Urgent Cover Letter Help Needed

Okay, I absolutely suck writing cover letters, and poking around looking for jobs I notice that Burt Rutan’s hiring. There’s two jobs on his site that I almost qualify for, and working for Rutan, IMHO, would be better than being in charge of hiring at a brothel. So, I really, really, really, want to get the job and I have to figure out a way to convince Rutan (or whomever looks over the applications) to hire this guy half a continent away and isn’t quite qualified to do the job, without sounding like this guy.

And I’m not asking Rutan to take on a guy who would be dead weight, since my problem solving skills more than make up for any technical training I might lack. So I need help to do this right.

There are tons of cover letter examples on the web. A simple Google search will find them and you can mix and match the best parts.

I’d leave out this line if I were you though.

Cover letters should expand on the parts of your resume that apply most to the job that you want. Tell them how you would be great at the new job because at Job A you did such and such a project which is similar in scope. Two to three example would suffice.


I always try to highlight specific skills that they’re looking for in the cover letter. For example, if the job description reads:

Professional Rutanian Position
Looking to join the Rutan team? Here’s your chance. We’re looking for self-starters familiar with Rutanian methodology, with experience in Applied Rutanistics and at least 3 years in a sub-Rutan blimology environment.

I’d say something like this on my resume:

I’d like to apply for the Professional Rutanian Position as advertised in the Daily Rutanski. As you can see from the enclosed resume, I have extensive experience in Applied Rutanistics. I’ve worked in both commercial and military sub-Rutan blimologies, and am an expert in Rutanian methodology.

You get the idea. BTW, who the hell is Rutan?

Que? Have you been living in a box for the past year? He’s the guy that designed and built SpaceShip One and won the X-Prize.

Oh, I’ve heard of that. I guess that the name just didn’t stick in my head. But I did know that some guy built a spaceship and won a prize :smiley:

There’s a format that some people have had great success: the T-Letter . This format deconstructs the job ad by placing its requirements and the ways you meet or exceed those requirements side-by-side. The guy who wrote the article I linked to apparently uses a T-letter in replacement of his resume, but I wouldn’t do that. When I used it, I modified my cover letter to place the T-letter format into the letter with an opening and closing paragraph, then backed it up with my resume. It seemed to work - I got hired.

Others have claimed to have great success with it - maybe you’d be one too.

Dear Mr. Rutan,

I am writing in reference to your listing for a Very Cool Space-and-Science Type Person (Senior Level). After reviewing the description and your requirements, I’m interested in learning more about this position.

Given Rutan Enterprises’ (or whatever the hell the company is called) unparalleled reputation in the private research and development in the aeronautics field, there will undoubtedly be many applicants clamoring for a chance to be a part of such a groundbreaking company. What sets me apart from the rest?

First and foremost is my deep passion for research and discovery. Being part of a team that would help set the future course of air and space travel would make excellent use of my [some skill here]. My commitment to excellence, and my ability to [some other skill] have been instrumental in my success in all that I have done, and would fit in well with Rutan Enterprises’ vision of innovation, excellence and [blah. There should be a third something here.]

Based on your stated technical requirements, I am definitely well-equipped with the skills and qualities that this position needs. [Blah blah blah, here are things I’ve done that are somewhat in line with what you do, even if that isn’t immediately obvious from looking at my resume]. Equally important, my ability to adapt quickly and effectively are crucial in such a dynamic industry, and have served me well in my career to this point. My desire to continue learning and growing have helped to ensure that my skills and knowledge stay current, relevant, and continually expanding.

I feel that is this combination of experience, passion, and potential that make me an excellent candidate for this position. I would welcome the chance to be able to contribute these qualities to Rutan Enterprises.
(Haven’t written a cover letter in quite a while, sorry)

I am very impressed with T-Letter, and for my next job search (probably in the next 6-18 months) it will be my method of choice.
Nice clean approach, easy to scan, says it all.

Thanks for the link!

BTW, I used to teach a course on writing cover letters and resumes. My advice was always to make the cover letter as brief as possible - just bare bones info to get your resume in the stack to be considered. Too many people tend to put too much crap in their letters. Wait until the interview to give specifics. The shorter the cover letter the better, printed on normal white paper - and don’t forget to sign it.

