A reader writes:
I don’t want to sound like a conceited jerk here. But I put a lot of work into my cover letter and resume, and while I have shared it with a few close friends, I don’t believe it is something I want to make public (at least not to people in my industry, in my region). But I work for a large corporation and due to recent changes in our department, many people are looking for new opportunities. One of my previous managers made a comment about my cover letter, which prompted a handful of people to come ask me for a copy. Even one of the supervisors (not someone I directly report to) came to ask for a copy of my cover letter.
I am no longer competing for the same positions, after having recently accepted a job with another company (something that these folks didn’t even know when they asked). I trust my “friends” with these documents because I know that if I ask them to “please keep this confidential and not share with others without my permission,” they’ll oblige by that. But I do not feel that way about some of the co-workers who have come to ask more recently.
So what’s the right play here? Make my cover letter and resume free for access in hopes of leaving a good memory with potential future contacts, or deny access based on the fact that I take pride in the effort I put into these documents, and might potentially compete against these people in the future?
Well, if it’s a really good cover letter, it’s going to be so customized to you that people shouldn’t be able to just copy it. Not that that will stop people though — I once received a cover letter for a job I was hiring for that was almost word-for-word one of the sample cover letters that I have up on this site. (That was an interesting conversation.)
In any case, if you believed your coworkers simply wanted to see an example of a cover letter that had worked and were going to use that to inform their thinking about their own– to inspire them to write something from scratch — I’d say you should pony up. Why not help people, after all? But if you think they’re going to copy it, I can understand feeling protective of your work. It’s yours, you probably worked hard on it, and it’s gross to think of someone just copying your words as their own.
But it’s pretty hard to say, “No, I don’t to share it with you” without looking like a giant ass. So instead, if you want to deny them, you probably have to fall back on claiming you no longer have a copy of it. If you want to be nice, though, you can tell them what you think made it effective, giving them principles (not precise words) to use in their own job searching efforts.