whoever told you to be creative in your cover letter has led you horribly astray

A reader sent me this real-life cover letter that she received from a job applicant:

Hi. This very professionally-beginning cover letter should immediately alert you to my easy-going and comprehensive approach to task completion while making it strikingly obvious that I am both interested in and capable of performing HR duties with sophisticated exactitude. The quickening of your heart is likely subsiding at this point as your mind digests the familiar words in this second, poetic, figuration of how it feels to work with me: A profound calm washes over you as you realize we’re on the same team, striving for common goals. Clearly my efforts are oriented always toward mutually-beneficial understanding(s). As we part, smiling (of course), you check your pockets, laughing somewhat cynically at yourself for even thinking that I may’ve stolen your cell phone or wallet while we spoke, but then…your watch! Oh yes, you left it on the nightstand today, and come to think of it, you wrist feels so free and graceful, perhaps even sensual against the cuff of your shirt’s random meanderings. This, my friend, is how your life will feel every day we work together, except better.

Thank you.

I don’t know where to start, although not raising the possibility that you might pick your interviewer’s pocket is one place. Not invoking the sensual feeling of her wrist is another.

I know cover letters feel like an intimidating and even mysterious thing to many people. But really, they are just intended to explain why you’re interested in the job and why you’d excel at it. They really, really don’t need to do … whatever this letter is doing.

I would like to think this is a joke, but it’s very much a real thing that some job applicants have internalized the idea that they must do Something Different from everyone else in order to stand out, and often that manifests in creepy or otherwise bizarre ways.

{ 349 comments… read them below }

  1. TotesMaGoats*

    oh my. Considering all the down right awful cover letters I’ve read in my current vacancy search, this would be entertaining but still go in the no pile.

    1. periwinkle*

      We NEED to have this contest. Folks, start your writing engines – this weekend’s Free-For-All thread, perhaps?

    2. Thomas E*

      I guess the letter could be worse:

      Dear Joe,

      During my recent fully inclusive stay at Reikers Island my parole officer ordered me to apply for jobs and I noticed your advertised position of shop manager.

      My prior career provided me with excellent motivational skills including nailing someone to a tree and setting fire to their dog.

      I am highly financially literate, having run money laundering operations in twelve countries (that the police found out about) as well as having good sales skills – working hard to increase the total sales of narcotics in California by 12%.

      I was glad to hear that your firm is family friendly, and recently sent my cousin Ron to meet your son Charles. Ron says Charlie is doing well and is happy.

      Joe, I’m sure you agree that it would be good to meet me for an interview.



      1. sstabeler*

        that would actually be a BETTER cover letter, to be honest, since at least it reads like a letter, and not a piece of fiction.

    3. The Strand*

      It would stem some of the woe I still feel about the end of the International Imitation Raymond Chandler Writing Contest.

  2. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

    Anyone else get stuck with Sade’s “Smooth Operator” as an earworm after reading this letter?

    1. Bowserkitty*

      No, but I dig your screenname. :)

      Sidenote, even Jane wouldn’t write something as corny as this.

      1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

        Thanks! And agreed! The cover letter writer featured seems to have read waaaaaaaay too much into the merits of soft skills.

        1. Pixel*

          Yes, but are they as soft as the interviewer’s wrist, free of the watch that was hilariously left on her night-stand – not mischievously pocketed by the cheeky applicant?

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I read it in Matthew McConaughey’s voice as heard in the Lincoln MKX commercials.

  3. AMG*

    ‘Your eyes have rolled so far into the back of your head that you are now permanently staring at your brain.”

    1. INTP*

      That awkward moment when you can’t figure out whether you’re reading a cover letter or amateur erotica.

    2. A Cita*

      You walk away feeling shivers up your spine. Is it from overwhelming feelings of delight? No, it’s sweet, sweet repulsion from my using “sensual” to simultaneously describe bare parts of your body and our interactions. It’s also from premonition. Yes, I am an unrepentant skeeve and a sexual harassment suit on two legs.

  4. Liz*

    you wrist feels so free and graceful, perhaps even sensual against the cuff of your shirt’s random meanderings

    I did a full-body shudder at this part.

    1. NYCer*

      Me too. What on earth was the person thinking? I find it fascinating that people like this exist.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Is that a crank phone call? “Is your shirt meandering? Well you better go catch it!”

            1. Catalin*

              Hey baby. Yeah, my shirt feels good. It feels sooooooooooooo good. I left my watch off today and my shirt is just…ooh, all over. It’s meandering and it’s so…shirt like.

        2. Not Karen*

          I’ve caught my clothes meandering about the house (with the help of the cat), but not while I’m still wearing them!

          1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            My cat only moves my socks, and only the used ones (if they’re not in the basket). It’s kind of amazing that an animal who doesn’t wear any clothes can tell apart different types of human clothing.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I woke up this morning and my shirt was meandering. This happens. It’s detachable, don’t you know?

    2. Angela*

      It somehow reminds me of the Friends’ episode where they flashback to the Thanksgiving where Monica is newly thin and wants to get back at Chandler by seducing him and all she comes up with is to say the carrots feel soooo good between her fingers.

    3. Wendy Darling*

      If my shirt starts meandering randomly I need either mental help, an exterminator, or Ghostbusters.

