or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

A Cloud of Cover Letters

   September 19th, 2012 Brian Herzog

This week we started the first round of interviews for my library's Head of Reader Services position. Which means, I've been reading a lot of resumes and cover letters lately.

Since we advertised for someone who is really into books and reading, many of the cover letters included more colorful adjectives than usual: passionate, voluminous, enthusiastic, voracious.

That got me thinking about mean cover letter word distribution, so I ran the text from the 26 leading cover letters we received through Wordle. I removed any identifying information (current/previous employers, phone numbers, emails, urls, etc), and Wordle also removes some words, and the resulting cloud is interesting:

Cover letter Wordle cloud

View the large size to see some of the smaller words, but overall, a lot of the most common words were what we were hoping to see ("love" ranked well).

Here's something else in this process I found interesting: This is the first time (for me) that every single resume was submitted electronically. They were all sent to the Library Director, who then forwarded them to those of us doing the interviewing.

To keep them organized, I created a "Jobs" folder in my inbox:

Emailed applications in my Jobs folder

The red boxes cover peoples name, but looking at the contents of this folder really shows how alike and "just part of the crowd" applicants can seem. From now on, I will always include my name in the subject line when I submit a resume.

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