Reveal Yourself In Writing

by | Feb 12, 2011

I’ve long held that “the real you” needs to show up for a job interview. You may as well dress the way you dress, act the way you act and generally be yourself, because it’s you that has to show up every weekday for years on end, not some flimsy projection of you.

Turns out, Hunter S. Thompson was on this page back in 1958 when he was looking for a newspaper job after the Army.

A book blog from the staff of AbeBooks has the entire text of a letter that Thompson sent Jack Scott of the Vancouver Sun. Here’s one of the juicier parts of Thompson’s appeal:

The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It’s a year old, however, and I’ve changed a bit since it was written. I’ve taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to work for you.

Thompson didn’t get the job, but there’s still a lot we can learn from his approach. Writers, of all people, must have a point of view, or they’re not writers, they’re typists.

But even if you’re not a writer, you’re a vital person with a past, present and future. Inject some of your dreams, struggles and most importantly your personality into a query letter. Sure, there’s risk involved when you reveal your true self, but if you fail to communicate anything of value, you’ll also fail to be noticed.