Cover letters are like teaser trailers for the main event - the CV. A teaser trailer gives snippets of the main story in order to draw in a paying audience to see the movie. Trailers have a very limited amount of time in which to do that, and they must stand out amongst all the other trailers being shown at the same time.
I was helping a friend write a cover letter for a job application. He'd send me a draft, and I'd scan-read it and report back. Then he'd make some changes, send it back, and I'd do the same until either he or I was happy. More often than not I was telling him to cut something out, or reword it to make it shorter.
I think there is a habit amongst recent graduates to try to divulge information in incredibly convoluted language. It's a habit most likely picked up from reading complex academic journals, a habit that does not help when thrust into the job market.
So while I was waiting on another tightened redraft from my friend, I got thinking. I was trying to get him to make the first paragraph of his cover letter short, snappy, and easy to read. What else is short, snappy and easy to read? Tweets, of course.
So I set myself the task of writing my CV in a single Tweet.
There are services and sites devoted to using Twitter for jobhunting; here's a list of some of them, and here's another jobhunting site using Twitter. However, most of them involve normal full-sized CVs, and I'm not entirely convinced of their use (prove me wrong please, if you can!).
I wrote my Tweet CV and I was quite proud of its pith, until I found this competition run in January by workthing (workthing's blog is truly excellent by the way). You can find the winner here and also some honourable mentions and bad examples here. Mine turned out to be rather weak by comparison! I'm going to keep working on my Tweet CV; I could spend a whole lot of time making it perfect.
In of itself, a Tweet CV might not be much use, but I still heartily recommend having a go at writing yours because it's a really good exercise in writing short, snappy, work profiles. The 140 character limit is a great motivator for using language creatively and effectively.
I did then ask myself if this was a worrying degradation of language into soulless 140 character sentences. Is it a gross reduction of one's life into one line? Is this a grassroots introduction of Orwellian newsspeak?
My answer to all of these questions: Not at all. In my final year of high school I was awarded an A for my Advanced English portfolio, which had consisted only of one short poem and one piece of prose written almost entirely in AOL speak. Had Twitter existed in 2003 I probably would have done a piece based on that instead. The point is not to reduce the feeling, or the beauty of the language. The challenge is to compact it without losing meaning, beauty, or indeed originality.
Translating these ideas to the challenge of creating your own Tweet CV should help you to understand the purpose of a good cover letter.
(You could also try expressing your career in 10-line poetry too, if you like...I would just not advise sending that out to employers!)
Kind of related:
These sites don't show you how to sell yourself in one sentence, but they do talk about using social media to win you a job, which after last week's post on how it can lose you a job, I thought would be a positive list to include.
CV or not CV: Twitter tips
Does your Twitter handle belong on your resume?
Is Twitter the new CV?
Tweet yourself to a new job
Want a dream Job? Blog, Tweet or Youtube it!