The Cover Letter That (Kind Of) Worked

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Papercut Skins by the Matches)

I’ve done a lot of posting about creative writing on here, but the fact of the matter is, creative writing just won’t pay the bills unless you’re that right combination of lucky and talented. If you want to practice writing as a career, you’re going to want to look into other areas – copywriting and communications are the two I have the most experience with.

So while my unemployed ass has been sitting around writing these posts and working on the second draft of my novel, I’ve also been checking out options for doing communications both on UCLA campus and off. One of the companies I applied to for an internal communications position was Riot Games, the company that produces League of Legends.

I had an in already – my brother works there – but I knew Riot wasn’t the kind of company, and he wasn’t the kind of person, to let me get in just off of that. I had to write a good cover letter and answer the writing prompts on their application in a fresh, innovative way.

Now, there are a few things you should know before reading this. First, this letter didn’t get me a job, officially – Riot doesn’t have any associate-level positions open right now in internal communications – but it did get me a phone call with the woman in charge of hiring, who (I think) took a liking to me and encouraged me to keep in contact in case anything opened up. In my eyes, that’s just as valuable as a formal interview (especially since I didn’t put my foot in my mouth like I usually do in interviews).

Second, Riot is the kind of company that… well, you just know if you’re a League of Legends player. They value honest, open communication, sans bullshit and sans pretty language. This cover letter was, in my opinion, a great fit for Riot, but might be considered irreverent to another company. Regardless, there’s something to learn here.

Okay, I shut up now:

I’ve always been a kid tinkering with puzzles.

Legend of Zelda, Scrabble, chess. D&D, calculus, League. I only loved what I struggled to figure out.

With college came my first fumbled attempts at writing. Cute and unsubtle, like Amumu. I love them dearly.

Meanwhile, neuroscience had become my new favorite puzzle. Every day in class, in lab, I watched while others rushed to a product. I asked – is this the perfect method? It rarely was. There was always something more precise lurking just out of sight.

Writing caught back up with me after graduation. I couldn’t understand why; I didn’t see myself as an artist.

But science is art. Writing is precision. They’re both just puzzles.

I’m not writer or a scientist; I’m a tinkerer.

I’d like to tinker for you.

Not exactly your standard cover letter, but that’s the thing – when you’re applying for a writing position, no cover letter should be standard. It needs to be a reflection of your personal tone; the tone the company uses and is looking for in hirees; and the kind of concision and wordcraft you’re bringing to the table. And, of course, you have to show, not tell.

So what was successful about this letter in catching the attention of Riot? Well, let’s count all the things it did in the short span of 132 words:

  1. It showed my personal tone and how I view myself – not as a writer, but as a tinkerer
  2. It showcased my hobbies and the fact that I’m a gamer at heart, something that Riot looks for in its employees
  3. It made a joke about one of the League of Legends champions, Amumu, showing that I’m an active player of the game
  4. It balanced seriousness with irreverence and lightheartedness – the exact tone Riot has struck out for in all of its external (and presumably internal) communications
  5. It took the reader through my background in writing – mostly none – and in neuroscience, while showing how my skillsets from neuroscience could transfer over to a career in communications
  6. It established me as different in the way I think and the way I view myself from the average writer
  7. It did all of these things in a very short amount of space, wasting no words on things that could be read in my resume or the rest of my application

Really, if you’re looking to do writing as a career, you have to have something innovative for a cover letter – which makes it infinitely more difficult than cover letters in other career fields. Mine was pretty out there in terms of sparsity and minimalism, but clearly it worked, at least for one company. And I think that’s the real key – finding out, through the external communications of the place you’re applying, what their tone is and how you can match it while still being yourself.

Sounds totally impossible, right? It pretty much was for me. I worked on six or seven different cover letters until I came across this one – and really, it was just the seed of an idea at first for being a “tinkerer” instead of a writer. But just like your creative writings, once you have that moment of inspiration, the wheels of your mind will start churning with the follow-through and out will pop something pretty cool.

I’m hoping this means I’ve turned a corner and suddenly my query letters for my novels will become incredible… a boy can dream, can’t he?

Yours, day out and day in,

-R.R. Buck

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