It is not necessary to feel verklempt about writing a Cover Letter. In fact, it is more than unnecessary – it is irresponsible to sit in front of the computer screen nervous about words and language and being chosen for the interview based off of those anxiety-driven word choices. Unnecessary and Irresponsible. This is my firm stance on the topic.
In mid-August, the company for which I’ve wanted to teach for years posted an opening for an English adjunct instructor late on a Saturday evening. A friend of mine who knew of my desire to work in said facility of technological learning sent me a screen shot of the ad. My fingers hit the keyboard of my computer – found the ad for myself and crafted my cover letter, attached my resume, and had my application sent in less than half an hour to Ranken Technological College. Monday morning, I received a phone call for an interview. Hired, pending all paperwork and etc., on Tuesday.
This – accomplished via something I teach to each and every group of students I have an opportunity to infect with my passion and pursuit of excellence. It is my greatest joy to turn my students into believers of their own abilities … to create them to be effective job seekers. To teach them a cover letter is not an overwhelming and fearsome task.
In January of 2011, I discovered my students lacked insight into effective job-getting skills, so I researched cover letters, resumes, anything I could get my hands on to make a difference for them. To have them write a cover letter to a specific company ad – based upon research in an argument driven class – Composition II – then became the thing. After scouring job ads across Craigslist, I came across an ad that did all that I needed it to for the betterment of my student’s understanding. It was posted on January 20, 2011 by Harster Heating and Air Conditioning there on Craigslist for two service installer personnel.
The lesson included posting the job as part of the Cover Letter and Resume PowerPoint presentation – which aligned with Causal argument in the text to my thinking. Cause – poor cover letter – Effect – no job. Cause – poor resume – Effect – no job. So … the greatest of cause and effect in Argumentation … effective skills in achieving desired results … the jobs of dreams. Careers. Callings.
Over the years, adjustments happened to the presentation, but the effect always the same – students hired for the jobs they desired.
The ad? Here it is.
The plan – I read it through once aloud, then read it through a second time for dissection, taking each portion, each sentence and digging deeper. Looking ad nauseum for all pertinent information with potential for effective attention-getting-ness on upcoming cover letters and resumes.
After four years of using this ad in the classroom, conviction told me I should contact the writer of said ad and thank him for the unbeknownst to him, numbers of students he’d assisted through the years – not only from his ad but from his website. Here is the letter I wrote to Dave Harster of Harster Heating and Air Conditioning … (in it I lay out how I use the ad in the classroom … and yes, I have a thing for dashes and ellipses).
From: Dacia Wilkinson
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2014 2:45 PM
Subject: Re: Ad for HVAC Service Installer dated 1/20/2011 (Yes, 2011)
This is a thank you letter concerning the ad you placed on Craigslist on January 20, 2011. Yes, it’s been a few years. That ad is imprinted in my brain (seriously, I have it memorized) because I use it to teach my students how to use a company’s ad and their website to better their own cover letters and resumes.
My name is Dacia Wilkinson and I’ve taught English Composition at ******** College in Berkeley, Missouri for nearly 4 years. This class is so much more than writing an essay, it’s training in soft skills. We spend hours working on effective cover letters, resume writing, and interview skills – things most of my students have no working knowledge of how to do well.
Since you placed that ad in 2011, and I stumbled across it while looking for a good study for my class in how to read an ad, YOU have inadvertently helped hundreds of students to achieve success.
The sentence, “We have not had to lay any off since 1988” helps me discuss reading between the lines. I teach my students to read to believe, but also read to doubt. When they first hear your sentence, they all say, “Wow!” and I say, really? Think again. What else might that mean? High turnover? (I doubt it very much! Your growth in just 3 years is phenomenal). We also discuss the word “try” when it relates to “we try to work everyone a minimum of 40 hours per week …” I ask them, do you need to understand this could be more than 40 hours at times and less than 40 at times? Absolutely. Read the ad thoroughly. It’s brilliant to discuss with the students. I use an ad from Glideaway too … but yeah, so not as good as yours. I’m not writing them a thank you note.
Again, thank you for writing an ad that was both informative and human. From a discussion on the ad, we move to your website – where I show the students how to read to adjust their cover letters and interview readiness to the company. Several things on your website are superb (all of it is, but what I use in class …)
• On the services tab – you say 24/7 service is available. I ask the students, was that mentioned in the ad. They all say, No. So, I say, well then, do you want to let Mr. Harster know on your cover letter that you’re available for 24/7 service then? To which we all agree – YES. The key being to stand out in a sea of resumes. ☺
• On the history tab, where you state your philosophy … I tell my classes that this is gold and then I read to them, “the customer is always right and to do good work and charge a fair price.” From here, I explain that in any job-getting situation, to look for and find the company’s philosophy and/or mission statement is key. Use it. State that you agree with it, that you understand it in your cover letter.
• On the FAQ page, which I tell them to never ask any of those in an interview – like do you offer worker’s comp? Because you say you do, right there. But my favorite phrase is … “Technicians paid on commission are always trying to sell you something. Our guys just do their jobs.” And I ask my class – do you see his heart here? Do you understand what this company is about? Do your job. Simple. Good stuff.