    4. CM*

      Was I the only one who read “you left it on your nightstand” and thought that the applicant was somehow implying that they had slept with the hiring manager? Or that was the applicant’s fantasy or something? Somehow it wasn’t “sensual” that creeped me out as much as “nightstand.”

      1. AW*

        Yeah, it does imply that, doesn’t it? How else would they know where they left it?

        I don’t think most people got past the meandering shirt.

    5. Jill*

      I literally said “What the fuuuuuuuuuuuck?” with the intonation of a monster truck announcer.

      Dude. Bro. Bra. Just no.

  5. NoobManager*

    I’d be concerned that the applicant will try to dose me with scopolamine if I invited them for an interview, based on this cover letter!

    Also, I’m 110% sure this individual was wearing an ill-fitting fedora while writing the above cover letter.

      1. NoobManager*

        The use of “sensual” in a cover letter definitely reads as a creeper neckbeard move to me!

    1. Rebooting*

      Actually, I was envisioning a woman writing it, because it reminds me so much of the terrible roleplaying that I used to run into when I was younger and into online roleplaying, almost all of it done by women. And it’s cutesy, which men tend not to do as much.

  6. Bowserkitty*

    I was rolling my eyes at first but my jaw hit the floor when the writer used the word “sensual.”

    That word never belongs in a cover letter. Unless you’re applying with a romance novel at a publishing company.

    oh. my. god.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      ahhahha I just posted something similar!

      Maybe it’s a Nigerian prince who dabbles in HR?

    2. many bells down*

      Hah I got a message on a social media site the other day that was this poorly-rhymed poem about my eyes and my skin and ended with “you’re all I think feel and see, Annette!”

      Guess what my name is not?

    3. irritable vowel*

      Yeah, I feel like this letter was written by a natural language processing algorithm run amok.

  7. Salted French Fry*

    Reading that cover letter reminds me of the many concerning online dating messages I’ve received over the years.

    1. LabTech*

      Now that you mention it, it does read more like an online dating message than a cover letter.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Hearing that in his voice has made this a trillion times better. I was cringing with secondhand embarrassment and now I’m howling with laughter. Definitely an improvement.

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            Or: “Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from other failed job applications like Hey, I Just Met You, And This Is Crazy, But Here’s My Framed Photo, So Hire Me Maybe and What’s That Awful Smell Coming From the Potted Plant?

        2. Riva*

          Oh my gosh! You’re right, this is totally how Zapp would write a letter! I’m just surprised he didn’t offer sham-pag-ne (champagne) to the hiring manager. :)

    2. Lindsay J*

      Ugh yes. It’s my least favorite genre of dating message, too; the one where they tell me how I’m going to feel or react.

    3. Wendy Darling*

      It reminds me of the online dating messages that made me shout “NO! NO MORE THESAURUS!” at my screen.

      Most of the obscure words in that letter are actually used slightly wrong — the telltale sign of the thesaurus enthusiast.

  8. Photoshop Til I Drop*

    When this is okay: you are pitching an Oliver Twist historical bodice-ripper to Harlequin.
    When this is not okay: literally any other situation on Earth.

  9. SouthernLadybug*

    They lost me at “professionally-beginning.” Um, no it’s not. And “sophisticated exactitude”? Then it got worse…

    I need to go disinfect my eyes and brain.

    1. SouthernLadybug*

      I wonder if we’ll hear from the writer of the cover letter? I doubt it – no way it’s a regular reader anyway!

    2. olives*

      It vaguely reminds me of “Title of the Song”, an obscure parody of a romantic pop song from a while back.

      (I say “a while”, when I should probably say over a decade ago! Time flies. =) )

      The hook:
      “Title of the song
      Naïve expression of love
      Reluctance to accept that you are gone”

      It’s delightful, and I recommend it, and I think the applicant must have been thinking of writing something like this – describing what the cover letter would be like, essentially. Only, minor issue: they apparently couldn’t decide whether they were describing a first meeting, describing the cover letter, describing the person’s reaction, or actually writing the letter themselves, so it’s all over the place in terms of narration (ruining it as even a piece of creative writing!). And, WORSE, they seem to think that it’s normal to even make reference to another person’s feelings about them in a cover letter!

      I’m just going to skip over any overanalysis of the wrist and pickpocketing references, that part’s just hella creepy.

      All in all: while I totally love the genre of writing that I think they were attempting – it’s a poor effort, and absolutely NOT appropriate in a cover letter.

      1. SouthernLadybug*

        Thank you olives and google for bringing me “Title of the Song”! I’m still giggling.

        1. olives*

          Yep! I probably should’ve mentioned that, tossed off the response too fast!

          I’ve actually not heard much of their other work – saw this performed at a talent show ages ago and I think of it often. I’ll have to check them out more based on your rec! (And the amazingness that is this song!)

          SouthernLadybug, so glad I could bring some joy to your day!

    3. SusanIvanova*

      I read this and thought that possibly the very beginning might be professional. Scrolled up: “Hi”.


        1. fposte*

          Now I’m picturing a competitor who vaunts his raw, unsophisticated exactitude. Nothing prissy about his exactitude, man.

