Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why I'd Hire This Intern

There was a time, years ago, when companies were growing and eager to hire new college grads who showed promise.

I was one of those hiring executives going to the college job fairs,conducting the interviews, and speed reading the resumes.  It could be at times both exhausting and energizing depending on the quantity and the quality of the applications.

The Business Insider just shared a cover letter that's making the rounds on Wall Street because it stands out specifically because it doesn't fit the mold.  It comes from an undergrad looking for an internship who knows he's one of thousands applying to this company.  But rather than fill in the blanks on the standard cover letter template, he tells it like it is.  His blunt style is what's caught every one's attention, but I was impressed with his smarts.  Here's why:

It connects - His second sentence reminds the executive he's writing to that they've met before, in person.  He is not a nameless, faceless applicant.  They have a connection, albeit small, which buys him some time and some more reading.

Written in plain speak - How refreshing is it to read something that sounds just like a real person talks?  Since it was sent via email to someone he had met, he wisely chooses to take a more down-to-earth approach.  No catch phrases, no jargon, and no key words that'll impress the resume software.  He still makes key points about his major, his other internship, and the path he's charting for the future.  But, he surrounds that information with wording that feels less like an interview and more like a conversation.  It makes him a real person, and furthermore, acknowledges that he's writing to a real person.

It's realistic - He knows he only qualifies for an entry level internship, one that may include some pretty lowly errands.  Some might call this a humble approach, but I'd call it realistic.  He probably figured that out from his first internship.  So he puts it right out there - I'm not expecting anything special, just the chance to learn from professionals in whatever capacity is available.  That shows that he not only gets it, but that he'll have a good attitude about it.

Self awareness - He is not trying to be someone he isn't.  No puffed up accolade or exaggerations, yet he does manage to highlight his grades and his work ethic.  Notice how the positives come after the parts about how he's nothing special.  Yet, after a second read, you realize that he's not actually cutting himself down.  He's saying, I know who I am relative to others who might apply.  Often, self awareness is a sign of an open mind for learning, for feedback, and for growth.

No typos (almost) - The only word in the letter that's misspelled/typed is "crapp".  Intentionally misspelled?  We can't be sure, but the fact that the rest of the letter is well crafted and has no mistakes is an important balance to the plain speak.  It's shows a promise of professionalism.

Appropriate appreciation - In both the opening paragraph and the closing paragraph, he expresses appreciation for the executive's time.  First for having spent time with him at their initial meeting, and then for taking the time to consider his application.  Recognizing that an executive's time is valuable is both smart and refreshing.

If his resume is any good, I'd want him on my team.  Some of the best hires I made didn't fit the standard mold.  But they were smart, they worked hard, and they appreciated someone giving them a chance.  Now that, you can work with.