We talk about many aspects of your website – and to that, I want to say … Thank you for creating a website that is easy to read, understandable, creative, and community oriented. With it, I have been able to teach the importance of company research in the job search periods of life. So much remains to know about a company beyond an ad.
I’m so happy to have stumbled across your ad over 3 years ago and I’ve enjoyed watching your success grow as I’ve shared your website with my students. It’s been most beneficial to so many. For a while, I’ve had a nagging to thank you. So, today, I’m taking that time.
Thank you, Mr. Harster, for your pleasant website and descriptive ad. I challenge my students to look for ads like yours – that give just the right amount of information, enough that the companies can be researched. You have assisted me in teaching my classes on resume and cover letter writing … and you had no idea. ☺
For kicks and grins, I’m including the cover letter template we write to “you” that, of course, I never mail. If this lengthy letter has not pestered you, I’d love your thoughts on the template. I’d like to be able to tell my classes that I’ve communicated with you and that either yes, it’s a good template, or no … it could use this or that.
Thank you ever so much.
Enc. Cover Letter Template (Originally composed by a student, edited by myself)
Cover Letter Template:
Dear Dave Harster,
I am writing in response to your ad dated January 20, 2011 and posted on Craigslist for the position of Service Installer.
Confident that I would bring value to Harster Heating & Air Conditioning, I’d like to give you a brief overview of my skills and experience. Here’s how my qualifications meet your company’s goals and needs:
• 5 years field experience
• Saint Louis City/County License
• Positive Employees with a “Customer is Always Right” Attitude
• Availability for 24/7 Service
• 7 years field experience
• Saint Louis City/County Licensed
• Positive Attitude/Neat Appearance
• Training in Soft Skills/Working With People
• Good Driving Record to Take on the Road for 24/7 Service
Thank you for your consideration. Available before 10 o’clock each morning, I look forward to hearing from you.
Dacia L Wilkinson
General Education Instructor * ****** College
Imagine my delight when I received a response back from Dave Harster! Wowza! That response is not, with his permission, an additional part of the PowerPoint presentation on Cover Letter & Resume Writing. You will see why. Look for the golden nuggets of amazingness straight from the lips of an industry employer … who is simply just writing and not trying to impress anyone. Genuine, he is. Genuine and pointed.
Dave Harster replied …
From: Harster Heating and Cooling [email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2014 8:03 AM
To: Dacia Wilkinson
Subject: RE: Ad for HVAC Service Installer dated 1/20/2011 (Yes, 2011)
Thanks for the email and all the feedback on my ad. Yes, you’re right. I had no idea I was making such an impact. I like the template you have come up with for the cover letter. Cover letters are usually all the same or very similar stating that “I would like to further my skills with a good company”. Just once though I would really like to see the statement, “I love to work, I was taught to work hard, to be productive and make a difference where I am employed”. I would interview that person even if I didn’t have a position open for them and keep their resume for the future.
Thanks for all the time you spent emailing me. That is a long email.
Do you see what he said and the golden nuggeted-amazingness?
“Just once though I would really like to see the statement, I love to work, I was taught to work hard, to be productive, and make a difference where I am employed. I would interview that person even if I didn’t have a position open ….”
I mean wow. Just wow. No more do we say “I would like to further my skills with a good company.” No. That is self-serving. It is mundane. It is dismally over-used.
We now recognize that the job hunting season is focused on the company’s needs and our desire to be productive and make a difference where employed. Boom. Mind blown – like that commercial where people’s stacks blow off into purple haze-tinted clouds.
I read this response to my students and pens jot notes furiously – each one eating the words like candy dropped from a pinata … like sticky-mouthed children scrambling to get it all.
Time and again, the words of Dave Harster combined with my own ever-learning researching as an instructor, get students hired. Even myself … in a position I’ve dreamt of for some time. This works.
Always? No. But it’s a great jumping point. This cover letter is company focused and this is what employers desire – employees who will be productive and make a difference. Do yourself a favor – find a way to incorporate these ideas into your own job-hunting season or rather let’s call it a career-hunting season. We are folks on a mission to a calling and or a career path! Always bearing in mind that we, as employees, are replaceable. Positions are necessary – employees in those positions – not so much.
Start well … and follow through once the acceptance letter comes through.
What a week it has been – teaching this to my students. I’ll never know to what extent the information reaches – but I know that it does. One person tells another and a thing grows … or, like I tell my students, don’t tell anyone else … keep it to yourself and let everyone else struggle to get the job while you sail on … Of course, that’s not very nice.
You know, I’ve never met Dave Harster. Thinking of inviting him to class one day. That’d be swell. I know he’d be great in front of my classroom – talking to students about professionalism, soft skills, customer service, keeping a clientele list growing. Know how I know? I’ve read his website – multiple times over almost 6 years as I show my students how to research a company for their career hunting season.
Need HVAC? Let me plug him to those here in St. Louis. Super Service Award Recipient from Angie’s List and a John Goodman fan. Your hometown service pro since 1950.