Green Room

College kid sends blunt, no-BS cover letter to Wall St., goes viral

posted at 1:58 pm on January 16, 2013 by

Behold, a Millenial who doesn’t think he’s a perfect, wondrous snowflake worthy of all you have to offer and more. Click over for the pdf copy of the letter.

Sometimes we get forwarded applications for summer internships on Wall Street that are extremely embarrassing because the applicant is totally full of themselves or completely clueless…

It turns that the cover letter originally sent to a boutique investment bank is exactly the opposite.

The cover letter below is unapologetically honest and people on Wall Street are calling it one of the best letters they have seen. Everyone on the thread agrees the letter shows energy and pluck and honesty.

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How often I’ve been tempted to, in response to some stupendously moronic question on a job application like “Why do you want to work at X?” in the following manner instead of the required flowery arse-kissing BS:

“I want to work at X because I want to deal with the ill-dressed, mannerless boors you have for customers, the manager who directly inspired at least one Dilbert cartoon, and the coworkers who have the collective IQ of asparagus all without any compensation whatsoever.”

MelonCollie on January 16, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Solid. That kid restored a little bit of my faith in my generation.

Mr. Prodigy on January 16, 2013 at 2:11 PM

If I had a son, he would look like that kid!

Night Owl on January 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

When I had my youngest child, I decided to take a step down in order to work less hours. Every interview I went on, someone asked me why I would take a step down, and told me I was over qualified. I would answer them with all the pat answers, but I finally got fed up and said, “I like this type of work and I’m very good at it. It’s what I am going to do whether you hire me or not.” He ended the interview (which was going very well) and said he would let me know. By the time I got home, there was a message on my machine offering me the job.

lea on January 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Except for the fetching coffee statement, it pretty much falls in line with how I talk to any perspective employer when I get the first chance on the phone.

It works very well, in fact, I have yet to fail to get a job once I get a call from an employer. Since I usually work through head hunting agencies though, I do not write up cover letters.

astonerii on January 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM

How often I’ve been tempted to, in response to some stupendously moronic question on a job application like “Why do you want to work at X?” in the following manner instead of the required flowery arse-kissing BS:
MelonCollie on January 16, 2013 at 2:10 PM

A moronic question deserves a non-moronic question; in this case:

<em>”Shouldn’t YOU be telling ME that?”

The reason nearly anyone wants a job is to make money. If he only has one option, he has no choice but to take it out of desperation – no matter what tripe he writes on an application. But if he has more than one offer then it’s up to the employers to woo him, not the other way around.

logis on January 16, 2013 at 2:21 PM

I thought he sent in a “blunt”. I thought that was pretty crazy until I realized it was the kind of “blunt” I was thinking about.

Flange on January 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

I’d take 1 of these kids over 4 of my current employees.

portlandon on January 16, 2013 at 2:43 PM

It’s a nice letter but if it’s that unusual I have to wonder about the personnel practices at college placement offices.

That said , I doubt anything can touch my late father’s insistence that I emblazon any cover letters I wrote with the bold-faced headline, FUTURE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE SEEKS EMPLOYMENT WITH YOUR FIRM. He, after all, claimed to have landed his first job in advertising by betting a prospective employer $5 (a decent sum in 1920) he could write copy.

I did get a few friendly responses but no jobs with that classic Madison Avenue sales pitch before losing my nerve entirely.

Seth Halpern on January 16, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Beautiful.

It’s remarkable that this is so remarkable!

ConservativeLA on January 16, 2013 at 2:47 PM

am i the only one who does not understand what’s so special about this? actually it comes across as kind of desperate to me. “omg i will shine shoes and work for next to nothing!!!11″ wtf? (and how will fetching coffee and shining shoes help you learn from professionals? come on.)

i’m a college student and when i read advice on how to write cover letters, they don’t describe anything like this. they want you to write down why you are interested in that particular field (the person who wrote this letter never actually explained WHY they liked investment banking) and they want you to write about your skills and talents. how come this person is seen as being so special, when they don’t have any skills or talents?

employers, if this is the way you want us to write cover letters then TELL US THAT. i’ve never heard any advice to write a cover letter that looks like this and yet you all are so in love with this letter. it’s strange to me.

Sachiko on January 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM

The problem is that by being so self-deprecating to the point that it actually got people to notice in a positive way, now a lot of people will try to write completely self-deprecating letters only to find that those applications will find themselves in file 13 just as readily as their grandiose ones.

