Recommendation Letter Recruitment

Nowadays, most job applications are submitted online. In many cases, they allow for you to attach ‘any extra materials’ that you think might be of importance. I’ve translated this to mean: include recommendation letters or perish into nonexistence due to  conformity. Recommendation  letters, though more of a staple, are certainly a necessary step in helping applicants stand out in a crowd.

In preparation for the submission of my job applications, I’ve been in correspondence with a couple of professors in hopes of their writing me recommendation letters. The last time I went through this process was in high school, when I mustered up the nerve to ask my teachers for college recommendation letters. I ended up getting a pretty by-the-book, fill-in-the-blank, generic recommendation from one of my favorite teachers (talk about a disappointment), and what I can only imagine was a glowing recommendation from my (overly?) complimentary guidance counselor (I never got to see that one, which is a shame because I’m always good for an ego boost).

But that was then, and this is now– a whole new ballpark. I’m asking these individuals to assist me in finding my way in the real world. I’ve received pretty positive responses so far, at least from one professor, who, despite not being within my major, I did a lot of work with, including an independent study (within my minor). It’s been wonderful getting back in touch with her, but I almost feel guilty asking her to write this letter. It occurred to me: think of all the letters she must have to write? What a pain!

Well, my other professor has found a way around such tedious tasks, and has actually told me to write my own recommendation letter. She’ll read it, approve or disapprove, hopefully edit it a bit, and then sign it. Now, I’m not one of those people who is their own biggest fan (see above mentioned comment about ego boost), so writing that letter was probably more of a trial than it would have been for her to have composed it. When constructing your own endorsement, you feel that you owe it to yourself to be a bit modest. But, at the same time, not overly modest (it is, after all, suppose to recommend you for the job…hence the name). It’s also hard for a person to see their own strengths, and equally difficult to identify one’s own weaknesses. I haven’t heard back from the professor yet, but I hope she takes some liberty and revises my muddled thoughts. It is, after all, difficult task to write a perfectly balanced review of oneself.

I like to think of these recommendation letters as an addition to my own cover letter. They highlight my strengths, passions, and past projects in a way that a resume just cannot. But this time, instead of singing my own praises via cover letters, a much more impartial audience is asked to solo.

The Trouble with Cover Letters…

…is that they’re hard to write.

As I go through the tedious process of applying for job after job, never hearing back from any of them, and then worrying that something is wrong with my email inbox, I’ve found that one of the most difficult parts is the cover letter.

How do I make myself appealing to a company?

How do I simultaneously express my uniqueness without sacrificing professionalism?

How do I properly convey my enthusiasm?

And, above all else, how do I hide my desperation?

Okay, the last one I’ve managed pretty well, but nevertheless the whole process is daunting.

With each new job possibility comes a new cover letter, or at least a new draft of the original. Right now, looking at my Documents folder, you would find at least 11 files with the words “cover letter” somewhere in the title. Many are just variations of each other, others are failed attempts at me being witty, none are, as of yet, successful.

When you google search “cover letter,” an abundance of websites pop up to assist in helping you write the perfect cover letter. The so-called experts and all of their knowledge is a bit overwhelming, causing me to take each suggestion with a grain of salt. I have, however, discovered that there are a few constants in masses:

1. Absolutly, Positivly, Unconditoinaly NO mispellings or grammatic erors.

(see what I did there?)

2. Take this opportunity to go into greater depth and detail involving your specific skills in relation to the job you are applying for.

3. Individualize it.

4. Highlight how you would be an asset to the company.

5. Each Cover Letter should be Company specific.

(this one might require researching the company, which is always a good idea if you’re applying to work there!)

Am I missing anything? Or is there, quite simply, no perfect recipe. No guarantees. No promises.

Each resume I send seems like a shot in the dark, I guess I’m just hoping one of them will get noticed.