How to (Not) Write a Covering Letter

This is the third part of my series on being an Unemployed Dad.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how miserable it is to be a Dad and out of work for a long period of time.

Last week, I wrote a fictional job description for the firm, Thingummy Wotsit.

This week, I’ve written a covering letter to Thingummy Wotsit. There are hundreds of articles spattered throughout the interweb like guano about how you should write a covering letter. This is not one of them.

Writing a covering letter is an essential part of job-hunting, but it can be bloody haaaaard. It is especially hard when you’ve written dozens of the fuckers, been knocked back a few times, and you have to muster the enthusiasm to keep writing good things about yourself, time and time again.

After a few months of this slog you become sorely tempted to write an uncomfortably truthful letter explaining how you really feel – You’re tired, you’re depressed, you’re fed up with the whole process, and you’re disheartened by the endless need to write glowing things about yourself. But writing an honest letter is not a great idea. You’re not really in a good frame of mind, and you’re likely to ruffle a few feathers by doing so, and those feathers might belong to someone who is the position of offering you a job.

So here is the letter you mustn’t write. The letter you want to write, but can’t. I’ve done it for you.

DISCLAIMER for all future employers of me:

The following letter is a work of fiction, and should not in any way be taken as being representative of me in real life, either now or in the future.

It is intended to portray how demoralising it can be to be unemployed for a significant length of time, and how one’s self-esteem can take a battering during the job application process, particularly if you have to write letter after letter after letter in the vain hope of getting a reply.

Only a complete idiot would take this letter as a serious representation of my lack of professionalism in applying for any future jobs. You’re not a complete idiot, are you?

Also, in my personal experience, people in HR departments work damn hard, they do an important job, and are helpful to the point of human sacrifice.

I think of some the word. I carve word on paper. Word make me job. I happy human! Need business. Do work! Eat pen.


Daniel Phnut

29.7 Bumfuddery Reaches


TW47 F4C3

103st Quobvember 2019

Your Ref: 63t 57uff3d

Dear HR Cow at Thingummy Wotsit,

Hi! Dan Superiffic here! I’d like to have that job you’re advertising! I’m really great and you’ll love me! I’ve done loads of stuff like this before, and I’ll be really good at it! You really need not consider anyone else for this role! Your search is over! I’m looking forward to you giving me this job! Hooray!




My name is not important, and you’ll forget it within seconds. I would like to apply for the role of ASSISTANT LOSER even though it’s a job I don’t want, and what I really want to be is a Superhero Rock Star, but I have bills to pay and I must squash my dreams in order to get by. Society demands that I do what amounts to (in cosmic terms) a thankless task in order to pay my taxes and not be pilloried in the media as a workshy scrounger, so here I am, begging you for work like I’m a hobo in mid-30s America. I get shit from my wife, my friends, my parents and my in-laws, for not having a job right now, and I’m only doing this because I need them to shut up; and I want my children to have a father they can respect. To be honest, I would really rather be watching boxsets of Game of Thrones right now.

Stop smiling, you freak. Writing a covering letter is a serious business.

In this covering note I am duty-bound to say how packed with initiative I am, or how hard-working, or motivated to the point where I’ll dance on my balls for you, but to be honest I’m feeling like none of these things right now. What I really want to say is:

  • I have been out of work for too long, and I’m terrified that this fact looks bad on my CV.
  • I want to say that I’m applying for up to four jobs a week and I hear fuck all back as to whether I’ve been rejected or not.
  • You are the 55th covering note I’ve written in the last six weeks, and I’ve lost track of who I am even writing to right now.
  • I filled in this form amidst a lot of sighing and looking out of the window and wondering how my life has led to this point.
  • I’ve looked at your Job Description and realised that as jobs go, I’m perfectly capable of even the most menial of admin jobs, but my current self-esteem plunge means I haven’t the confidence to apply for a job collecting trolleys in a Tesco car park
  • As far as adults go, I’m perfectly adequate, but again, a nasty voice inside me constantly tells me I’m severely lacking, even though I’ve somehow managed to do some adult things like have relationships and earn money, and pay taxes, and drive a car, and vote and stuff.
  • Even though both you and I know this job is capable of being filled by an illiterate knuckle-dragger, the wording of your Job Description and my crushing lack of confidence in my abilities means that I feel that I’d be unable to satisfy you, but that’s OK, because I feel I have a history of not satisfying anyone.
  • (I don’t mean that last bit in a sexual way. I am, at least in that regard, a sensual and priapic love-God. #sexgloat).
  • Most of the time I wish I could just copy and paste entire paragraphs from all my other covering letters, but I’m told by all the job agencies to tailor my applications individually, even though I am demoralised to the point of not having a shit to give anymore.
  • When I do get interviews, they fail to give adequate feedback, and I’m left wondering what’s wrong with me, and if I actually am capable of surviving as an adult.
  • As you can probably guess, I’ve had enough of writing covering letters.
  • I’m writing this in my underpants, having not showered since Tuesday, on the 132nd day of my unemployment. You are the fifth letter I’ve written today, and it is physically painful to try and muster the enthusiasm to write to you. I’ve been knocked back too many times recently, and I need a win.


Oh, HR Cow, you understand this, don’t you? Do you remember your ambitions and dreams as you grew up? I mean, you didn’t want to end up in HR by your late thirties, did you? You did a degree in History and had designs on academia or teaching in a further education college, or maybe archaeology, or research, but somehow you had to take a job to pay the bills and you wound up working for Thingummy Wotsit from your mid-twenties onwards.

People who read your CV be like…

As a child you wanted to be a doctor, or a princess, or a ballet dancer, didn’t you? And you were slim and beautiful and a little bit saucy in your teens and early twenties… but you’re now hovering around 40, with two kids, and you’ve gone to seed and you’ve dyed your hair. Your beauty is fading, your skin is becoming waxy, the crows’ feet are deepening, and you’re slightly bored of your husband. On your bad days, you dream of flying off to Spain and living in a commune without a bra, but you have so many responsibilities, so many people to answer to, so many people – so many – grasping at your legs for your attention, and you couldn’t bear to leave them.

So here you are, overweight, becoming more conservative with age, slightly bitter and with one of those unpleasant grown-up attitudes that resents self-pitying, feckless jobseekers like me. Secretly, you long to be a free-spirit, but your increasingly trenchant viewpoint forces you to reject such transgressive notions. And so you wear your trouser suit, and your necklace, and your make-up and you sift through application forms like mine, and you’re a bit of a bully in the office, and you do a job that’s OK, but utterly unfulfilling. You still want to be that ballet dancer.

You get my CV, and you conclude from my previous employment that I’m an unambitious idiot with pretensions, and you feel that I don’t have the required experience for this job, even though I’m nudging 40 myself. You wonder how I managed to get this far. I urge you to look beyond the standard words of introduction that I have written and see the person within.



Look, I know that if I get this job, I’ll probably eventually become miserable, just like I did in my last four jobs; only now I’m knocking on the door of middle age and I romanticise that my life is described in the lyrics of a Radiohead song from the late 90s. And now I’m panicking somewhat because on every job agency website I’ve ever read, they advise I keep my covering letter short and to the point. Bollocks. There is no point.

Just give me a job. Any job. Let’s face it, you’ll employ anyone vaguely competent, so why not just pick me? I probably won’t be the best person you employ, but I won’t be the worst, and I’ll do everything I can to be adequate, and not bankrupt the company.

Please. I need this.

Yours, in utter desperation and wallowing in my own crapulence

D Phnut


NEXT WEEK: The Application Form






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