entry-level out-of-town job seeker: a success story

It doesn’t get much more challenging than being an entry-level long-distance job-seeker applying for jobs in New York. Which is why you should listen to me when I preach and lecture and yell about cover letters.

A reader writes:

I wanted to thank you for all of the job-hunting advice on your blog, especially the parts about cover letters. After you posted the link to Kimberlee’s cover letter, I started sending out letters that sounded more like me (I had been writing letters specific to each job already, thanks to your advice). It felt like a pretty big gamble, but I wasn’t hearing anything back from my generic-y, extremely formal letters so I figured I had nothing to lose.

I’ve only had the chance to send out two, but both of those yielded interviews and then offers! I’m an entry-level out-of-towner applying for jobs in New York, so getting two offers in less than a week is extra-amazing. One hiring manager said she only ever interviewed New Yorkers for entry level positions, but my cover letter was so great that she had to meet me. I would have never thought to send that kind of letter without your advice and examples. And I used your e-book to prep the hell out my interviews. Feeling confident in my answers to the questions on your list helped me come up with good, solid answers to questions I never saw coming. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

It’s a temporary position (still better than what I had before) so I’ll have to keep job-hunting for the near future, but I feel a lot better about the process and my prospects thanks to you and your blog.

Congratulations!  And thanks for illustrating why a great cover letter that sounds like you and isn’t stiff and formal is worth putting in the time. (As is reading my e-book, obvs. If anyone’s inspired by this story and wants to read my How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager, you can get a 20% discount by using this code: spring2011 .)

{ 20 comments… read them below }

  1. SME*

    I was just going to write you a very similar letter, but I’ll chime in here instead. I’m employed but expect to be laid off shortly due to overall company reductions, so I have started discretely looking.

    I live in Michigan, so you can imagine how encouraging my prospects are. I have a strong resume, but since I started reading your blog a few months ago, I’ve gotten the cover letter message loud and clear, and that’s what I really have focused on developing during this job search. In the last couple of weeks of looking, and after submitting only a handful of applications, I’ve gotten one super positive response indicating that an interview will be forthcoming, and another invitation (within 24 hours of submitting!) for a phone interview. Both of these are fantastic opportunities that would be professionally awesome, personally satisfying, and financial improvements. In Michigan. Talk about the odds being against that!

    While I haven’t had either interview yet, the fact that I am getting SUCH positive responses in a market where there are hundreds of qualified applicants for every position tells me that taking your advice was a great idea.

    Thank you, Allison!

  2. Anonymous*

    Any chance she’s willing to let us see the cover letter? I’m also doing the long-distance job search!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually asked if I could quote from it, but she’s still job-searching (since the new position is temporary) and doesn’t want hiring managers seeing her cover letter out there on the Internet, quite understandably! But Kim’s is linked above.

    1. Jamie*

      For what it’s worth, I read EHRL on BNet every day, I love your posts.

      I have a strategy of clicking quickly on the Life and Work section and seeing if you have anything new – while avoiding the articles from others which I make me roll my eyes so hard I am truly afraid they may freeze that way.

      My morning ritual is AAM > BNET EHRL > Steve Tobak > then checking AAM comments to take little mini breaks throughout the day.

      Yikes – seeing the fact that I actually have a ritual is both pathetic and sad. I need one of those lives everyone keeps talking about.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’ll second that. I love my feed to the comments here. (It especially helps make sure I don’t miss inline comments like this.)

          I’d also like to echo what everyone else is saying: I love Alison’s blog (such consistently great advice) and I love the conversations and respect shown amongst the commenters.

      1. Suzanne Lucas*


        I’m so happy to hear that. I love Steve Tobak too. Some of my other BNET colleagues–well, I take Alison’s advice (generally) and let the managers manage them. Oy.

        Sometimes, I get my knickers really twisted and write Alison emails where she tells me to calm down.

        I don’t know what the world would do without her.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t know either – I have truly learned so much on both of your sites…even for situations which aren’t relevant for me at the time – but it’s like building a database of global managerial knowledge which I’ve drawn on down the road.

          There’s a collateral benefit as well – aside from the officially awesome advice from the body of the articles – and that’s the discussion in the comments. It’s helpful, and often fun, to discuss workplace issues with strangers – because the virtue of the other posters being strangers means the dialogue is devoid of all the guarded and office-politically correct couching if one were to have the same conversation with co-workers.

          I.e. if I comment here I’m speaking to the situation at hand (with the limited facts presented) or about a subject generally. If I were to discuss many of these same topics at work there would definitely be people wondering if it were veiled criticism of current management (which is not always the case) – there’s just too much risk of people seeing subtext that may or may not exist.

          It’s kind of a shame that discussing real management issues is so fraught with landmines in many workplaces – those I’ve worked at cannot be the only ones – because we’d have less problems to discuss online if they could be handled and addressed in our organizations.

          Which would free up people like Alison and Suzanne from the tremendous service they provide so they can tackle the important issues of our time – like why Top Chef Masters is so awful this season and men who use the ladies room at work.

          Just the two things irritating me at the moment – I’m sure there may be one or two more pressing issues of our day.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It’s so true about the commenters here! Last week, one of my articles was on the front page of Yahoo, and a huge amount of new traffic was driven here as a result — people who had never been here before — and I actually ended up having to close comments on the post it linked to because of a massive influx of crude and ridiculous comments (it was on the assistant cleavage post). It was such a dramatic contrast to the normal level of dialogue here that it made me realize how awesome the commenters here are!

            Also, Jamie, consider this a formal request for the story about the men using the women’s bathroom.

            (Oh, and totally agree about Top Chef Masters. I’ve stopped watching it entirely and am sticking to the original glorious Top Chef.)

  3. HM*

    I wanted to say thank you to Alison as well. I’m also in a temporary position as well due in no small part to your advice on cover letters and your amazing Job Hunting Guide. And I’m in the running for two more positions when my contract ends because of my letters and the advice being honest with the hiring manager.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have to tell you, this kind of thing feels great to hear! I don’t know how much of the credit I really get, but even if it’s just a small part, that feels awesome.

  4. Jamie*

    @Suzanne (I can’t nest a reply to your question)

    Because they are individual bathrooms – not stalls – so they think it doesn’t matter if they use ours when they are out of toilet paper.

    It technically doesn’t matter as it’s not a privacy issue – but I wonder if they would do it if they all knew it makes us think they aren’t smart or talented enough to reach into the cabinet and place a new roll on the spindle.

    It’s just one of the trivial annoyances that I keep on tap to distract me from the non-trivial real work problems.

    1. Suzanne Lucas*

      Jamie, Thanks for sharing. I agree that I’d think the same thing about their inability to change the toilet paper roll. I’d probably bring it up, though.

      And Alison, I love your commenters and I love mine and as much as I love traffic from yahoo, the commenters there are whacked.

  5. Amanda*

    I was the LW from two weeks ago that was waiting to hear back from my now-employer and I can second or third what everyone has said about the advice on this website. I followed all the cover letter and interview advice I soaked up here- landed two interviews, got a job offer and am still getting calling from employers- all in only 6 week! I wish I could direct every job seeker here. I couldn’t be more grateful!

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