Logus on January 16, 2013 at 3:07 PM

@sachiko – the kid is honest, humble, and thinks outside the box. That’s good advice for anyone to follow, however you may need to customize it for yourself.

Re employers not telling you this: You’ll find as you get older that employers dislike having to explain everything to you. They’ll give you half the information you need to do your job and expect you to figure out the other half. That line from “The Devil Wears Prada” is a good one: “Please bore someone else with your questions.” Sounds rude but it’s how a lot of employers think.

mrsknightley on January 16, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Excuse me but I fail to see the greatness of this mediocre letter. Has the bar really been lowered this much nowdays?

trs on January 16, 2013 at 3:12 PM

If I had a son, he would look like that kid!

Night Owl on January 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

I do have a son, and he does look like this.

I’m currently on the job market, and I wish I could send a cover letter in a similar vein. However, in Higher Ed, the better you BS, the more they look at you. I actually do have some pretty extensive credentials, but they don’t do me much good outside of the halls of academe. Relocating in the middle of a career is a beyotch.

College Prof on January 16, 2013 at 3:14 PM

employers, if this is the way you want us to write cover letters then TELL US THAT. i’ve never heard any advice to write a cover letter that looks like this and yet you all are so in love with this letter. it’s strange to me.

Sachiko on January 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Watch, now every cover letter will be the same, and then it won’t be of any use anymore because it will have become as much BS as the original.

I was in an interview once and they asked me about my ability to use a certain machine I had never used before. I said if other people have learned to use it I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t as well. I was later told that is what got me the job. I’m sure a certain level of just plain honesty is refreshing.

Night Owl on January 16, 2013 at 3:14 PM

am i the only one who does not understand what’s so special about this? actually it comes across as kind of desperate to me. “omg i will shine shoes and work for next to nothing!!!11″ wtf? (and how will fetching coffee and shining shoes help you learn from professionals? come on.)

That was a joke about the typical responsibilities of interns, who typically get paid next to nothing to do menial tasks. If he was desperate, he wouldn’t have taken the risk of saying that he isn’t anything special. It showed honesty that people who apply for jobs usually chuck aside in exchange for self-puffery.

i’m a college student and when i read advice on how to write cover letters, they don’t describe anything like this. they want you to write down why you are interested in that particular field (the person who wrote this letter never actually explained WHY they liked investment banking) and they want you to write about your skills and talents. how come this person is seen as being so special, when they don’t have any skills or talents?

Again, it was the honesty that came across as so refreshing, the humble sense he had about himself that so many cover letters don’t have.

employers, if this is the way you want us to write cover letters then TELL US THAT. i’ve never heard any advice to write a cover letter that looks like this and yet you all are so in love with this letter. it’s strange to me.

Sachiko on January 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM

The point of this cover letter was to stand out in a crowd, to make himself seem markedly different than other applicants.

Personally, I’d be scared to send off a letter like this one. I think I’ll stick to buzz words about my own skills and an inflated list of responsibilities at my last job.

vegconservative on January 16, 2013 at 3:18 PM

@trs – it’s not a great letter in terms of writing quality or even content generally, but it’s hugely significant that the kid openly stated his willingness to do the gruntwork most folks complain about. Employers want people they can command without any pushback, and that’s what this guy volunteered for.

mrsknightley on January 16, 2013 at 3:19 PM

He did what every good cover letter should do – set him apart from the other hundreds of resumes coming in.

Just on that basis he’s worth a look because he showed a little bit of initiative and stones. Whether it’s BS is up to the company to decide.

kim roy on January 16, 2013 at 3:21 PM

Excuse me but I fail to see the greatness of this mediocre letter. Has the bar really been lowered this much nowdays?

trs on January 16, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Yes.

kim roy on January 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Actually, he just covered the basics that really matter.
Works hard and is proud of his efforts (grades)
Willing to learn at all costs. ( Continuing Education)

Lacking these two, you got nothing.

Jabberwock on January 16, 2013 at 3:32 PM

I thought he sent in a “blunt”. I thought that was pretty crazy until I realized it was the kind of “blunt” I was thinking about.

Flange on January 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

…it was shmooooooooookin’ nonetheless!

KOOLAID2 on January 16, 2013 at 3:41 PM

“…I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you

This!

morbius on January 16, 2013 at 3:57 PM

Blunt, No BS Response from Potential Employer:

Thanks for sending your resume and cover letter attempting to set you apart. Truth is if I want someone to empty the trash or get me coffee I’ll hire a large breasted, tight wasted womynz. What I expect from my employees is someone who will make me money. I’ll pass your resume on to our cleaning agency.

