January 16, 2013

Job applicant tries the old honesty-modesty routine.

And it actually seems to work ... on Wall Street, where an old-fashioned rhetorical pose is received as refreshing.

22 comments:

the wolf said...

The most refreshing thing about the letter is that (with the very minor exception of misspelling "crap"), it's well-written, coherent, and to the point. I've worked with a lot of successful white-collar professionals who couldn't form a clear thought in writing.

rhhardin said...

Wall street has no judgment skills.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Rescue fantasies abound in the popular media.

ndspinelli said...

"The truth shall make you free."

john said...

I don't see much honesty in false modesty.

Shouting Thomas said...

God alone knows what to write in the cover letter. I've written too damned many in my career as a contractor.

I've often been tempted to write:

I've learned a dozen full programming languages, twice that many scripting languages and an unfathomable number of application programs over the decades.

What the fuck makes you think I can't learn yours?


I've said as much in a few interviews, when I wasn't that excited about the job. Doesn't seem to work. That is, if you want the job.

Ann Althouse said...

A key line in the letter, as reprinted in the Daily Mail is: "I met you the summer before last at Smith & Wollensky's in New York when I was touring the east coast with my uncle, ***** ******"

Why put the name of your uncle in the letter unless it's intended to influence the hiring? Perhaps this person's seemingly refreshing attitude is just the cheeky confidence of a young person from a privileged background.

Would a guy working his way up from a working-class background ever write a letter like this?

Shouting Thomas said...

Bingo! Professor wins!

edutcher said...

The bit about the second tier university killed it for me. A lot of places that don't have the snob reputation can give you a very good education.

PS Know what you mean about languages, Shout.

john said...

I would recommend the Steak Wollensky. The roasted beet salad, and the wild mushroom go great with that entre. Because you were meeting people, I would guess that two glasses of cabernet would be needed. Skip desert, as you have to drive north after dinner.

That would come to $122.50 for your dinner; these ala carte places tend to cost a bit more. Add 18% tip. Thank goodness your uncle is paying for it.

bagoh20 said...

Honest or manipulative, if the facts are true, it doesn't matter. It was still effective, and it's good because you can't really tell which it is. I would interview him. Such letters are nearly all the same, so anything different helps a lot. As long as it turns out that he wasn't lying, it's gonna get him considered. That was the goal, so clearly it's a home run.

bagoh20 said...

"The bit about the second tier university killed it for me."

The inevitable consideration of that fact is unavoidable, so he simply defuses it right up front. If the person in power has low regard for Ivy League pretense, which is likely, then he just sealed the deal.

TML said...

Ann, why the assumption that the uncle name droppage was anything but a memory "jogger" for the recipient? Isn't that fair way to help someone recall meeting you? Do you think this is all insincere BS?

bagoh20 said...

Just do a thought experiment imagining he used the same facts, but wrote it with the usual embellishment style. You end up with something that never gets read past the first paragraph, or if it does, goes immediately into the thick stack.

Henry said...

I love the qualification about no "genius eccentricities"

Even if his uncle is Scrooge McDuck, that's a good line.

bagoh20 said...

When you are representing your employer you have to play it all straight-laced, facade and a bit fake just out of cultural norms. You can never admit weakness. You actually have to be dishonest (admit it or not).

When you have your own company or are representing yourself you have a very rare opportunity, a freedom, a challenge. I say take it and run with it.

phx said...

From a cover letter you want to get a sense that a real person exists there. If it reads like a sample from 101 Great Cover Letters then I have no reason to call you in for an interview. Finding something that's not poorly written and not boilerplate is unusual. I'd definitely want to interview him at least.

bagoh20 said...

For example, I'm do my own rules with punctuation. Maybe it's stupidity -%- maybe it's genius.

Michael said...

A working class guy could write the letter if he had an uncle who had taken him to Smith and Wollensky, otherwise no. A working class guy from outside New York would not know of Smith and Wollensky and would not know how to use it in the way it was used in the letter.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, why the assumption that the uncle name droppage was anything but a memory "jogger" for the recipient? Isn't that fair way to help someone recall meeting you? Do you think this is all insincere BS?"

Why would the letter recipient remember his uncle?

Why were they eating at an expensive restaurant and hobnobbing there with an investment banking person.

elkh1 said...

His aithletic prowess was irrelevant and distracting to an employer, except, may be, to an athletic dept.

A wall street firm doesn't need dumb jocks. He brags about 'a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you.' There's nothing modest about him, he is smart to brag about things that are important to an employer.

By the way, who claimed the letter the "best cover letter ever"? Not very modest, aren't we? Who let the newspaper know about "the best cover letter ever", about his athletic achievements in high school, and attends an "average" university like SDSU?

A real life firm, not one of those pretend firms you saw on TV, will hire those who are up to par not a mediocre kid who could write a cover letter and made a big deal of his high school athletic "achievement" to a newspaper.

Methadras said...

Ann Althouse said...

A key line in the letter, as reprinted in the Daily Mail is: "I met you the summer before last at Smith & Wollensky's in New York when I was touring the east coast with my uncle, ***** ******"

Why put the name of your uncle in the letter unless it's intended to influence the hiring? Perhaps this person's seemingly refreshing attitude is just the cheeky confidence of a young person from a privileged background.

Would a guy working his way up from a working-class background ever write a letter like this?


According to the letter, he didn't put the name of his uncle in the letter, but rather his occupation, an MLB Umpire.