SUCKLING THE TEAT OF COVER LETTERS

bigstock-Cover-letter-concept-in-word-t-35825180-300x299It’s amazing to me how job applicants don’t “get it”. It’s true. Most college-educated, pop-culturized, twentysomethings, some with MBA’s, are clueless. I have the cover letters to prove it. Just over a year ago, I wrote a “help wanted” ad looking for producer/editor applicants. My bosses at the time were right-brain imaginators who wanted to take everything we do “up a notch”, even ads for jobs at our company. I was completely on board. These were the guys who hired me, so we were totally on the same page. I forwarded my draft to my boss, who then forwarded it to his boss, the CEO. The e-mail reply to me was, “I think you get it“. Here is the infamous ad I wrote:

The TV revolution is upon us – and the new Xxxx Company is leading the resistance. We’re recruiting a solid team of anti-establishment producer/editors, “preditors”, to collaborate on a groundbreaking news format unlike anything ever attempted on local TV. Don’t sell us on your solid newsroom experience. We don’t care. Or your exclusive, breaking news coverage. We’ll pass. Or your excellence at writing readable copy for plastic anchor people. Not interested. Sell us on this: Your fiery passion to help re-invent the ’80’s rooted, focus-grouped, yuppie anchors and a news desk, super Doppler ultra weather style. Your personal relationship with the internet, blogs, video-sharing, Droids, Blackberries, Blueteeth, Facebook & Twitter, and all things Modern Culture. You’re in sync with the pulse of the streets, not the PC, Capital “J” journalism world. You live and breathe content. You know the difference between “buzzworthy” and “B.S.”. You know your way around Final Cut Pro and easily embrace new production technologies. Your greatest communication tool is a keyboard, your writing is “bleeding edge”, and you realize that when it comes to the written word, less is more. You can survive and prosper in a modern, high brilliance standards “rock ‘n’ roll” culture where your supervisors are fearless and your peers are A-game “imaginators” with the highest of execution standards. You’re an earbud wearing, app downloading, rss reading, podcast playing, text messaging, flip-flop wearing professional of any age or sex, with a real-world education, interests that are anything but mainstream, and the ability to translate your bent outlook onto the TV screen. You “Get It”. The creatively challenged, old-school TV News types and anyone lost in the ’80’s should move on to the next “help wanted” ad. If this excites you, talk to us, shoot us your resume, your POV on TV News, links to your FCP editing and writing samples (whether they aired or not) and anything else you think might help sell you as a key member of this exclusive team.

As you can see, this ad took risks. it was loud. It even shook up some “traditional” journalists who wrote and published actual news stories attacking this very ad (I was so proud!). But the one thing it did better than anything else, was to weed out the “get its” from the “don’t get its”. The first group replied with these types of cover letters:

Dear Mr. Brune,

I am an accomplished producer and editor interested in applying for the position you advertised in Broadcasting & Cable. I have 14 years experience as a producer, most recently producing local cut-ins for the Today Show here in Tallahassee…

What is that? Did you read the ad? Did it not inspire you to be completely original in your response? If you can’t take risks with your stupid cover letter, why do you think I’d ever let you take risks with my national show?? There was only one response, one, that got my attention. Only one that “got it”. Big time. Check it out:

Ciao,

My carefully concocted, fundamentally twisted, wiretap radar of a brain has honed in on the Preditor position at the NEW Xxxx Company. It’s time for television news to step into a different dimension. Stop. It’s time to throw out the cookie cutter. Stop. It’s time for the reinvention and exploration of what T.V. news is. Stop. We exist in a culture of lies, deceit, fabrication, false walls, Bureaucracy, corruption, and facades that bar us from getting the pulp of the orange our Tums are waiting to neutralize. Stop.

I get the shakes when I’m not suckling the teat of social media. My dreams are run and produced by Mystery Science Theater 3000. I text when I’m on the toilet. I tweet when I’m in the shower. I stand too close to people when I talk. My brain is a sponge of what is now, and what is to unfold in the following seconds, milli-seconds, nano-seconds, and……shit, whatever comes after that. Within those split seconds in life everyone comes to the proverbial fork in the road of calling the pot kettle black, and doing so in confidence of their beliefs, knowledge, and willingness to put it all on the line. THAT’S what I want in my news. THAT’S what everyone should want.

FCP= I do. Type= I do at 70wpm. Adobe CS4= I do. Well. Sony Vegas=Yup. Pro Tools=Damn straight. I live, sleep, eat, breathe and fart technologies and the unknown and believe in presenting the news in direct fashion. Take no prisoners. Be willing to be a social prisoner. An outcast. A realist. A surrealist. Yourself. Outside yourself. New. Refreshing. Real.

I have a few examples of my media production experience in my online portfolio, available on my website at www.xxx.com . Stop.

Guess who got the job…even before he stepped into my office for an interview? It was somewhere around “I get the shakes when I’m not suckling the teat of social media…” that I realized this is the guy for the job. Eric Johnson. I actually read this letter out loud to the staff I had already assembled. When Eric came in for his interview, he was already a “rock star” among the staff. He took a risk and it paid off big time!

Normally, writing a cover letter like Eric’s in response to a generic, uninspiring, everyday job ad would be the REAL risk. Do you think most turtleneck-wearing HR women or crotchety old HR men sporting tie tacks would forward this cover letter on? Absolutely not. They would have mercifully weeded it out for us. And that’s the catch. Who’s your audience? My letter clearly indicated I expected some pizazz. I gave you permission to give it back to me. Most job ads don’t invite the kind of response Eric gave to me. So it’s a judgement call. What would your cover letter say?

Ray Signature

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