An entirely honest cover letter

What a bullshit-less cover letter for a software engineering job would look like

Dear sir/madam!

I’m not sure I want to work for your company, but I have to pay for food somehow. I liked the technologies that were listed in your ad and have experience with most of them, but I’m not really sure this is going to matter in the end since this is the kind of stuff one can easily learn on the job, so you’re probably looking for a specific type of person much more than a specific type of stack. Well, at least that’s what Cracking the coding interview’s Gayle Laakmann McDowell recommends and you probably listen to her since everybody kinda of does. And that’s all well and good, I think she’s great and I agree with her in theory, but in practice I kind of doubt that you’re going to be able to actually see the type of person I am with the methods that the vast majority of employers use to recruit. You’re likely just going to end up giving in to your own implicit biases (which, as I hope you know, are a well researched and documented phenomenon in this industry and beyond. But unfortunately even if you do that doesn’t make you immune to it) and then calling it a listening to your gut. So I mean I don’t know.

The way that you wrote your ad is kind of annoying, like, talking about a positive attitude, team players and all those empty cliches. But I wonder if it’s really fair to conclude that the entire company is a neoliberal nightmare just based on that. I mean, who writes these ads? Probably not the CTO and definitely not developers, so maybe it’s just that your human resources department is a neoliberal nightmare. Or maybe it actually isn’t, and the poor intern who wrote this ad really just copied what other people did, in order to meet the industry standard and therefore attract the right kind of industry people. So maybe I’m being unfair to you, which is ironic, since I’m basically accusing you of being unfair to me. I’m sorry, I guess. It’s just confusing.

Like, one of the reasons I consider myself to be a good engineer is because I’m literal and precise in my thinking, but then these ads keep throwing at me concepts like ‘must be a great communicator’. Please, what does this mean? Does this mean that I have to answer Slack messages all the time, even at night? Or that I am extra nice even when someone is objectively wrong? Does it mean my English is good and I’m articulate? Or that I can verbalise my ideas well? Does it mean I’m very explicit in my explanations, or that I don’t need explicit explanations from others because I’m so good at reading between the lines? See, this could literally mean any number of mutually contradictory things. Or maybe you just threw that in cause you saw someone else do it, you poor underpaid intern you, I’m not mad at you, you know you’re not the problem.

See the only thing that seems really clear from your ad is that you want someone with a computer science degree, and that’s not me, because I used the time I could have spent learning theoretical computer science concepts by heart for exams developing real life software. You can see that from my CV, which you probably didn’t even read, but only scanned for keywords. So yeah, if you think a degree is necessary or sufficient for a great software engineer than your company might not be the place for me after all, as this is something I am passionately against ideologically. This disagreement could pose problems later on for the both of us even if I somehow managed to kiss your ass through the interview process. But again, many people say that companies just throw that college degree line in to weed out the people who are too young or something, they don’t enforce it in practice.

Again, I’ll probably never know what you really mean. But the money’s good. Probably just about enough to sell my soul to you. That is, if you decide to buy my soul out of the hundreds upon hundreds of other souls who applied to be bought. If so, please get back to me, I’d love to do a fizzbuzz or reverse a string on a whiteboard for you! This will surely show how well I can work on a distributed asynchrounous microservice cloud architecture as a devops engineer. Or whatever the buzzword combination du jour is.

Looking forward to hearing from you!