No Job Bites? Try The Emotional Cover Letter

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Most cover letters have had an emotionectomy. Any sign of humanity has been replaced by sterile, job-seeker language like, "Spearheaded initiative that yielded 17% ROI," "Dynamic, self-starter seeks leadership opportunity with progressive company" or "Drove profit maximization through rigorous cost-control measures."

Cover letters' lack of emotion is ironic When a job is advertised, chances are that a number of candidates are pretty similar in qualifications. What often differentiates them is a feeling, an intuition the boss has about the candidates. Sterile cover letters don't create warm and fuzzies.

I'm aware that it's a risk to speak from the heart but my clients have found that doing that tends to screen out cold-hearted employers and makes it more likely that a warm-hearted one will say yes. And isn't that who you want to work for anyway?

What's an emotional cover letter? Of course, it starts by avoiding job-seeker language--That makes you seem like you're hiding your real self behind resume-speak. Replace that with a cover letter that tells your true human story in plain English, beauty marks and warts. Consider this letter from a hard-to-employ person: an ex-felon.


You may be tempted to throw my application in the trash when you see that I just finished doing four years in Sing-Sing for armed robbery. I wouldn't blame you if you would. After what I saw in Sing-Sing, I'd probably do it myself.

But on the off chance that maybe someone gave you a break at some point, let me tell you my story-no excuses. I was a jerk, bad in school, joined a gang, did a bunch of robbery. Never hurt anyone. Not my style. But I was a robber.

I'm now 24 and sick of it all, sick of myself, to tell you the truth. I hope I'm being honest in saying I'd rather make $10 an hour honestly than $1,000 robbing some liquor store.

I realize I don't deserve a good job, at least not yet. So I'll do anything: sweep floors, clean toilets, load boxes all day. I want to prove myself to you and to myself.

If you'd be willing to at least interview me, it would give me hope, which is what I need right now when I hear that most ex-felons can't find a job.

Anyway, here's my resume but it won't look good---Sing-Sing for four years isn't going to make my resume top-of-the-heap.

Against the odds, hoping to hear from you,


If you were that employer, wouldn't you be more likely to interview him based on this letter than on the standard sterile one?

If that's true for an ex-felon, it's more true for the more common situations in which an applicant doesn't have the usually desired continuous employment showing increasing responsibility in which the target job is the perfect next step. Examples: You're sick of being a corporate employee and want to work for a nonprofit. You've been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. Or you're a fun-lover who, before starting your career, took a couple years after college to "find yourself" and just have some fun.

Especially if you haven't had much success using the standard, antiseptic cover letter, consider trying an emotional one.
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Marty Nemko welcomes your visiting his website: where lots of his writings and radio show are archived. And, if you need career help, you can email Marty Nemko at
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