  10. Michelle*

    This was awful! I think there are a far better examples of being creative. But I do think if you’re going into a creative field, stiff and formal cover letters will land you in the no pile as well. I’ve heard back from more jobs where I sent unconventional cover letters than the standard ones, but then again I work in magazine publishing. I wouldn’t send a creative cover letter for an office or administrative position.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Yes, but your creative cover letters most likely didn’t sound this pretentious and nonsensical. That’s the biggest problem with this letter IMO.

      1. Stephanie*

        ITA. I didn’t even understand what job he was applying for or what skills he could bring to the job.

  11. Blossom*

    Haha, love it. I am assuming this was sent by someone who is being forced to apply for jobs (by parents or unemployment regulations), or who just got fed up with the job hunt and got drunk with friends, leading to this.

    1. MoinMoin*

      I found it silly but fun to read -though obviously misguided to actually send- until the whole pickpocket, sensually caressing shirt thing. How did the writer’s brain even get there? A mystery for the ages to be sure.

      1. Sunny Days*

        Yeah, that’s the part that would scare me. It could be anything from someone whose warped sense of humor slipped into their cover letter to someone who was actually trying to make a threat. I’d probably save a copy, and let someone know about it just to be safe.

      2. AW*

        My thoughts exactly. That letter took a wild turn there.

        It also makes it harder to sympathize with the writer. How did they think the latter part was OK, even if they were led astray by advice to be creative?

        1. Blossom*

          I honestly think it’s just a young person messing around and thinking they’re hilarious. I don’t read it as sinister, or sincere, at all. Pure prank.

    2. Sunny Days*

      Oh, could be. They could be trying to prolong their unemployment benefits by sending out horrible applications for the required number of jobs. I think it’s either that or someone with issues.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I suspect it’s someone with issues anyway…if I were trying to game the system, I _still_ wouldn’t want my name associated with something like this. There are a lot easier ways to make yourself look like a bad fit for a role, but not a call-security-level-disaster, that won’t torpedo your chances if the hiring manager moves on to another company you’re more interested in.

        Really, applying to roles you’re missing a couple key qualifications for is safer. At best it gets overlooked in the general pile of people doing likewise, and if they do notice you, you either come across as desperate, or as not having paid enough attention.

        Any of those are better than “…wait, do I have a stalker now?” Which is sort of what this cover letter evokes for me.

    3. Ellie H.*

      I do think it was either written by a robot or someone having a manic break (like for real) or on drugs. I have a hard time feeling it would be written by a real person in a normal state intending to get hired for a job.

    1. Dee*

      Also, I don’t understand the plot. “As we part, smiling (of course), you check your pockets…”

      When did they meet in person? It started with the hiring manager reading the cover letter.

      Actually, I think I understand now. This was written by the Old Spice Guy.

      1. Alton*

        And what happened in the interview to make the interviewer worried their pocket had been picked?

    2. Kai*

      Yep–one time in middle school, for fun, I wrote a paragraph about something and then tried to replace as many words as possible with random thesaurus suggestions. This reminds me of exactly that.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I once found an online bio of my former company’s founder that I think someone had run through a thesaurus and/or at least two rounds of Google Translate, presumably to disguise plagiarism. It was like a bizarre puzzle. The person being described is a cell biologist, but every instance of the word “cell” got switched to “prison”, and that’s just for starters. I think my favourite was “hankie enlightenment”. I finally figured out it was supposed to be “tissue culture”, I kid you not.

          1. pope suburban*

            An lo, was my computer very lucky that I was not taking a drink when I read this comment.

        1. Stephanie (HR)*

          WOW that’s hysterical. Hankie Enlightenment is my new favorite phrase! That is truly spectacular.

        2. AMT*

          A former ESL student of mine did this on an essay. Gems: “chuck soccer ball,” “the fresh oxygen would move,” “party effectiveness.”

        3. Alton*

          Hey, a biologist could probably find some germ-related enlightenment by studying a hankie under a microscope.

          That’s hilarious. I can’t believe someone would actually put that online for the public to see.

        4. Aunt Vixen*

          True story: I used to work at a research institution that often ran experiments with human subjects. Psychology and neurology stuff mostly. Happens at universities all the time. We got a memo at some point that we were no longer to use the word “subject” to describe our human subjects; henceforth we had to call them “participants.” No problem, except that a senior researcher did a global find-and-replace without bothering to remember that in addition to “research subjects” the paper also talked about “subject matter experts.” Good thing there were assistant-level people [raising hand] to clean it up before it was submitted.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            Heh, I once did a find and replace to switch from US to Canadian spelling in a grant application (WHY is this not just a button in Word yet?), and accidentally changed “colorectal tumor” to “colourectal tumour”. Colourectal is, needless to say, not a real word.

            Not really the same type of error, but your human subjects thing reminded me: I once read “we need to start planning for the prospect of a cruel clinical trial” in some meeting minutes. It was supposed to be “the prospective accrual clinical trial”. This is why you sometimes need people who know the technical jargon to take your minutes!

            1. Aurion*

              It’s probably because we Canadians can’t agree on what actually is Canadian English. :P (Realize vs realise? Colour vs color and mold vs mould? Fibre vs fiber, metre vs meter vs speedometer and the nonexistent speedometre? Etc.)

              A poll among my friends would probably all have different habits re: Britsh vs American spelling. I jokingly claim that Canadian spelling is just the bastardized child of the two and inconsistent between every version, but I don’t think I’m far off :)

              1. Chinook*

                Not a problem. I have discovered that, when you tell it to use Canadian English, it automatically accepts American AND British spellings (it just won’t tell you if you are switching between the two). Woohoo!

