The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

“As an ardent fan of the Blue’s Clues television show, I was pleased to learn of your Executive Production Assistant position,” reads one of the sample cover letters posted in the Career Services website.

I couldn’t be more jealous of this degree of certainty. As I venture into writing yet another cover letter that I have no idea how to start, develop or end, I have nothing left to do but slip into a prickly daydream of future unemployment and missed opportunities.

The intimidating task of writing cover letters — a requirement for almost any internship application — vexes me not because I feel unable to do it, but rather because I often feel unable to do it genuinely. What is it about cover letters that inevitably feels like an invitation for insincerity and feigned interest?

Don’t get me wrong. I am sure that there are a fair share of people out there who do have a dream company and who have, in fact, fantasized about working there for some time. For these people, writing a cover letter is probably no more difficult than discussing their favorite childhood television show. They know their stuff and do not need to make their enthusiasm for the job sound greater than what it actually is.

And yet, this can’t possibly describe the average cover-letter writing experience. Right?

Students tend to apply to so many different positions that they couldn’t possibly be dying to spend their summers working at all of them. After they’ve completed the one or two cover letters that truly express their hearts’ desires, they’re left with more cover letters that they’re just not that excited to write. And that’s when the propensity to overcompensate kicks in.

The Career Services website advises students to “avoid exaggerated statements such as ‘I’ve always wanted to work for your firm/organization’ since they will likely not ring true.” But in all of our desperation to secure a summer job, we often forget how transparent our intentions can be.

But Patricia Rose, director of Career Services, warns against claiming that a place is the top choice if it really isn’t. Rest assured that “by feigning interest in 150 [applications], you do not do a very good job on any one,” she said. “You want to tell the truth, and I just can’t emphasize that enough.”

Which is to say, don’t fake it. I’ve actually heard someone utter the words “I’ve dreamt of working at [insert name of humongous transnational corporation] ever since I was a little girl” as she practiced for a job interview.

Well, as a little girl, all I ever wanted to be was a singer, then a concert cellist and then an archaeologist. Sadly, I will not be writing cover letters for any of those positions. So, how do we — the would-be ballerinas and astronauts who have come to terms with the fact that those are unrealistic lines of work — do this cover-letter thing right?

Rose stressed targeting cover letters — actually taking some time to sit down and give some thought to the reasons behind wanting to spend three months at that internship, instead of simply replacing the name of one company with another. This also entails elaborating on the information on the resume that would be relevant to the specific company.

So if you’re sitting in front of your computer — staring at a blank screen with a cover letter on your to-do list — and are hard-pressed to come up with any coherent reason to be spending your afternoon writing this application, just don’t do it.

Instead, use that time to search for something that you are half as ardent a fan of as that perky applicant was of Blue’s Clues.

Sara Brenes-Akerman is a College junior from San José, Costa Rica. Her e-mail address is A Likely Story appears every Wednesday.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.