walk into the company and drop off my resume in person. They tell me to demand to speak to the hiring manager. They don’t understand that this isn’t 1985 and that isn’t how things are done. They don’t understand that if I followed their blind advice, I would most likely be forcefully removed from the lobby by security. The “personal touch” that they speak of has now been replaced by a cover letter.

I get so tempted to just use one standard letter and replace the company name and job title, but from actual experience, I’ve discovered that sometimes this means that my cover letter makes no sense and it must be tailored to each job. Then I begin to write and rewrite and edit and re-edit until I’ve lost a large clump of hair due to excessively grabbing at my skull in horror.

There is nothing worse than when I find a job posting that not only matches my qualifications, but actually sounds interesting and then, cue the Jaws soundtrack, at the very bottom of the posting: ”COVER LETTER REQUIRED.” A feeling of utter despair washes over me as I know I’ll be spending the rest of my day writing paragraphs about my skills, and trying to sound peppy without being desperate, even though I know the likelihood of anyone even reading this letter is slim to none.

So I’m officially done with you, cover letter. Trust me, it’s not me…it’s definitely you. You are about as useful as my Facebook account.

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Courtney is a 20-something who hates how often she has to write the term "20-something." After being a complete idiot and graduating in 3 1/2 years, she manages her post-grad struggles with excessive eye rolling, watching cat videos on YouTube, and more vodka sodas than necessary. (Two limes, please.)

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