Job Basics: Search

telescope sky looking

So finally we come to actually looking for a job. Sometimes it seems this is the easy part, though that’s because the hard part is building the foundation – which is what we covered earlier.

It’s also something that you can make easier over time. If you get it down to a science and learn the ins and outs (I did a book on this too, which if nothing else is great to give to friends), it can be almost automatic. The Job Search is a skill, it’s a habit, and you can really get to the point where it runs smoothly.

I’m guessing you’re not at that point, so here’s advice on how to get there.

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Geek Job Guru: Geek That Cover Letter

Letter Blank Writing

So I just spent about two months reviewing resumes. But there’s something I haven’t discussed as much that I’d like to talk about here – how to do a good cover letter. In fact, let’s talk about cover letters for we progeeks.

When people talk cover letters with me, I notice a lot of people just aren’t good at cover letters. Some people know it, some don’t, but in general they’re just not that able to create ones.

At least a lot of people know they’re bad.

Cover letters are extremely vital to your career search, but it seems that if people aren’t too hot at resumes (trust me, they’re not), cover letters are about equally abysmal. I think there’s actually less good advice on cover letters than there needs to be, frankly, so I’m amazed they’re not worse.

I think because cover letters are seen as kind of secondary, sleazy, deliberate lies, unnecessary, etc. It always seems that they’re a second thought to people.  They also seem frustrating when I talk to job seekers, which may be another factor in a lack of quality – people hate doing them.

Me I think they’re important. So let’s take a break from resumes (which, trust me, I am damn glad to do), and discuss cover letters – with our usual progeeky touch.

In fact, let’s talk about why they’re important – because that’s the key to doing them right.

They Establish Human Communication

Unless your resume is very engaging, unless your portfolio is very humanized, unless you have just the right media, a resume and such doesn’t always communicate in a human sense. It’s challenging because even if you love resumes, they’re still a summary. They’re like RPG character sheets in a way – pieces but not always the whole.

A cover letter, which is essentially a letter from you to the people reading your resume (albeit generic “people”) is a chance to establish that human touch. You’re not someone at a distance, not a pile stats – you’re a person reaching out to others.

It’s imperative a good cover letter sound like it comes from a person. Yes that person may be desperate for a job, yes there’s some salesmanship, but this is your chance to be a person to those who may interview you.

Progeek tips:

  • If you’re not always that social the cover letter, properly crafted, can actually help – it’s a chance to take time crafting how you want to be heard.
  • A good cover letter should give a sense of establishing communication. You’re reaching out.

They Show Personality

People hire people. You’d like to think it’s skills and abilities and experience, but personality, who you are, is a part of what people hire. In no small amount of cases it is a significant part because there are careers where a person suited for a job personality-wise with mediocre skills will succeed better than a more talented person that doesn’t fit.  Ever have a job you figured no one else would understand or tolerate?  That’s part of it right there.

People also have to know what not to hire. I still recall an interview where the interviewer and I realized at the same time I was just wrong for the contract. Not being hired when you don’t fit a job is a good thing.

Just as a resume doesn’t make a human connection as well as a letter, neither do they show your personality as well as a letter in most cases. Very creative and artistic and clever resumes can show personality, but we’re not all capable of those – nor are they always appropriate for our careers or for the audience we’re trying to reach with a cover letter.

But every job search needs a cover letter.

Your cover letter is a chance to show you. This helps establish a connection but this also shows who you are. It’s a chance for people to connect with you – wether you fit or not.

Progeek Tips:

  • Put your personality into your cover letter. If you’re worried that’s a bad thing, you may have to do some personal analysis there.
  • Expose the best side of your personality – your goal here is to get the job and so forth, and there’s nothing wrong wit casting yourself in an appropriately good light. People will learn your flaws in time.
  • Remember a cover letter can be crafted as well as a resume, so put in the time to make sure it’s “you.”
  • Even if your resume is bursting with personality, your cover letter is still going to be the first thing many people see.

Creates A Narrative

Resumes, as I often say, should create a coherent narrative, like any good work of media. Everything from your introduction to your publications should reflect each other. In reflecting each other it makes your career into a story that ends with the words “you’re hired.”

A cover letter is an indispensable part of a career narrative because it’s direct written communication.

The Cover Letter allows you to tell your story in miniature in a format outside the resume. You can explain:

  • Who you are.
  • Why you’re right for the job.
  • What you can do for your potential employer.

And all of this is done in writing, direct to people.  A great way to tell a story.

A good cover letter helps establish or enhance the resume you’ve created. Together they’re very powerful, because as the cover letter leads into the resume, each reflecting the other, your story is easier for people to grasp. When it’s easier to grasp, people then are more likely to understand you – and hire you.

(Or I suppose not hire you as noted, but at least for good reasons).

Progeek Tips:

  • A good resume helps explain things and tie it together. A good cover letter also explains you coherently and ties into the resume.
  • A cover letter is a chance to establish more open narrative that you can’t do in a resume. To an extent it is much more of a “regular story.”
  • Cleverly used, a cover letter can also head off any criticisms or gaps in your resume. Maybe you don’t have the industry experience but “you’re glad to have this chance to move into X industry” and so on.

Does Everyone Read Cover Letters?

In my experience, no – but it seems most employers do. I would definitely build a good cover letter just because there’s a chance they’ll read it. Might as well do it right.


So there you go – the reasons to perfect your cover letter and some advice to help you get going. I hope it helps.

And at least it’s not me looking at resumes . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at



50 Shades Of Resume #17: The Evolutionary Metaphor

Resume 17

Jimmy More is a producer who’s had a lot of growth in his career. He decided one day that he really need to show how he evolved . . . by showing how he evolved.

Jimmy’s resume is a take on the classic “March Of Progress” evolutionary pictures we’re all too familiar with. In his case, it describes his journey from student to commercial producer as a kind of evolution. Sure we know all our careers evolve, but he just got out there and showed it.

So of course I wanted to analyze it.

Looking at the Ascent of Jimmy, this stands out

  • An extremely clever use of a classic image. Instantly you look at this and get what he’s talking about and how he’s grown, and the metaphor helps.
  • The imagery is very detailed and witty- notice how each character has the trappings of that stage of his evolution. There’s a lot of wit here and it says a lot about him.
  • It’s a variant from the use of standard graphs to use a different metaphor for growth – which can get attention.
  • There’s detail at each stage of his growth, providing more information. He’s not just using this to be funny – though it actually is pretty funny.

Now evolution has a few bumps in the road, and there are a few here:

  • Despite the detail this doesn’t feel to be a “total” resume. I’m not sure it should be, and maybe it needs to be paired with a more standard resume. But it’s not entirely complete.
  • This metaphor may go good as a smaller part of a larger resume.
  • The choice of italic font may not be appropriate, it gets a bit hard to read.
  • The starkness of the resume is nice, but I wanted more detail.
  • Design-wise, I actually feel it needs a border.

One of the things that stands out here is using a clever metaphor for job growth. This may be something for creative resume-makers to look into because there are doubtlessly others we can find and use. Maybe they’re the whole resume -or a part of it – but there has to be other imagery you can use to up communications and show your design skill.

Also I wonder if this may go well with another style – like the aforementioned book resume, or part of a portfolio (which Jimmy does).

Get to it. Start evolving.

Steve’s Summary: I’d get a laugh out of this resume if it came across my desk, because it’s funny – and clearly the product of a talented person. I’d definitely want to see a full resume or more detail though.

[“50 Shades of Resume” is an analysis of various interesting resumes to celebrate the launch of the second edition of my book “Fan To Pro” and to give our readers inspiration for their own unique creations.]

– Steven Savage