Covering Letter Etiquette

Case Study: What not to do when establishing contact with employers

The situation

Please note this is a real life case. Names have been omitted to protect the identity of the parties involved.

A student looking for work experience sent email to employer requesting to work shadow a member of the team, but addressed the email to the wrong company name!

Employer's response

…Having worked in media for more than 30 years, the one thing that many of us hate is the ‘standard’ letter, sent to dozens of companies with just the name of the company changed each time.

You sent me the same letter you sent to xxx but forgot to put my company name in it instead of theirs. Because you were careless I wouldn’t ever give you a job. I want to work with people who are careful and pay attention to detail.

Your approach was lazy, too. I want to know that you have learned about my company and tried to understand what I do. I want you to tell me how you can help me. I want to know why you would like to work with me and how I might be able to help you.

If you had done these things I would have asked you to meet with me and considered working with you. I work with at least one student every year; this year I worked with two and right now I do have a vacancy.

I’m not here to help you get your 20 industry hours; I’m here to make money producing good films. If I can help you at the same time, I will. But you have to ask properly.

Now you’ve had your first lesson from me. Take this email and share it with your fellow students. Sit down with a course tutor and discuss your approach and my response. Decide whether I’m right or a dickhead (or possibly both).

More importantly, where your course, your work experience and your career are concerned, try a little harder. Then, when you are a huge success, remember this lesson and who taught you it.

Best wishes…

Moral of the story

Detail

Attention to detail is extremely important in all communications. If you get it wrong the first time, you might ruin your chances with an employer for future opportunities.

Targeting

Always write a targeted cover letter for each role you apply indicating clearly that you have done your research about the company and share their passion about their industry.

Benefits

Tell them how they will benefit from having you on board.

Proofreading

Remember to double check what you are sending before hitting send.