Last week, this Wall Street Journal cover letter went viral, singled out by readers for its bluntness, including lines like, “I have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes or picking up laundry, and will work for next to nothing.”
1. The student had a connection. He mentions it in the opening line: “I met you the summer before last at Smith & Wollensky’s in New York when I was touring the east coast with my uncle.” This shows that the student remembers this connection and reminds the contact (if he or she doesn’t remember). It shows that this meeting left a lasting impact on the student and also establishes some sort of relationship.
2. He’s personable and straight to the point. Some cover letters sound very formal, but this one comes off as conversational. The student doesn’t him-haw around: “I am writing you to inquire about a possible summer internship in your office.”
3. He’s honest about his lack of skills, but has some relevant experience that shows his drive. He’s taken classes in investment banking and interned for Merrill Lynch.
4. He’s looking for a summer internship in January, which shows initiative. This isn’t a last-minute cover letter.
5. The cover letter is written well and mostly grammatically correct. Except for spelling of “crapp.”
While this particular cover letter may have worked for this person, it doesn’t always work to be so open and bold. A few things that may not work for this student in the future:
- Selling yourself short (“will work for next to nothing”). This may backfire in the future, when you take a salary less than what you’re actually worth.
- Calling your university “average.” Maybe rephrase it to, “a school without the name recognition of other schools.”
- He could have emailed this person right after meeting, so his name is fresher in the employer’s mind. He met him over the summer and is emailing him now. While this guy’s a total early-bird-gets-the-worm type by inquiring about summer internships in January, he could have made the contact stronger if he would have contacted the person right after meeting him. It’s never too early to start networking!
Overall, this cover letter should inspire students everywhere to not limit themselves in terms of what they should and shouldn’t apply for. What does it hurt to take a chance and present yourself in the best and most honest light possible?