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further random questions from the newly-unemployed

   From: "Bill Horne" <bill at>
   Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2002 17:21:07 -0500

   Well, I'll jump back in, briefly.

   1.    Ordered lists
	   A.    It's a PITA to do ordered and/or bulleted lists in text. In
		   the first place, the placement of tabs must be calculated
		   so as to ensure that none  of the lines autowraps into the
	   B.    You don't know what the recipient's tab stops are set to, nor
		   their line wrap.
	   C.    Getting your cover letter to stand out shouldn't involve
		   doing ASCII art.

It's easy, then: limit your lines to 72 characters, and use spaces
rather than tabs.  I usually do bullets this:

* Here's a top level bullet.

  Here's the explanatory text.  As you can see, I've indented this all
  of two spaces, and auto fill mode in emacs limits my lines to 72

  + I personally like to do sub-bullets like this.  The indentation
    stays light, but it's still easy to see the organization.

While a proportional font will *slightly* mess this up, it's going to
be very minor.  If you have that many bullets that this is going to
look clunky, then you simply have too many bullets for a cover
letter.  IMHO the cover letter should consist of paragraphs rather
than bullets, anyway.

   2.    Readability
	   A.    Many of the respondents feel that hiring managers use
		   non-HTML-capable email programs, and I don't think
		   that's a productive assumption.

I'm speaking as a hiring manager myself.  While I won't say that all
hiring managers do this, some do.  But even that's neither here nor
there because...

		       1.    The cover letter almost always goes to HR before
			       the hiring manager, and HR doesn't know that
			       "plain text" exists.

Our HR organization explicitly prefers that resumes be entered into
our job site in text (in fact, we only permit on-line submission as
ASCII text).  Our resume system is set up for plain text.

	   B.  HTML rendering engines do make allowances for paragraph
		   leading, margin matching, and justification that
		   just can't be done in plain text. I want my cover
		   letter to stand out, but not be so unusual as to be

I don't think I've yet seen a cover letter that really "stands out" in
a positive way.  If it's going to, it's going to stand out by being
concise yet compelling.  Neatly formatted ASCII isn't going to make a
difference; demonstrating to me why you're special does.

	   C.    Readability is in the eye of the beholder. If someone has
		   been clicking through dozens of HTML-formatted emails,
		   and then comes upon mine in plain-text, it will look
		   drab by comparison.

Of course, if you hit that hiring manager that uses a console-based
mail reader, your HTML-formatted email *is* going to stand out --
badly.  At least use both text and HTML.  Likewise for the resume; if
you must send it in Word format, also send it in text format.  PDF may
be a better choice than Word, anyway.

   3.    Compatibility
	   A.    Like it or don't, M$ products are the corporate standard -
		   why else would we submit a r)B?sum? in MS Word format? -

WHICH Word format?

	   B.    Whatever one might be used to in the Unix world, one must
		   get past the HR process to be able to use it. Ergo, HTML.

See above regarding HR policies.

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