It all started here. Joey Comeau needed a job. Somewhere along the way he began to exercise a little more creativity than perhaps is optimum in job application cover letters. Some are hilarious, some are poignant, some are just plain odd. None of them are bound by any sort of requirement to tell the truth.

He didn’t get any of those jobs.

After the police showed up on his doorstep one morning, he stopped actually sending the cover letters in. He continued to compose them, however, and post them on his Web site. He didn’t really want any of those jobs, anyway. Somewhere along the way he got the idea that he could use this form to tell an actual story. Each letter would in itself be significant, but when strung end-to-end they would reveal a larger story, at first hinted at and subsequently revealed.

Put another way, it’s “take what you’re doing already and repackage it in a way that you can sell.” And thus, Overqualified was born.

It is a book of moments, beads on a string that form a larger pattern. Some of those moments are pretty powerful. Some of them aren’t. They go by quickly and before you know it you’re at the end of a brief autobiography told in nuggets of nonsense.

I was a little disappointed, I guess, that many of the supposed cover letters in the book had no ties to the job being applied for. One of the fun things about the letters I linked to above is the cleverness with which he twists the job descriptions, and the decidedly odd ways he represents himself as a candidate. While it does happen occasionally in the book, I missed that cleverness much of the time.

Of course, before there was a larger story to tell, the letters were all about cleverness. The book has a larger purpose and I suppose that means trade-offs.

Comeau certainly has a gift with language. The words he chooses are often evocative as well as descriptive, and a sense of tragedy grows as we move along. He’s at his best when he’s both funny and poignant, as near the end when he applies to be a tour guide, revisiting the scenes of past failures. That bit alone is probably worth the cost of admission.

EDIT YEARS LATER: I still think about this book. Possibly you will, too.

Note: if you use the above link to buy this book (or a Kindle, or a new car), I get a kickback.


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