Every once in a while, a cover letter goes viral – and this latest incident is strong evidence that you should never oversell yourself. It’s not because the letter in question does just that, as so many young students do. In fact, this wannabe intern takes the opposite route. In the world of cover letters, this one is proving that honesty actually is the best policy. Well, to a certain extent.
There are a few refreshingly honest points that the author of the letter makes. Rather than talk up his university, the author notes that it is “highly unusual” for someone from his school to apply to such a well-regarded company. The letter refers to the school in question as “average,” which is pretty gutsy. I’ve heard people talk like their bottom-of-the-barrel school was Harvard, and it’s always awkward because we both know that their school isn’t great. I love that this author doesn’t try to defend the school or explain why he decided to go there.
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Another awesome part of this letter details all of the things the author would be willing to do. “I have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes or picking up laundry,” he writes. Since a lot of internships will have you fetching coffee (or moving boxes, in the case of one of mine), it’s a smart move to offer up that you’re willing to do anything. And, again, it’s very candid.
Personally, I had a problem with having to do completely menial tasks at one company, specifically because I wasn’t getting paid (or getting credit) and I had two other internships at the same time – both of which provided me with tasks that actually related to my schooling. But there are some places I’d have jumped at the chance to move boxes. It’s obvious that this person desperately wants to work for this particular firm, even if it means grabbing the coffee.
The last amazingly blunt aspect of the letter is the author’s paragraph on skills. “I won’t waste time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crapp about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship,” he writes.
I think the author is right. It’s kind of sad that we all do those things more often than not. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t inflated credentials, especially earlier in their career. I’m totally on board with this internship candidate. Only, why is crap spelled wrong? You had me until crapp.
To be fair, the author of the letter seems to have met the recipient in the past. Despite the average university, he or she also has a couple of pieces of legitimate experience under the belt, including a Merrill Lynch internship. I’m not sure that somebody with no personal connection to the company and/or no past experience could get away with writing a letter of this sort, but it works for this young man.
The responses don’t lie – people dug it. The firm called him. Other firms were interested. This guy has achieved a little bit of notoriety, simply for being honest (and blunt). He left arguably the best line for last: “The truth is I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities,” he writes. “But I do have a near perfect GPA.”
What are your thoughts about this brutally honest cover letter? Would you ever take this approach?