It was on a whim that I applied for a job at The Company, during the few hours I usually had to kill before I started my evening shift at the restaurant. One of my closest friends from home worked there and had tipped me off about a new round of hiring. It was a pretty standard online application– long and needlessly complicated, with a ton of those questions meant to determine the applicant’s ability to answer questions. Stuff like “Honesty is important to you: Yes or No.” and “Is it ever alright to steal from co-workers, even if you’re pretty sure they’ll never know?” I answered “no” to that second one, willfully forgetting about all of the unlabeled yogurts I had freed from work-place fridges over the years. I churned out my rote cover letter, attached my Google Docs-produced resume with the fancy red square in the upper-left corner, and sent the whole kit and caboodle out in to the ether, not really expecting a follow-up.
In my mind I had already used up my interview luck with my unsuccessful bid for employment at what the Craigslist advertisement had called a “cutting-edge apparel company.” The ad also contained some language mentioning the company’s desire for “hard-working eccentrics.” I was definitely one of the two, and could always fake being hard-working. I figured I’d write the most ridiculous cover letter imaginable and see what happened.
It read as follows:
Dear Established Cutting-Edge Apparel Company,
My name is Michael Podell, I’m a 23-year-old San Fernando Valley native currently living up in the San Francisco area which I mistakenly thought to be as great a place to live as Los Angeles. I graduated this past June from the University of California, Santa Barbara’s College of Creative Studies with a major in Literature (creative writing), and accordingly am now working at a restaurant as a server. I have had a job since I turned sixteen, and most of the work I have done has been directly related to customer service. Please consider some feedback from past customers:
- “This Razzmatazz is delicious!” – woman at Jamba Juice.
- “Thank you for your help!” – confused freshman at UCSB.
- “You just convinced us to eat here. I’m telling your boss that you’re a keeper!” – Bay Area woman and likely Subaru Outback owner with short curly gray hair wearing red metal-framed glasses who left me a big tip.
I am looking for a job that will allow me to move back to the LA area. I have only been up here for a few months, but always carrying around a light jacket is getting old very quickly. I am extremely reliable and have a perpetually good attitude as long as I am caffeinated. (I am always caffeinated.) I am also a fast learner, great on the phone, and of course I brew a great pot of coffee. I like to think of myself as the Grace Coddington of administrative assisting – I do genius work that flies mostly under the radar. Only I am not a ginger. Or (officially) friends with Anna Wintour.
Thank you for taking the time to read my cover letter and review my resume – please let me know if you have any questions at all! I’m sure you will have a deluge of applicants for this position, but I ask you… how many of them know the entire rap from “Fergilicious” by heart?
I shockingly got a call from them the next day, which I took walking down the street in Oakland towards MacArthur BART on my way to work. A very nice lady named something like Kimberly or Elizabeth asked me polite questions, and I did my best to sound quirky yet organized – like a Jewish male Zooey Deschanel. Somehow that didn’t work out and I never heard from them again. The most valuable lesson I learned from the whole thing was to never under any circumstances try to model my actions after how I think Zooey Deschanel might handle a situation.
I kept the new application twee-free. I really was qualified for the job too, which helped. I was shocked when I got a quick response from The Company. When I then breezed through a phone interview saying things like, “I like to keep myself extremely organized. I’m big on making lists,” and then shortly afterwards was told I got the job, I was ecstatic and relieved. It paid well, much better than any other job I’d had. I would finally be working in a real office, doing an “adult job.” I’d be able to afford nutritionally viable dinners and beer, instead of always buying beer and then alternating between pasta and quesadillas. It also meant I was going to be able to move back to LA! The city I had always thought of as the place to escape from was now beckoning me with smoggy, fedora-wearing hands, and I couldn’t get to the perpetually terrible traffic fast enough.