A young friend of mine called Mark asked me to look over a letter of application he is writing for a Grad job in the City. It was a good letter, full of earnest expressions of enthusiasm for the job he was applying for, direct and honest about his achievements to date. Anyone reading it would get a clear picture of the sincere, diligent young man writing it.
Along with the other couple of thousand hopefuls writing virtually identical letters.
The content was factual, yet a little uninspiring. The font used was Times New Roman , only slightly less commonplace than the air we breathe. No pictures.
Nothing to pull it out from the crowd.
Instead of simply rewriting it using literary or HR skills, I set about writing a version of the letter that asked questions in the right place – throwing the gauntlet back at the person reading it, challenging them to notice what was different about this applicant. The sentences became shorter, more direct. Word pictures created metaphors and allegories. A modern parable in the shape of a stone skimming across the water started to form. The idea of a horizon becoming closer the harder you look at it gathered shape and was quietly slipped in.
When I sent it back to Mark I suggested that he create two personas and send one as himself and one alter ego adding a middle initial into his name – and see which got the response. After all, he could be the person he chose to be, couldn’t he?
Marketing yourself is a challenging concept. We English naturally shrink away from it. Yet the person with the most flexibility has the most power. Gently introduce the idea in the head of the recruiter that your CV is the one that will bring the horizon closer and this image will be very hard to shift.
The letter written with the help of Auto-Response Psychology – a people-changing discipline developed at Powerchange.com – is reprinted below.
Have you got a horizon to bring closer?
CV after CV after CV after CV. How can so many people share the same lives? The last person you want for the Analyst Sales and Trading role is just another pebble on the beach. What would it be like to find the one who slips smoothly into the hand, flies highest, skims furthest and bounces fourteen times on the water?
If you didn’t, you could just open the window and whistle.
I spent the Summer of 2008 in Equities at CS trying the banking suit on for size and finding that it fitted. My time in Prime Services was very useful, but it was when I joined the Sales and Trading Department that the adrenaline really flowed.
Why me, why Megabank? I like the fact that the Megabank brand adorns most skylines and horizons – evidenced recently by its recognition as best foreign bank in The Philippines by Alpha South East Asia Magazine. For someone who has traveled widely, this global reach is a huge asset when considering career – and investment options.
Diversity and reach in combination appeal to me. At CS I sat at a number of desks within Sales and Trading – across both Fixed Income and Equities and I noticed that the horizon gets closer the harder you look. My CV suggests that I have invested in myself – which is why I would like you to as well. I have a good understanding of the investment process and the skills needed to turn investments into profits. So when you’re cooking new Analysts this means less simmer, more taste.
Prove it, I hear you say. Ok, take my primary summer project at CS. This asked me to find new futures clearing business from existing Prime broker clients. It climaxed in a successful presentation to senior management demonstrating an ability to sell an idea and conduct my own research.
This ability is looking for its place in the market. Wouldn’t it be exciting to pick it up and see whether you can hit the horizon with it?
When the primary objective of the covering latter & CV is to entice the reader to meet the candidate, this most surely should hit the spot.
It clearly shows the art of the possibility using Auto Response technology. However, will it raise expectations of a candidate who significantly sets themselves apart from the competition both in terms of their thinking and presentations (writing) skills?
Having said that: who cares if you’ve secured the interview?
Because I knew the candidate I wrote the letter for, I could write it in his style. He is capable of living up to it in interview!
Letters of application are generally rather soul-less and having been on the receiving end of many of them, I though that it would be interesting to use psychology to help the recipient distinguish between them!