                1. Aurion*

                  Word will take just about anything (I think) if you set it to Canadian English, but not every other software has accepted our Canadian transgressions. Grammarly, for example, only has American or British, so no matter what it thinks I’m spelling things wrong. (Which, from an American or British perspective, is probably true.) ;)

            2. Not Sporty Spice*

              I worked for a nonprofit that serves writers. Someone in a board meeting mentioned “Frank O’Hara,” the poet. The person taking the minutes inexplicably recorded “Franco Harris,” who is apparently some football player who once made a brilliant catch. (And that’s all I know about him. But I could, as could most of the board of directors at that time, go on for absolutely hours about Frank O’Hara. Is that a skill?)

        5. DriveByPost*

          Lurker here drawn into making my first post by “hankie enlightenment.” Apparently, some commonly used translation program makes this substitution, because a google search for that phrase in quotes gives multiple examples. For instance, this article


          on animal testing in medical research uses it, along with the phrase “”tellurian hankie enlightenment” (which really, really needs to be a band name.)

          Also, this post about Henrietta Lacks (if you haven’t read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, conciser it)


          has multiple instances of hankie in it, including

          “Scientists had been perplexing to favour tellurian hankie in a lab for many years but success. But after Henrietta’s expansion was biopsied, a answer finally came. The events that followed combined a sputter outcome so good that a universe of medicine was never a same.”


          “Henrietta’s hankie representation was sent to Dr. George Otto Gey, a conduct of hankie enlightenment investigate during Johns Hopkins. For years, Gey had been perplexing to furnish a line of cells that could live evermore in a laboratory environment.”

          From context, tellurian seems to be substituted for human?

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        I teach middle school English and this cover letter is in the vein of writing that gets submitted during the first semester. Students write something “normal” then “thesaurus” it by inserting a lot of awkward big words. And they think that is GREAT writing.

        1. caracara*

          I sometimes proofread my high school age son’s papers, and he is definitely guilty of this! The results can be very entertaining!

          1. Karo*

            It’s like the episode of friends where Joey writes the adoption recommendation letter. “They are humid prepossessing homo sapiens with full-sized aortic pumps.”

        2. SusanIvanova*

          I had an English teacher who encouraged such behavior. Not overtly, but when the grades go up as the words get longer (not more appropriate, just longer), it’s obvious. :(

          1. Stephanie*

            I vaguely remember getting that advice on standardized test writing (like for the SAT or GRE). Longer usually meant a higher score. Admittedly, it couldn’t be nonsense, but that the scorers tended not to favor short, tightly-written prose.

        3. Mephyle*

          It’s not only the thesaurus abuse though, in this case. The images would be icky even if the letter were well written. The pickpocketing and the sensually meandering shirt, to name two. And then another hallmark of bad writing is bad metaphors, and the applicant is not only using them, but using them to make the reader uneasy and unsafe – not a productive strategy for job hunting!

  12. some1*

    When you show yourself to be at best a boundary-crosser and at worst a creeper the absolute last place you should be in company is HR.

  13. The Other Dawn*

    Huh?? I took a new brand of muscle relaxer about 10 minutes before reading this, and it’s making me wonder if the side effects have kicked in, or if I’m just not smart enough to understand this letter. “Sophisticated exactitude”…what?

    1. AMT*

      What are you talking about? This is a perfectly normal cover letter presented as an example all readers should follow. Must be the meds!

    2. Marzipan*

      I’m sure you usually have the necessary sophisticated exactitude to comprehend this perfectly cromulent letter. It’s just the meds.

    3. Hornswoggler*

      I think I need a muscle-relaxer AFTER having read it, to get my shoulders back from around my ears and my stomach unravelled from the tight ball of embarrassment it has become.

  14. Chairs*

    I can honestly say that my heart has never quickened while reading a cover letter, and nor do I want it to.

    I can also honestly say that I really don’t want to have a coworker that always makes me concerned they are going to steal my wallet or my watch.

    1. Rincat*

      My heart would quicken reading that cover letter because my creeper alarm would be going off the rails.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, mine would too – but with a sort of distant panic. I wouldn’t be calling the applicant, I might call security.

  15. pope suburban*

    Horf. Does this person imagine that they are applying for a position with one of the companies that rich guy from 50 Shades of Grey owns?

    1. olives*

      Oh goodness, Christian Grey would be all about hiring this person.

      And that says all you need to know about why you should NOT hire this person.

      1. pope suburban*

        I haven’t read any of those books, but I’ve read enough hilarious liveblogs from other folks that this seemed like the kind of thing he’d be into.

      1. pope suburban*

        It always puts me in mind of a cat producing a hairball. Which is still a nicer thing than this letter.

  16. Jeanne*

    I have so many questions. Written by man or woman? How old? Any previous employment at all? Has this letter gotten the writer any interviews? Was this done on a bet? I can’t even comprehend. Beyond the questions, thank you OP for sharing. This is a gem.

