There are many smart and strategic ways to stand out from the competition, demonstrate knowledge of a prospective employer's business, impress the reader with one's command of the English language and secure a summer internship.
And, then there is this steaming pile that found its way to my in-box on Wednesday:
“Hey my name is Clueless McWhocares and I am from Long Island, NY. I'm going to be a senior at Pineapple State University in Pineapple Kansas where I also play football and major In Political Science and minor in communications. I'm desperately trying to get a jump on other students who are attempting to get internships for the summer, So that is why I am contacting you guys now. I am really interested in Public Relations and would like to know if you have any internships for the summer of 2012? “
College and university students as well as recent grads should study this e-mail as a worst case example.
Let me share with you just a few of its fundamental flaws:
– It begins with “Hey”. As my mom loved to say, “Hay is for horses”. If I don't know you and you're connecting with me for the first time, try a salutation along the lines of Dear Steve or Dear Mr. Cody.
– I counted at least four grammatical mistakes in the first two sentences. That's akin to a death sentence for any job seeker. Show me you don't care enough to check the spelling, punctuation and grammar in a cover note to me and I guarantee I won't let you within a football field's length of my clients.
– “That's why I'm contacting you guys now.” You guys? You guys may work in the huddle of this guy's college football team, but it's a critical fumble in a cover note. Again, lose the tone of familiarity and text abbreviations you use with your buds. I don't think our contacts at Fortune 500 corporations would appreciate their Peppercom account manager addressing them as “you guys” in monthly reports that they, in turn, forward to senior management.
– “That's why I'm interested in Public Relations.” What's why you're interested in public relations? The student hasn't told me anything about his experience, relevant internships or why he's gravitating towards public relations as opposed to, say, bricklaying.
– Last, but not least, there's no closing to the letter. No yours sincerely, Best wishes or even Regards. Nada. Just white space. That makes me feel special. Very special indeed.
The final nail in this student's coffin is the impression that his note was one of hundreds blasted to PR firms across the country. I don't like spam from vendors, stockbrokers or measurement firms. And, I really don't like them from students.
So, study this missive from hell and learn from it. Tailor your cover notes, use formal business language that is grammatically correct and last, but not least, show me you've taken the time to study my organization. Otherwise, you WILL end up as a bricklayer, Wal-Mart greeter, McDonald's burger flipper or some other dead-end job. One thing you will NOT get is a summer internship at a top PR firm or corporation.