Wall Street: The anatomy of the 'best cover letter ever'

Harold Maass
The Week
"I have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes, or picking up laundry, and will work for next to nothing," writes one brave Wall Street intern applicant.

A young finance major looking for an internship wins over hotshot investment bankers by admitting there's nothing special about him

It's every wannabe intern's dilemma: How to write a cover letter that impresses employers who need you a lot less than you need them. Here's a bit of a "shocker," says Maseena Ziegler at Forbes: On Wall Street, being absurdly, aggressively humble can be just the way to get the attention of hardnosed financial executives. At least, it certainly appears to have done the trick for one "brutally honest and hilariously self-deprecating" college student who applied for a low-paying and, if necessary, demeaning job at a boutique investment bank. Here's the part that made the recipient promptly forward the missive to colleagues, and declare, "This might be the best cover letter I've ever received":

I am aware it is highly unusual for undergraduates from average universities like (BLOCKED) to intern at (BLOCKED), but nevertheless I was hoping you might make an exception. 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.

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I won't waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crapp (sic) 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.

Applications from aspiring interns get forwarded around from time to time, and some of them are so funny they go viral, say Julia La Roche and Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider. Usually, however, they're such a hit because "the applicant is totally full of themselves or completely clueless," and everyone gets a kick out of laughing at their naiveté. This one is different, though. This applicant turns his lack of experience into a plus, prompting everyone in the email thread to agree that "the letter shows energy and pluck and honesty."

"It probably bodes well for his future in the industry that his risk paid dividends," says Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker. Many daring letters from hungry undergraduate finance majors no doubt go straight into the trash. This applicant's note was "blasted to entire listservs of Wall Street bigshots," eliciting a string of praise for bravery. "THIS IS AWESOME," one exec exclaimed, caps locked. "No joke, I think we should consider this guy," one investment banker said. "I wouldn't be surprised if this guy gets at least a call from every bank out there."

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It's easy to see why this "courageous tactic worked," says Australia's Adelaide Now. Wall Street bankers must get tired of the endless stream of inflated letters from internship applicants "highlighting their brilliant skills, boasting about their past experience," and insisting nobody could possibly be better for the job. This must have come as "a refreshing change."

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