  17. Sunny Days*

    I think that being creative in a cover letter is a good thing. The issue with this one is that it’s unprofessional. At their best, cover letters are an example of how you communicate in a professional setting. You want the tone to be consistent with the kind of emails you would write to colleagues, clients, and others you might do business with. In these kinds of communications, it’s good to be interesting in a way that engages readers. It’s ok to use a little humor or share some personal information. But you have to be strategic about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. You have to write as though you’re writing for a large audience. That’s because you don’t know the person who will be reading it, or who they might share it with. That’s the whole idea behind professional writing; it’s almost like a style of journalism.

    1. Leatherwings*

      I agree with everything you said here except the word “creative.” Cover letters can be creative, but most of the time using that word encourages applicants to do something “out of the box” to get noticed. Most cover letters don’t need to be creative; they just need to be thoughtful, engaging, professional and well edited.

    2. Sunny Days*

      PS – I reread the letter. It’s really creepy. But that’s the issue – the casual tone and scary references to theft and sensuality. That’s not being creative; it’s a violation of personal boundaries and ignorance of what’s acceptable in the workplace.

      1. olives*

        Yes! That really throws it over the edge here from “misguided attempt at creativity” to “attempted manipulation”.

  18. Clever Name*

    What gets me about this cover letter is that I think the writer is trying to convey how mellow and easygoing and carefree they are (leaving aside that they come off as clueless and creepy). I don’t think that hiring managers are looking for people for whom time has no meaning. I mean, sure, some effective employees are easygoing, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a job ad where “easygoing” or “mellow” was listed as a desirable trait.

  19. Folklorist*

    My sincere hope is that plagiarizers will see this on your site, not realize that it’s ridiculous, and copy it. We all need more of this poetry in our lives! (Especially if they can out themselves so easily!)

    1. SouthernLadybug*

      I thought of this. How awesome would that be :) Not just plagiarism, but outstandingly bad judgement of what to plagiarize!

      1. OhNo*

        In order to report sexual harassment, you must begin by explaining how free and graceful, perhaps even sensual, your shirt felt when you were being approached by a skeezball.

        Seriously, this person. Eeeewww.

    1. Emmie*

      Thank you! Your joke is so hilarious that I’ll now think of it instead of this cover letter!

  20. Venus Supreme*

    A Facebook friend tried to get a job at a well-known website, and so they created their cover letter on an online article — on another website — filled with .GIFs and made-up words. Facebook friend then asked everyone on every social media venue to “like” and “share” the article to garner attention from the employers. I cringed for them. Nothing substantial was in that letter, and there’s no need to have 50 Beyonce .GIFs and 20 shares to persuade an employer to hire you. Needless to say, they didn’t get the job.

    1. Thumper*

      Yikes. I saw something similar to that once, but the person was applying for a writing job at THAT website, and the gifs were just used to complement some pretty well written points on their ability. That might be where they got the idea from.

  21. Leatherwings*

    Now I want to hear the applicant’s script for hiring or firing people (since they are in HR after all)

    “You may have had a feeling of joy in your head when you walked in here. Well, your sterling instincts have steered you the wrong way this time, Bob. While your affable personality has been much appreciated, the core function of your job is being eliminated and we are disinclined to offer you a job in another department as a result. Now you may experience a tickling in the back of your throat and a well of tears. Fear not, Bob. We understand your despair and hope you understand how contrite we are in seeing you off. Farewell, dear Bob.”

    1. CM*

      Nope, this version makes too much sense.
      How about this: “Bob, feel the island breezes wafting through your mane. You wonder: am I in a reverie, with my HR paramour bestride me? Nay, Bob: those breezes may be your destiny during the time of your long-awaited vacation. Vacation, you say? Yes, Bob. You’ll walk out of here slightly stunned, thinking: do I dare hope? Am I to remain employed at this place that feels so professionally right? The answer, Bob, is: no. You are fired, Bob.”

  22. Liz*

    Ugh, I have a friend who writes like this, even just casually or on social media. She thinks she’s super clever and funny. I find it a struggle even to just read through her one- or two-sentence facebook posts sometimes! I can only imagine if she was trying to be creative in some kind of “professional” context.

    Come to think of it, maybe I should ask if she’s been applying for new jobs…

  23. Audiophile*

    This is like a really bad attempt at writing sensually and even worse when it’s done in a cover letter. It’s giving me flashbacks to when guys would tell me they were going to write “really hot”, it never was. And this isn’t either. It’s like this applicant got confused about their audience.

  24. anonymasaurus maximus*

    “Dear Applicant,

    I have been endeavoring to get my shirt to remain in one place as the full body shudders rack my frame as I parse each evocative description you have so descriptively evinced. My hand trembled for a moment and I stared it at as I found myself in the strange position of having to decide whether it was trembling with laughter while my brain cushioned the shock, or if it was trembling in fear and trying to reach for the phone or perhaps a hidden panic button that had hitherto unbeknownst to me been installed somewhere on my desk. The analysis paralysis took some time to wear off and by that time my brain had moved on to full frame widescreen Imax 3D movie images of what working with you would be like. Gently I laid your cover letter and application in the rejection bin, wanting to be most precise about their final location. I most assiduously thank you for your interest. Prior to reading your words, I had been floating around blithely unaware of how much more interesting* my life could be. It is a relief to relish it in its current incarnation.”

