That last blog post on how not to get a job made something entirely clear to me: You all want more guidance about writing cover letters. As Rosie put it in her comment:
In my opinion this is really important. If we want to be writers shouldn’t the first example of our writing be stellar?
The answer is a resounding YES. And let your voice come through without sacrificing perfect grammar, spelling, clarity and organization.
The letter is more important than your resume. Trust me on this.
One of my former students allowed me to share this example with you. This is an actual email he sent the actual editor of an actual (famous) magazine:
I’ll keep this brief, since you looked pretty busy on Twitter as of, like, 10 seconds ago. I’m a graduate student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and I’m looking for an internship in Washington D.C. from about December/January to May. I know MoJo normally bases its interns in San Fran, but I noticed in the latest issue’s masthead that your D.C. bureau had an intern, so I thought I’d be pesky and ask if you had an availability. If so, do you have any kind of application process, or is it one of those vision quest-y things where I have to ascend a mountain of bureaucrats with nothing but a day’s worth of rations and a FOIA request to discover whether Obama is selling our nation’s puppy chow secrets to the Chinese? If so, should I start fasting now?
Obligatory self-marketing, in case you’re still reading: I’ve done some investigative work on the criminal justice system, I covered the BP oil spill for five days in July, and I’ve got experience in computer-assisted reporting, which I used to crunch campaign contributions for a big feature I just did on the preposterousness of Missouri’s races. (Turns out, big surprise, that Roy Blunt is the consummate Washington insider. Other news: dirt is brown.)
Anyway, please let me know if MoJo has a cupboard in its D.C. Bureau kitchen in which you’d have space for me to work in. I don’t make much noise.
It’s casual, irreverent, reveals the writer’s awareness of Twitter, his understanding of the publication’s inner workings and is pretty fun to read. Yeah, that last bit matters. Oh, and by the way, you don’t normally want to disclose political opinions in a cover letter (as this student did about Blunt). But this particular publication wears its politics on its sleeve, so it was okay.
Here’s the editor’s reply:
Good attitude and spunk. Bother me again after the election, say after 11/13. I have some traveling to do once the bloodbath is over. Then I’ll be able to focus on this. Thanks.
Let me know via email or here via comment if you’d like me to hold a “cover letter clinic” sometime soon. I’d be happy to do so.