I am fascinated by “hire me” campaigns run by self motivated job seekers who seek to write their own rules. Over the past year, I’ve written about several of these initiatives—from David Heiser’s adventures in social media and Jamie Varon’s Twitter Should Hire Me experiment to Robert Hoppey’s VisualCV and Kelly Giles’ strategic use of LinkedIn.
Today, I’m critiquing two of the latest campaigns—both take a fresh approach to the cover letter. (I’m assigning a pseudonym to the first author and fictionalizing the copy slightly to preserve his anonymity.)
Max, a marketing professional, starts his cover letter for a corporate communications position with a non-profit this way,
I’ve been in this industry long enough to know that I don’t have a decent chance in hell of becoming your next communications director; yet I am applying anyway. I’m confident in my ability to change the rules of the game, or skirt them completely. Which rules? The rules that say that I have to have direct experience with your constituent population, a wall full of awards, and a master's degree.
Let’s talk about what I do offer…
If I were Max's potential employer, I’d have already stopped reading. This is a shame. Especially since Max goes on to present a first-rate 10,000 foot overview of his work and skills. He talks about turn-around efforts he's lead for high profile public relations clients in the past, and engages me in his work. I find myself nodding in appreciation of his knowledge.
But then I shake my head. From the employer's perspective, I ruled him out as soon as I read his opening sentence: "I don’t have a chance in hell of becoming your next communications director.” I heard cynicism. While his credentials are impressive, sarcasm doesn’t sell. Ditto for comments about the ability to change the rules or skirt them completely. I know of very few jobs or positions where not following guidelines or basic directions are actively encouraged. I want to ask him gently: Would you be willing to reconsider your tone?
The second campaign comes to us from Alec Biedrzycki, who fired up the Internet several weeks ago with his musical cover letter on You Tube. After four marketing internships (mostly unpaid), and graduating Summa Cum Laude from Bentley College, Alec is in the market for his first full-time job. Alec conceived of the idea for the video, shot it (with a little help from his friends) over the course of a few days, and within the week—he was being interviewed by CNN. He reports several interviews and job leads from the exposure, but is still in the market for a full-time job.
Alec and “Max” have a great deal in common. They are both in marketing, and their cover letters demonstrate creativity, and a willingness to take risks. Each takes the “road less traveled” in terms of how they apply for positions.
But the comparison stops there: Max chooses the approach of a brash counter-culture comedian, whereas Alec goes for the memorable “pop refrain.” Three weeks, later and I still find myself humming, “So hire me, yeah, yeah…” It's clear which approach wins me over, does either cover letter work for you?