    *That would be “interesting” as in “May you live in interesting times”…

    1. anonymasaurus maximus*

      Darn, I wrote so fast, I missed a whole opportunity for “absorbing the small noise the papers rustling against each other made”. 8•P

    2. Bowserkitty*

      Oh god please please please OP I know it wouldn’t be professional but please reply with this. lolol

  25. Kiryn*

    I had to re-read this twice to figure out whether I’d just skimmed past a reference to something that would cause the hiring manager to think the applicant would have stolen something. Nope, it just goes “you think I’m so great in this way, this way, and this way. You assume I must have stolen your phone.” I’m so lost.

    Is this person truly so shady in real life that the natural reaction everyone has when meeting them is to check their pockets, or is *their* life so screwed up that they assume everyone they meet is trying to steal stuff from them and figure everybody else must be just as suspicious as they are?

    1. fposte*

      I was thinking they were going for some weird flirtation vibe of “You can tell I’m a saucy rascal.”

      1. neverjaunty*

        I think you’re right. Which betrays an entirely new horrifying later of cluelessness: unless you’re auditioning for a role as a cabaret singer or an exotic dancer, “saucy rascal” is not a good work personality.

  26. HR AVP*

    I can’t even… nope, I just can’t. If I got that cover letter I would think the person was completely nuts.

    1. Jadelyn*

      This would be one of the ones that has me yell out to the rest of my team to come get a look at the newest crazy in the hiring inbox.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      OMG! Mad Libs cover letters are a thing that need to happen! This is how I visualize them going:

      Dear (Person),

      I am (-ing verb) you to apply for the (job). I have (adjective) skills in (noun), (noun), and (noun). I bring a great deal of (feeling) to my work because I always (adverb) (verb). I look forward to (-ing verb) from you.

      (Your Name)

      1. many bells down*

        Dear (Angela Merkel),

        I am (smoking) you to apply for the (attorney general). I have (shy) skills in (child), (town), and (granite). I bring a great deal of (love) to my work because I always (gently) (hear). I look forward to (swimming) from you.

        many bells down

        (done by googling and picking the first example that came up :P)

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        As you wish, and using words I’ve found in the comments:

        Dear Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed:
        I am meandering you to apply for the Hankie Enlightener. I have sophisticated skills in Shirts, push mowers, and warriors. I bring a great deal of boldness to my work because I always gently fulfill. I look forward to betraying from you.


      3. vpc*

        Dear (watchmaker),

        I am (-scrutinizng) you to apply for the (lifeguard). I have (cromulent) skills in (trick), (boomerang), and (guitar). I bring a great deal of (anticipation) to my work because I always (soothingly) (sprint). I look forward to (meditating) from you.


        * I have traded text messages with another AAM reader who hadn’t gotten this far in the comments yet, so this is true mad libs!

      4. Samwill*

        =Dear (Guy Fieri),

        I am (besieging) you to apply for the (Flavortown fashion designer). I have (seductive) skills in (torture), (men), and (scream). I bring a great deal of (disgust) to my work because I always (sensually) (interrupt). I look forward to (embezzling) from you.


  27. Temperance*

    As a manager, I shouldn’t read a cover letter and immediately assume that the person is self-published.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Yeah, this has nothing to do with self-publishing. I’ve never read anything quite this horrific outside of a college fiction writing workshop.

        1. Candi*

          For everyone in the future who comes across this- no, no you don’t. At least at work.

          A scan of the reviews shows Rule 34 is very active in that work. And the writing apparently stinks.

  28. Art_ticulate*

    Oh my God, I actually cried with laughter. It reads like something that got translated through Google translate twice.

    1. Lora*

      And this is when my colleagues stare at me while I am simultaneously crying, snorting boogers from trying to keep the laughter in, and trying very hard not to pee my pants.

      It’s time to go home.

  29. Katie the Fed*

    I’ve been thinking about a new username here, and I keep going back to “Sophisticated Exactitude.” It might be time.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Somehow, I get the feeling that sophisticated exactitude is going to live on here for awhile… just based on the number of times it’s popped up in the comments here. lol.

  30. Dynamic Beige*

    At the start of it, I thought they were being sarcastic. You know, someone who has been searching for a job for a long time and is fed up with it. So instead of writing the usual stuff, they went “what the hell? It’s not like they’re going to hire me anyway. I’ll write something so over-the-top, no one is going to read it or care.” But with the sensual shirt meanderings and possible kleptomania… uh… I hope once they came out of their altered state, they were properly ashamed of themselves.

    1. Clever Name*

      I did that with a recent craigslist posting. I was trying to sell an old-fashioned push mower and I said stuff like “Want to teach your kids the value of manual labor?” and “Blades so sharp I cut off my hand! Not really”. I was in a “what the heck” kind of mood when I wrote it.

  31. Aysta*


    The most creative thing I’ve ever said in a cover letter was for a nonprofit ed position where I stated that I had the heart of a servant & the boldness of a warrior so should they hire me I would invest all of me to ensure their mission {insert mission} would be fulfilled. I was terrified of even that little sentence nestled in a pretty normal cover letter. It’s exactly why I got called for an interview though so phew.

    But this cover letter. I think I’m still in disbelief.