Best Regards,

Not Your Boss

trs on January 16, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Relocating in the middle of a career is a beyotch.

College Prof on January 16, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Prof, maybe it is daunting in the field that you have grown accustomed to, but I changed careers three times and yes it was tough the last time. I was over 45 and went from a high paying aerospace engineering job to a commercial software support job at roughly 2/3 the salary. It was a decision that was made jointly with my family. I did it because I was tired of commuting 50+ miles one way, working 12 – 16 hours a day and being pigeon-holed in a thankless, step-n-fetch, repetitive job. I work 7 miles from home, travel only occasionally, and I got to spend time with my family on week nights and got to go to events with them.

If you want something enough, you will figure a way of making it happen. BTW, good luck!

belad on January 16, 2013 at 4:38 PM

trs on January 16, 2013 at 4:17 PM

No loss for the would-be intern.
The difference between a BOSS and a mentor/leader is the following example:

If something that you company makes has to be at the customer’s front door Monday morning, and it is Friday afternoon, and it will take the better part of a day and half to get the item produced…

The BOSS will say, “Ok, its Friday afternoon and this has to be at the customer Monday morning. You people need to do whatever it takes to make sure that it gets delivered by Monday morning! Oh, I have a tee time in 30 minutes, so you guys get cracking. I’ll see you Monday morning!”

The mentor/leader will say, “OK, its Friday afternoon and we are going to have to make sure this gets out the door and to the customer by Monday. I may not be able to help you build it, but I will make sure you don’t have any road-blocks and if it takes the weekend to get it done, I’ll be here to do what I can to see to it you get what you need.”

By your own words, your sure sound like a BOSS, not any mentor I would want to work for, so I don’t see a down side to the prospective intern for you taking a pass.

belad on January 16, 2013 at 4:54 PM

Relocating in the middle of a career is a beyotch.

College Prof on January 16, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Well, especially right now. Prior to 2009, I had never not gotten an interview after sending a resume to a posted listing. And I got offers from at least half of my interviews.

When commercial construction collapsed in 2009 I tried to shift to the energy side of structural engineering–and where six months before I was getting headhunting calls trying to find people to make this switch, I couldn’t get email acknowledgements or return phone calls from anyone, even where in some cases I had a personal reference.

If you’re over 40 in the current market, it’s a different world. Hopefully starting to thaw a bit, but still.

TexasDan on January 16, 2013 at 5:08 PM

It ought to be kept in mind that this was not a total ‘cold call’ sort of letter.

The young man had met the businessman before, and the businessman presumably know the young man’s uncle.

krome on January 16, 2013 at 5:09 PM

The main reason this cover letter is so “honest” is because very few grad students have any real marketable skills or useful knowledge – until they’ve gotten out into the real world. This “kid” admits that and says:

“Hey, my two qualifications are that I’m smart and hard-working enough to get good grades, and I will bring that hard work to your firm. Oh, and I’m not too proud to do the little stuff that I know I will have to do in a starting/intern position.”

As to interviews… I have determined that in the next interview where I am asked “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” that my answer will be “Ash, so I can be made into a baseball bat and used to beat you for asking such a stupid question.” Then I will rise and say, “Don’t call me; I’ll call you.” I only got asked the stupid interview questions a couple of times, and wouldn’t have taken a job offer at any firm that had asked them. I also have never asked those questions when interviewing someone.

Honest, clear answers to hard questions, that show your work ethic, willingness to learn, and adaptability will get you a second look, usually, if you’re qualified (or close to qualified if there’s no one in that ‘qualified’ pool). And, this cover letter showed up front that those are the kind of answers this applicant will give.

GWB on January 16, 2013 at 5:15 PM

I do so despite writing cover letters. If I need to explain to somebody why I’m applying for a job, I might also expect the company to include a letter stating why they need to search for outside employees to fill an opening…

Jeddite on January 16, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Excuse me but I fail to see the greatness of this mediocre letter. Has the bar really been lowered this much nowdays?
trs on January 16, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Personally, I don’t even see it as “mediocre.”

A cover letter is only useful for one thing: to show the applicant’s ability to GET TO THE POINT. This is an utter failure.

As near as I can tell, the guy is begging for some sort of job as a personal assistant. The first qualification I demand of any assistant can be summed up in four words:

Don’t. Waste. My. Time.

