The Template

Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

Why Recent Grads Can Have Imperfect Cover Letters

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Eagerness: the best skill you’ve got.

This is a message to all recent grads who feel compelled to claim they are perfect for a job.

Matthew Ross told a Wall Street financial firm his resume is flawed — and they hired him.

CNNMoney reports the college student wrote a ‘brutally honest’ cover letter for a competitive internship at Duff and Phelps.

Here are the two key sections:

“I am extremely interested in investment banking and would love nothing more than to learn under your tutelage. I have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes or picking up laundry, and will work for next to nothing. In all honesty, I just want to be around professionals in the industry and gain as much knowledge as I can.

[I] won’t waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crap about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship. The truth is I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities, but I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you.”

Read the full cover letter here.

But wait…where is the part about Matthew’s “perfect” skillset? His honors and distinctions? His swagger and (over)confidence?

What kind of young professional cover letter is this?!

Oh, just the kind employers actually want to read. Did you notice the two most impressive parts?

“I would love nothing more than to learn under your tutelage.”

“I just want to…gain as much knowledge as I can.”

A young person who can admit he still has a lot to learn. How refreshing.

Don’t you think employers see the opposite kind of job application 20 times a day? The one that implies, I know I’m only 22, but I have it all figured out. So just bring me on board and let the magic happen.

I read one cover letter recently in which a girl called herself a public relations “guru.”

She graduated from college this past May.

Guru? Leo Burnett was a PR guru. The girl is a newbie who knows little of the real world (especially this stuff).

Ross’s cover letter strategy is beautiful because it isn’t a strategy at all. He bluntly says I am who I am. He wagered a boss would rather hire a low-level employee short on skills but long on attitude. He was right.

***For more help, see the template I created for a young professional cover letter.***

It’s a strength, not weakness, to tell a boss you have a lot to learn.

I suspect many employers relish the chance to mold a young person and share their knowledge. It’s much better than the alternative: endure an entitled Millennial who “knows” everything.

Let other young adult applicants prove the unprovable: how someone with little to no work experience is, in fact, a seasoned vet who doesn’t need coaching.

As for you? Promise to work like mad and soak up the wisdom from everyone around you.

Matthew Ross did. And look what happened.


Have more questions on how to write an “honest” cover letter?

Ask ’em below!

Featured photo: Suncor Energy (Flickr)


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