It sounds odd that I should tell you how to write a compelling first and then tell you about the worst cover letter in the world. But believe me, this is something that might make your day. The cover letter was written by a guy named Mark, a NYU junior who’s trying to get a summer position at J.P. Morgan. This is his cover letter:
Dear Sir or Madame:
I am an ambitious undergraduate at NYU triple majoring in Mathematics, Economics, and Computer Science. I am a punctual, personable, and shrewd individual, yet I have a quality which I pride myself on more than any of these.
I am unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker I know, and I love self-improvement. I have always felt that my time should be spent wisely, so I continuously challenge myself; I left Villanova because the work was too easy. Once I realized I could achieve a perfect GPA while holding a part-time job at NYU, I decided to redouble my effort by placing out of two classes, taking two honors classes, and holding two part-time jobs. That semester I achieved a 3.93, and in the same time I managed to bench double my bodyweight and do 35 pull-ups.
I say these things only because solid evidence is more convincing than unverifiable statements, and I want to demonstrate that I am a hard worker. J.P. Morgan is a firm with a reputation that precedes itself and employees who represent only the best and rightest in finance. I know that the employees in this firm will push me to excellence, especially within the Investment Banking division. In fact, one of the supporting reasons I chose Investment Banking over any other division was that I know it is difficult. I hope to augment my character by diligently working for the professionals at Morgan Stanley, and I feel I have much to offer in return.
I am proficient in several programming languages, and I can pick up a new one very quickly. For instance, I learned a years worth of Java from NYU in 27 days on my own; this is how I placed out of two including: Money and Banking, Analysis, Game Theory, Probability and Statistics. Even further, I am taking Machine Learning and Probabilistic Graphical Modeling currently, two programming courses offered by Stanford, so that I may truly offer the most if I am accepted. I am proficient with Bloomberg terminals, excellent with excel, and can perform basic office functions with terrifying efficiency. I have plenty of experience in the professional world through my internship at Merrill Lynch, and my research assistant position at NYU. In fact, my most recent employer has found me so useful that he promoted me to a Research Assistant and an official CTED intern. This role is usually reserved for Masters students, but my employer gave the title to me so that he could give me more work.
Please realize that I am not a braggart or conceited, I just want to outline my usefulness. Egos can be a huge liability, and I try not to have one.
Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
He literally became the laughing stock of Wall Street overnight, since this cover letter was forwarded to every other investment bank on Wall Street and even sites like Gawker and Business Insider have poked fun at this masterpiece of failure.
But what makes it so bad? Well for starters, he shouldn’t have specifically put his GPA in his cover letter (that’s what his resume is for) and he definitely shouldn’t have said that he could bench press twice his body weight and do 35 pull-ups. It was for a position at an investment bank, not for a gym!
Also, you may realize in the first few paragraphs, he’s saying things like “ambitious … punctual, personable, and shrewd … unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker” and other things like “I pride myself on more than any of these … the work was too easy … perfect GPA”. I’m not saying it’s wrong to speak highly of yourself in a cover letter, or even in your resume, but Mark is clearly overdoing it to the point where he’s just all words and no substance. Your cover letter should be concise and to the point, unlike Mark’s.
Did you notice that he mentioned 2 different companies in his cover letter? They were J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley – a very embarrassing mistake! This is an obvious tell-tale sign that Mark is using a cover letter template or cutting and pasting the exact same cover letter structure and sending it off to several other investment banks or what not. And in this same paragraph, you can tell he’s just writing a whole load of BS. It’s a meaningless paragraph. The paragraph doesn’t show what Mark can actually do for the company.
Speaking of paragraphs, Mark’s cover letter is a whopping 6 paragraphs long! The cover letter is too long and too ambiguous for an employer to know what Mark is all about. Well, actually that’s not true, he can bench press twice body weight and mix up the company’s name with a competitor in the same industry.
So overall, the mistakes in this cover letter was that Mark was unprofessional (the bench press bit), too verbose (excessive use of adjectives and meaningless words) and sloppy (mentioned a rival company in the cover letter). Therefore, in order to avoid these cover letter mistakes, you’ve got to be professional, get to the point and make sure you proof read your cover letter, even have someone else read it for you for mistakes.
Just a final point I’d like to mention, the biggest kicker of this cover letter is actually the final line. “Please realize that I am not a braggart or conceited, I just want to outline my usefulness. Egos can be a huge liability, and I try not to have one.” I wonder what Mark was doing the entire time?!? Post your comments below.