I get approximately two intern or job applications per day. Most are from smart, well-educated and well-intentioned people, but many make needless blunders.
This one I received last week has, unfortunately, become typical:
“Hey Doug how’s it going. I was checking out your website and really like what you guys are doing. I’ve always wanted to be in advertising. I like being creative and making people laugh.
I am just writing my final exams for (Educational Institution). Here is my resume. I look forward to hearing back from you soon and finding out how I can help Copeland Communications.
Students, if you are reading, please note that the informality of this email may seem a human way of making contact. You may even think that it positions you as a confident and creative person.
You may well be, but it does not.
I beg you not to send a prospective employer such an email. Advertising is among the most casual of professions you might approach. If it doesn’t work for us, it won’t work anywhere. Let’s go through the specifics:
“Hey Doug” is probably the worse possible way you could start a letter meant to show you are ready for a job in the real world. I am not your buddy. “Dear Doug” will do nicely. When we are buds, Hey is fine.
“how’s it going?” A lack of punctuation between the salutation and the first line of your pitch is going to get you “filed”, by which case I mean into the blue bin. Increasingly, the informality of texting and chatting is finding its way into professional correspondence. Ask your prof, or your parents, to proof it for suitable tonality if you have any doubts.
Also “how’s it going?” works great for a postcard to your grandma when you’re backpacking through Europe.
Jumping ahead to your ability to make people laugh. Terrific if you’re applying for a gig in a comedy cabaret; useless if you are trying to get into advertising. How many great comedians do you know who work in advertising? Our job is not to make people laugh. It’s to motivate them to buy. Sometimes humour works, but honestly now, when was the last time you saw a laugh-out-loud advertisement?
Hearing back from me soon. So, the onus is now on me to figure out what you want, what your skills are, how you could fit in the agency and hunt you down to tell you. Ain’t going to happen.
“thanks”. Why not “cheers man”… or “later dude”?
I’m sorry, I’m just being honest here. Not many employers will tell you they “filed” your resume, but I will.
You have shown absolutely nothing to convince me that you are creative or well-suited to my business. I will tell you because I think you have to do better. And I’m sure you can.
You’ve got 4 years in (your educational institution)? Please go back and show them my reply, have my sanity confirmed, and ask them how you should go about applying for a job.
Then write me again. Or better yet, find a more compelling way of stating your case.
(The illustration comes from the amazing Natalie Dee, a sharing machine comic.)