Career Counselor checking in here.
T-letters are great and, as DMark pointed out, very scannable. You said that you almost qualify, so I’m wondering if that’s the right format for you. BTW, I don’t at all advise using it instead of a resume, because there are some recruiters who don’t even look at cover letters unless they have questions about the resume.
I also encourage my job-seekers to use TellMeI’mNotCrazy 's format:
Paragraph 1: briefly state where you heard about the position
Paragraph 2: why their company is great
Paragraph 3: Why you’re great
Paragraph 4: why you’d be great together
End with a statement about your wish to meet with them, and a plan to follow up.

YMMV, of course.

I mulled over various possibilities, and then said, “Fuck it! It’s Burt Rutan. The guy’s a bold visionary thinker and he got pissed at the aircraft companies he worked for, so he quit and started his own company. He’s not going to pay too much attention to a ‘standard’ cover letter, I’ve got to try to grab him by the balls and make him understand that he needs me, even though he doesn’t know it yet.” So this is what I sent him:

Of course, if he doesn’t pick up the tab for me to relocate, I’m gonna have to do some really fancy work to get the dough up to make it out there, but fuck it, it’s the chance of a lifetime, right?

I like that T-Letter idea. I think I’m going to give it a shot since I’m currently between jobs. The T-Letter guy does commit the horrible gaffe of using the phrase “as you can see,” though. I hate that phrase. People know what they can see, don’t tell them. Bah.

I dunno, I understand the “Got nothing to lose” approach to applying for a job you think you might not get anyway, but if I were seriously applying for a job, one, I’d never include my livejournal link where I was blasting my previous boss, and two, I’d try to adopt a slightly less “I am the best thing that has never happened to you” attitude. The two together scream of thinking you are beyond perfect, and cast derision on any boss who treats you otherwise. I wouldn’t think Rutan would relish the possibility that you having a problem with something work might result in him, or other people in his company getting the Pete Puma treatment.

In all seriousness, if I were a normal employer sifting through cover letters, I’m pretty sure yours would not make it very far past me.

Just a thought.

Key word is “normal.” There’s not a thing “normal” about Rutan. If he were a “normal” guy, he wouldn’t be standing here. He’d be just another faceless engineer at Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell, or other aviation company. Instead, he’s designed the most successful aircraft in history (I’m not merely talking about SS1, either. Everything he’s built has beaten the pants off the competitors before it even left the runway.), and has not only claimed the X-Prize, but is posed to put humanity in space on the cheap.

I have a strong feeling that working for Rutan is like working for Preston Tucker would have been. If you present yourself as someone who’s willing to be a cog in a machine, you will not get hired. You will not get hired, for simply being the best in your field, either. You will get hired, however, if you can show that you’re almost as bold (if not bolder) thinker than he is. Rutan doesn’t merely think “outside the box,” he sets the box on fire and dances in celebration of the flames.

Also, his wife is the HR director of the company, and she’s most likely the first person to look at the resumes, and I’d wager that she knows Rutan’s mind very well, and knows exactly what kind of thought processes he’s looking for. Those ads have been on his site for about 6 months now, and given the amount of publicity he’s garnered since then, he’s no doubt been flooded with resumes from damn near every space geek on the planet. I posted a link to that ad on a machinists message board I frequent about 4 months ago, and tons of guys sent in their resumes. Yet the ads are still up. Why? I’d wager that he’s looking for exactly the right person and hasn’t found them yet.

As for my blog castigating my ex-boss, I think that might do a lot of good. I don’t expect anyone who’s not familiar with the trade to get what was going on there, and the level of asshattery I had to deal with, but folks who’ve worked in machine shops seem to have a pretty good idea of the horrors I was forced to endure. If Rutan reads it, I think at the very least, I’ll have his deepest sympathies (Rutan knows how to run machine tools). IAC, I’m going to keep applying every month for the jobs, and if I can ever scrape up the cash, I’m going out there and apply in person, and I’ll keep doing it until he gives me a job (or has me arrested ;)).