People want fairytales. But what we end up with are collections of short stories and maybe a novel.
As standard practice when applying for any kind of position, one is required to write a motivation letter. And one is not amused; be it the person who writes the motivation letter or the one who will eventually get stuck with reading it/them. Either way, having to deal with motivation letters is not time well spent. As Eliot writes in “Prufrock,” it is a time “to murder and create” (28):
[A time] for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of [Valium] and tea
Added to the sheer agony of producing them, the fossilized format of motivation letters is certainly not the medium for the expression of originality or personality.
Not only are motivation letters painstakingly boring to write or read, but they are also a time-consuming and exasperating way of making the applicant miserable prior to applying, which is in itself a brilliantly clever achievement. The bitter taste of rejection must seem much less severe when the applicant has indubitably spent hours of his life paining over a piece of paper and scrutinizing its every word. The compositions reach from the minimum of 500 to marathons of a few thousand words, the sole intention of which might just be – reducing the number of applicants.
The motivation letter, written and rewritten and rewritten, achieves the exact opposite of its intention – standing out from the crowd is difficult when the motivation for applying for a position is probably the same with most applicants. I am not applying for the job of a sales assistant because I would like to better my skills of archery and horseback riding. I am applying for three main reasons which are universally intelligible: I want the job and am qualified, I would like to gain new skills and experience in the field and I need the money. There is no need to write a lengthy motivation letter about it, which will only result in making me the same as everybody else applying rather than setting me apart from the interested-but-not-that-interested applicants.
The reasons for applying for any position are the same and the format of the motivation letter is the same rigid structure over and over again. The language of motivation letters revolves around a few ready-mixed bromides and there is no way of avoiding them. The formulation of sentences from one motivation letter to another is only more or less drab and cliché-ridden. How am I supposed to write that I would like to use this opportunity to expand my knowledge, learn something new and gain some experience without sounding like the rest of the happy campers applying? It is sincere, but Lord save my application if I write it like that.
Filling out the standard application forms, which already provide the necessary information for committees to evaluate applicants, and a motivation letter of a maximum of 200 words should be more than enough to fan out the undeserved in the deciding process. Qualifications, skills and accomplishments speak for themselves; most neatly in the form of a table. Motivation, ambition and desire read nicest when short and sweet, rather than long and bland in a flaccid motivation letter, which is certainly not the medium to impress or to form impressions upon.