  32. Chriama*

    Honestly, if I got this letter from someone who looked like they were new to the working world, I would send them an email telling them exactly what Alison said. I think they’ll look back on this in a year and be mortified it happened, and it’s harmless enough that I’d be inclined to be kind to them and gently let them know why it’s a bad idea. Oh gosh.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Okay, but what would you do if it came from somebody who had 10 years worth of experience and had 3 different 2 year+ jobs on their resume?

      1. Chriama*

        Shake my head in amusement and pity. This sounds like something a 23 year old would write. I would expect better grammar and flow from a 30 year old

  33. tink*

    Read this to my partner, who replied “I didn’t know Gilderoy Lockheart was looking for a job.”

  34. shep*

    Honestly, content aside, my main beef is that this person clearly thinks this a lovely piece of writing. The prose isn’t even purple. It’s a poor attempt that never even APPROACHES purple. And it hurts my writerly soul. (So does purple prose, of course, but that’s a different matter entirely.)

  35. Observer*

    Allison, I think you are being a bit unfair to people who try to write creative cover letters. Not that I think it’s a good idea to do that, in most cases. But, this goes soooo beyond that that it’s hard to know where to start. But, I actually don’t even think that it’s even all that creative. The first half is just nonsensical, and not even in a jaberwocky way. The second half is just creepy and inappropriate. Neither characteristic has any special relationship with creativity. And a truly creative person should have been able to come up with SOMETHING that wasn’t BOTH.

  36. Dzhymm*

    Are you saying that recruiters actually READ cover letters? I gave up sending cover letters a few job hunts ago when I would state very clearly in the cover letter that relocation was not an option and that any position I took would have to be either local to me or 100% telecommute. The number of calls I got from the opposite coast of the US who seemed to be totally unaware of this requirement was mind-boggling. “But I said clearly in my cover letter…” “Oh, we never saw that”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Recruiters, not necessarily. Hiring managers, loads and loads of them. My mail is full of letters from people whose interview rates went way up after they started writing cover letters the way I talk about in the posts on cover letters here.

  37. Djuna*

    I would be severely tempted to take a leaf out of Gertrude Stein’s book and return the application with a terse “[Company] declines further acquaintance with [Applicant]” sticky-note attached.

    The comments it’s inspired though, they have all been (grabs thesaurus) wantonly convivial.

  38. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    Hi. This very professionally-beginning rejection letter should immediately alert you to our professional and comprehensive approach to ask you what in the hell you are thinking while making it strikingly obvious that you have written a “creative” letter with sophisticated exactitude. The quickening of your heart is likely increasing at this point as your mind digests what should be a familiar sensation in this second, poetic, figuration of how it feels to read our reaction to such a creepo missive: A profound embarrassment washes over you as you realize we all think you’re nuts, as would virtually any other employer. Clearly your efforts are oriented always toward bozo self-published career advice books. As we part, smiling (of course), you check your thought process, laughing somewhat cynically at yourself for even thinking that anyone would be interested in hiring someone who refers in their cover letter to stealing a cell phone or wallet! Oh yes, and a watch! Come to think of it, your cranium feels so free and graceful, perhaps even sensual against the synapses of your brain’s random meanderings. This, my friend, is how employers will feel every time you send out this cover letter , except even more confused.
    Thank you.

  39. The Butcher of Luverne*

    What really offends me is this:

    “This very professionally-beginning cover letter ….”

    No hyphen after a word ending in “-ly” — ever.

    1. stevenz*

      I can be a bit fussy about putting the hyphen in phrasal adjectives, but I wasn’t aware of this rule. Is it because “professionally” is an adverb?

    2. Sensual Shirtcuff*

      Except family as it’s not an adverb. ‘Family-focused policies’ would be A-OK. I will never forget this as one of my bosses at an old job misguidedly took out all of my ‘family-‘ hyphens for this reason and I’ve not quite forgotten it…

  40. MsMaryMary*

    Maybe the applicant is the one being pranked. I’m thinking of the job applicant who blamed his wife for typos in his resume. Maybe some beleaguered spouse or assistant reached their breaking point and wrote the cover letter knowing the applicant wouldn’t read it beforehand. Or a teenager took it upon themselves to edit the cover letter when their parent asked for help figuring out how to use the online job application.


  41. De Minimis*

    Now that’s my idea of a “pain letter!”

    We put on our website [we use a website form for all applications] that we place a lot of importance on the cover letter. We probably focus on it more than many employers do. But that doesn’t mean we want some kind of weird exercise–we just want to get an idea of how the applicant thinks they might be a fit, and want to see if they can write in a clear and professional manner.

    The worst I’ve seen so far is from a student, who inserted some kind of weird diagram that kept their whole application from loading in our system.

  42. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Actually the worst cover letter we received – was one written – a 300-word single sentence – such as

    “I am very interested in your company because I have heard good things about it and everyone says that you are a good place to work and I am available to works with you and help to fix and support and maintain your products and it is always a place to look into and I always wanted to work for a place like yours and ”

    The ad said “effective written and verbal communication”. Fail.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      no I just abbreviated it here — by the time I read the first four lines I bailed ….

  43. Volunteer Enforcer*

    I must now notify you, pringersticks to hell be damned, that your hanky of innocence must now remain in my rubbish temple of doom. I’m sorry, but this letter is so weird even I can’t match / believe it.

  44. stevenz*

    On the off chance that the person who wrote that letter reads this, could you please sign in and tell us what you were thinking?