In a single sentence, he says there’s “nothing special” about him, and that he has a “near-perfect” academic record. Presumably, the latter is included in his resume and the former comprises everything in the Universe that isn’t in his resume. It’s arguably something of an accomplishment to be simultaneously so consummately self-aggrandizing, self-effacing, redundant and self-contradictory. Each of those traits are individually awful. But taken together they are literally the LAST combination of qualifications I would want in any employee.

Granted, whenever a cover letter contains too much fluff, I’m forced to expend considerable effort to completely erase it from my mind and and try to give the self-professed narcissist a break. But as near as I can recall I’ve seen very few more “flowery” than this one.

logis on January 16, 2013 at 6:26 PM

am i the only one who does not understand what’s so special about this? actually it comes across as kind of desperate to me. “omg i will shine shoes and work for next to nothing!!!11″ wtf? (and how will fetching coffee and shining shoes help you learn from professionals? come on.)

employers, if this is the way you want us to write cover letters then TELL US THAT. i’ve never heard any advice to write a cover letter that looks like this and yet you all are so in love with this letter. it’s strange to me.

Sachiko on January 16, 2013 at 2:58 PM

You aren’t the only one, but you’re in the minority, apparently, at least according to the people who matter most i.e. those doing the hiring!

The cover letter below is unapologetically honest and people on Wall Street are calling it one of the best letters they have seen. Everyone on the thread agrees the letter shows energy and pluck and honesty.

I was in an interview once and they asked me about my ability to use a certain machine I had never used before. I said if other people have learned to use it I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t as well. I was later told that is what got me the job. I’m sure a certain level of just plain honesty is refreshing.

Night Owl on January 16, 2013 at 3:14 PM

I hope you remember me telling you that I liked your attitude! :)

Anti-Control on January 16, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Also.. No typos and don’t use “crap” in a cover letter.

Illinidiva on January 16, 2013 at 7:41 PM

I get glowing reviews at work that tend to make me out as the second coming. If I didn’t know better, I’d think my boss learned review writing from military OERs. I used read the thing every year and scratch my head. I’m nothing special, I just do the job. Then I realized that just doing the job is special.

I’m not the smartest or the fastest person on the job, but I am still here when those smarter, faster people got laid off. I just do the work and think of the business from the POV of the business. When I make a suggestion, it is always from the perspective of, “What will this do for the company,” not, “What will this do for me?”

When I was interviewed for the job, my answer to why I wanted to work there was honest. I said that I wanted the job because I thought the company was solid and well-run and I thought it was a job I could do well. I was hired before I left the room.

Sometimes I think about the products we make and the number of people who depend on them without even knowing it (you are likely to almost certainly to be using at least one of our products right now and very likely had your life saved by one this very day). The lives and property we’ve saved just by doing our mundane little jobs makes the pontifications of politicians pale by comparison, yet no one even thinks of it.

This kid will go far. I don’t want a self-important egotist as an investment banker. I want a plodder who will do the work and learn. It’s us plodders who are willing to work and learn who make the good things happen.

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on January 16, 2013 at 11:11 PM

I get glowing reviews at work that tend to make me out as the second coming. If I didn’t know better, I’d think my boss learned review writing from military OERs. I used read the thing every year and scratch my head. I’m nothing special, I just do the job. Then I realized that just doing the job is special.

Yeah I’m learning that too. Turns out people are idiots.

I just got handed a financial report by an underling and it’s very wrong. She didn’t even check it over, just stuck in some numbers and sent it to me. *sigh* wish I could say that doesn’t happen often….

Is it really unusual to think “hmm what is it that so-and-so is expecting to see” and check to make sure it makes sense? That’s what I always did. Why do people think they can just provide the bare minimum (stick some numbers in a word document) and then go home?? Arghh

Sorry for the rant! :P

CityFish on January 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Straight talk works. I once pitched a guy that made custom exposure tables for photographic film. What our company was looking for, though, was the techniques he used to generate them so we wouldn’t have to go back to him every time we decided to add support for a different type of film to our product. When I told him that, he said: “Oh, so you want me to sell you the secrets of my business” in a somewhat challenging tone. I thought about it for a second, and said: “Yeah, that’s pretty much it.” He sat back for a moment, said he’d think about it, and we ended the meeting. A day later he had a proposal for exactly what we wanted that we could both accept.

Socratease on January 17, 2013 at 2:33 PM