Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Job hunting blues – Part two

Cover Letters
I have been fortunate in that I have not had to actively job hunt since about 1987. When I say this, I mean I have not been “between jobs” since that time. Whenever I was looking for a job it was because I was looking to upgrade my current position. Like when I was working at Arby’s as a meat-slicing, bun wrapper and I had a chance to become a Certified Nurse’s Assistant – that was, to me at least, an upgrade. When I think about it, I’ve actually been working since 1977, but had what they call “gaps in employment.”
In an earlier blog, I had mentioned I had an interview for an Adult Protective Services manager position. That interview was actually an interview to see if I qualified for an interview. (Are you following me?)  When applying for County jobs in 30 or so counties one has to go the Merit System website which sets up interviews with their panel to determine who gets an interview with the County. I had really thought I had blown the “qualifying” interview since I answered one of the questions with such blatant idiocy, but they called me back for a second interview.
Getting the day off from my training job was not easy. I went through the third degree as to why and told them I had an appointment that could not be rescheduled. The interview was fantastic!! I was feeling that I had this one sealed. Of course, optimism has never really worked for me, but I had everyone encouraging me to trade in my cynicism for a bit and try it on for size.
The optimism thing started taking its hold on me. I received a call for the third and final interview a few weeks later. My boss outright REFUSED to give me the day off. Many of my friends suggested that I call in sick and go to the interview anyway. I was too afraid that I would get in caught and fired; after all, I had already asked for the day off. It would seem awfully suspicious that suddenly I’m sick on the same date. Also, my work ethic just doesn’t let me call in sick when I’m not at least feeling a little bit crappy. Worse still, there was always the chance that I would not get the job and then be without any job (yeah, my optimism was slipping and my tendency to over-analyze increasing). I called the interviewer and told them I couldn’t get the day off. She told me they couldn’t reschedule because it was too hard to get all the people together. I thanked the woman, hung up the phone, screamed obscenities to the universe about my boss, and then cried.
Two days later my cell phone rang. It was the interview lady. Her staff, the ones that made up the panel for interview number three, didn’t feel comfortable weighing in on the decision of which of the finalists to hire if they did not have a chance to see ALL of us. Wow! That was SO cool. She gave me some date options, and it turned out that I had a class that could potentially get out by noon which would give me ample time to make the two hour drive from Calaveras. I was SO excited. This was the third interview! She was willing to work, somewhat, around my needs to give me the interview! This was going to be the job! I wouldn’t have to wait until the current temporary job ended and be job hunting at the tail end of a fiscal year. Yes! This optimism thing was pretty cool! (Okay, die-hard optimists, stop with the smugness already.)
**Sigh** The third interview went splendidly well. But I did not get the job. Damn! Back to the drawing board. I took a deep breath and put my cynicism back on. The optimism was kind of itchy anyway. It was pretty evident that I was not going to be granted anymore opportunities to interview while I had the training job, so I resolved myself to wait until the training gig ended before I submitted anymore applications.
So, let’s talk about cover letters. As a friend  and former employee of mine pointed out, cover letters just feel “ridiculous and a bit cheesy.”  I tend to agree with this, mainly because I totally suck at writing cover letters and I always wind up feeling a little insincere. We have the cocky letter:
Dear Boss-to-be,
Attached to this letter, please find my resume and application for the blah blah position in your company. (Don’t worry, I insert the title of the position in place of blah blah). As you can see by my resume, I am pretty damn awesome, but let me go ahead and regurgitate it all here in case you need to see it in a completely different format. (okay, I don’t exactly say that here, but it sure feels like I’m just repeating what my resume already says.) I am the best thing since the invention of sliced bed and you would be a fool not to hire me.

The groveling letter reads a little differently:
Dear Exalted One,
You have the most AMAZING agency and it would be an honor to be a part of your AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL team. (Regurgitate random facts you learned about the agency from the internet here.) Attached to this letter, please find my resume and application which I hope you can find the time to read. I really hope that you find that I am a good match for your AWESOME company. Thank you so much for your time in reading and considering my qualifications.

I suspect many of you see nothing wrong with these letters. And, I know, they do serve a purpose. They allow potential employers to screen out potential employees without bothering to look at the resume, application or you in person. So much weighs on the cover letter and yet, most of us (I include myself in this group) suck at writing them.
Next . . . Supplemental questions: Why bother with the interview?

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