  45. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night*

    “figuration of how it feels to work with me”

    I “figurate” that it must feel like pain. Lots and lots of pain with a side of second hand embarrassment.

  46. WhichSister*

    It’s like the opening paragraph to “50 shades of job applications” . I feel a little dirty and not in a good way

  47. Menacia*

    Oh, sorry, this resume was for the position of “bodice-ripper” author…must have found its way to your desk in error…

  48. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    But to be honest — I cannot find a lot of humor in job applicants who use desperate means to find employment.

    That cover letter got everyone’s attention, did it not?

    Perhaps 99 people will reject it, one hiring manager might get curious and follow up on it.

    1. Observer*

      I can’t imagine any reasonable hiring manager actually following up, and if anyone else saw that cover letter, they would never be able to make the candidacy move forward.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Highly, highly unlikely. It’s not just awful; it’s creepy.

      That idea — that it got everyone’s attention so maybe it will work — is responsible for some of the worst job hunting attempts out there.

      This doesn’t read as desperate to me, just really poor judgment.

    3. AW*

      one hiring manager might get curious and follow up on it

      “Dear Allison,

      Our manager just hired the absolute worst co-worker I’ve ever had! He keeps walking around narrating other people’s lives, but not in a funny way like Thomas Sanders. It’s always something creepy. He manages to work in the word ‘sensual’ every time and some article of clothing ‘meandering’ someplace. Not only is he awful to be around but he’s completely incompetent. It’s clear he doesn’t know what he’s doing but all he cares about is that his work looks sophisticated, whatever that even means. I can’t decide what’s worse: the fact that the hiring manager chose him because he did this in his cover letter or that we work in HR! Yes, that’s right, the future harassment lawsuit is an HR employee!”

      Hiring managers that make positive decisions based on noise like this are terrible hiring managers that make terrible hiring decisions.

    4. River Dances*

      You don’t want to work for a manager who is willing to hire someone who would write this.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, it got everyone’s attention. A cover letter written in blood on a flap of human skin would get everyone’s attention, too. Doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

      (Seriously, this is awful for two reasons. One, because it’s so completely inappropriate. And two, even if this type of “creative” cover letter were appropriate, this one is just so, so badly written.)

  49. Victoria, Please*

    This sounds like the copy from the J. Peterman catalogue (which actually does exist!).

  50. strawberries and raspberries*

    I laughed at this entire thread so hard I gave myself cramps. I’m going to bookmark this for when I’m having a particularly shitty day.

  51. Chaordic One*

    It sounds like someone had a little fun while attempting to meet their state-mandated job application quota in order to receive unemployment.

    Yes, I did apply for two jobs last week! I don’t know why I never got a callback.

  52. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

    I used to be annoyed that HR would only give me contact info for applicants I was required to interview; no resumes or cover letters. Suddenly I am instead grateful. With sophisticated exactitude. I’m going to see if anything is meandering in my closet now.

  53. Pineapple Incident*

    Anyone remember Dane Cook’s ‘Creepy Coworker’ bit? This is likely how that weirdo got hired, then he just never talked again, until he went postal

  54. Anonamousy*

    See, this is what happens when you let your twelve-year-old write your cover letter

    Though I pale when I consider that this person may possibly have copied this letter to dozens– nay, hundreds of unsuspecting, watch-wearing employers…I’m mortifyingly-shaking my, head.

  55. SKA*

    Hooooboy. I read the title and had an immediate defensive gut-reaction. “Hey! I was creative in my cover letter that got me my first post-college job!”

    But, of course, “creative” in my professional life meant stating that in addition to my design and communication skills, I’m also good at refilling the coffeepot and providing coworkers with delicious baked goods. NOT writing prose straight out of a J. Peterman catalogue.

  56. Aelonrhiadra*

    Look at the CV now back at me, now at the CV and back at me. It isn’t me but it smells like me…. I’m on a horse – whistles old spice theme-

  57. DevAssist*

    Just in general, I even hate stories framed in this perspective. Whenever someone in a story begins describing to me what I am doing, it kind of freaks me out.

    It’s so creepy. It reads like really bad erotica.

  58. Don*

    Sorry, don’t agree, while I don’t like this letter because the creativity overlapped creepiness, and the wording seems so stuffy…I got my 1st real professional job via a creative cover letter.

    The problem with a good resume is it’s a sterile compilation of facts. “YOU” aren’t there. A cover letter that likewise offers a dry narrative form of the resume likewise.

    A cover letter provides a means to give some insights on what lies past facts, figures, summations, to differentiate.

    Unfortunately the recruiting/HR profession falls into two camps. Those who believe cover letters have a useful purpose and hence read them…and those that think them a waste of time and don’t bother with them.

    I’m in the former camp and with years as a hiring manager, and another decade as a recruiter, I pay attention to cover letters & someone who can break from the pack and come up with some creativity…they move to the head of the line. It will get read, so will their resume, and highly probable an interview.

    I would have contacted this person to learn more about them.


  59. JaysonHFI*

    This cover letter is totally over the edge. Like what you said: “But really, they are just intended to explain why you’re interested in the job and why you’d excel at it”

    Applicants get carried away and confused with “creativity” and “fit”. I’m perplexed and confused with the applicants objective upon reading that letter. It’s not humorous and a bit disrespectful to the hiring manager.

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