How not to apply for a job
Update: Image of letter removed. I’m feeling paranoid.
Folks, I kid you not, this was an actual cover letter I just read, applying for a full-time professional librarian position. I don’t feel safe posting it here since you’ll notice in spite of the fact that it has no identifying information about it at all. It isn’t even signed.
Let me just echo the thoughts of the always eloquent Dorothea. People on search committees are busy, some of us are serving on committees outside our area of expertise, and we are almost always constrained by fair hiring practices (and rightly so) to consider only how closely your cover letter and your CV match the job ad. That means that I cannot say, “Oh, this person mentions open source software, I bet that means they know how to run apache even though they haven’t mentioned apache explicitly.” No, if the job ad says apache, I need to see the literal string “apache” before I can check the box off on my little mandated spreadsheet. Same with “project management,” “interest in continuing education,” “supervisory experience”, and everything else in the job ad. A close second, if you can’t honestly say those things in your CV, is to use your polished and well-written (and signed! Do I even need to say that?) cover letter to explain why “Although I do not have significant experience in X, I do have extensive experience with Y, which is similar, and I have taken Z steps to learn skill X.” Then I can give you partial credit, or maybe even full marks, depending on how well you’ve made your case.
When applying for a job anywhere in academia, please also disregard the terrible advice that someone somewhere keeps spouting, to keep your letter and CV under one page. There’s no need to run on un-necessarily, but I would much rather see a coherent discussion of your skills and experience that needs a paperclip than a truncated bulleted list that can’t possibly address what you’re actually capable of doing.
Please, recent graduates of the world, it is breaking my heart to read CVs of people who are probably talented, and have to give them big fat zeros all the way down that stupid little spreadsheet, for lack of the right buzzwords.