For fresh-faced college graduates looking to land that first job, standing out from the crowd is never easy.
Matthew Ross did just that.
In January 2013 he penned a now famous email cover letter to a managing director at Wall Street firm Duff and Phelps asking for an internship. In it, he said he "won't waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crap about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship."
Ross also claimed to "have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes, or picking up laundry."
Read the full email cover letter here
The email quickly made its way across trading desks from New York to London, and within half an hour Ross was fielding calls from reporters and multiple employers looking to interview him.
Flash forward a year and a half and Ross has the job he wanted. He is an investment banking analyst at Duff & Phelps in Los Angeles. CNNMoney talked to him and some of his bosses to see how his no nonsense attitude proved fruitful.
A big gamble: When he sat down to write the cover letter, Ross yearned for an edge. He was about to graduate from San Diego State University. It's a good school but it lacked the prestige of some others in California, such as Cal-Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA and USC.
"I was reading through some cover letters, and they were all fluff to me, everyone was embellishing and lying," Ross said. "I wanted to take a fresh approach, tell the truth, and be brutally honest."
It worked. The Duff & Phelps managing director he emailed promptly got him an interview in the firm's L.A. office. "I was shocked. When I clicked send, I thought there was a 50% chance he'd respond," Ross said.
Foot in the door: With a 3.9 grade point average in accounting, Ross was obviously a strong candidate. But his resume was not too different from the hundreds of others that Duff & Phelps receives for internship opportunities, according to Sherry Cefali, who heads up the firm's L.A. office.
When Ross came in to interview, Cefali and the other hiring managers were extremely impressed. He was articulate and had good answers to the firm's tedious technical questions.
"The cover letter opened the door but he really did get the job on his own," Cefali said.
Treated like everyone else: Once Ross arrived at Duff & Phelps, he was placed right at the bottom of the totem pole and received no special attention. Still, he loved it.
"I was just pretty much thrown in," Ross said. "I tried to be disciplined, to work hard, to do what's asked of me without raising any questions or raising any flags."
That strategy promptly paid off. After only two months of his internship, Ross was offered a full-time job in the mergers and acquisitions group. He works mainly on deals involving the consumer, food, and retail sectors. The hours are grueling, but Ross relishes the rewarding feeling of finishing up a big deal. His superiors have taken notice.
"Matt's always the guy that's going to raise his hand," said Jordan Lampos, a Duff & Phelps vice president. "You know the work level is going to be good and there's going to be a high level of accountability. "
Advice for others: Lampos thinks that the fact that Ross didn't come from an elite university may have helped motivate him to succeed.
He said new employees who graduate from top colleges often have investment banks fawning over them, which can sometimes lead to a sense of entitlement. "They don't take it as seriously or they're not as grateful for it," he believes.
As for Ross, he tells investment banking hopefuls to stay resilient in their job search. Though he admits he "probably got lucky that the cover letter exploded the way he did," he's doing what he can to help others get noticed.
When SDSU students reach out to him for advice, he passes along their resumes to the human resources department at Duff & Phelps.
"Hopefully they'll get an interview or foot in door," he said. "It's up to them at that point."
CNNMoney (New York) First published July 30, 2014: 12:12 PM ET
Becoming a mogul doesn’t happen over night. Use our Real Estate Cover Letter and list of industry-specific writing tips to score the property-selling job of your dreams.
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Table of Contents
- Real Estate Cover Letter Sample
- Real Estate Cover Letter (Text Format)
- Four Industry Writing Tips
1. Real Estate Cover Letter Sample
Build your own Cover Letter
Download this cover letter for free as an MS Word file
Still looking for inspiration? Take a look at our library of cover letter examples to find the style that speaks to you.
2. Real Estate Cover Letter (Text Format)
January 1, 2018
Hiring Manager’s Name
123 Company Address
City, State, Zip Code
Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name],
I’m excited to be applying for the position of real estate agent at [Company Name]. While my 5+ years of experience is in both commercial and residential real estate, I look forward to directing my focus solely toward the acquisition of commercial investment properties with [Company Name].
My strengths broadly reside in client acquisition and profit generation through proactive networking and follow-up measures. However, there are a few specific achievements that I am particularly proud of from the past few years:
- Being honored with Best New Agent in 2014 by Gibson Realty
- Receiving Top Realtor of the Month award on four occasions
- Successfully implementing quarterly marketing and sales training seminars
What draws me to [Company Name] most notably is the marketing strategies that you employ. From cultivating relationships and cutting pricing deals with vendors to developing and maintaining marketing plans, my passion is in the sales aspect of real estate. I would love to merge that passion with the resources and marketing focus that [Company Name] boasts.
I’m eager to further discuss my qualifications with you face-to-face. Email me at [email protected] or call me at (xxx)-xxx-xxxx to set up an interview at your earliest convenience. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
3. Four Industry Writing Tips
Before you can start selling property at your new dream job, you need to sell yourself with a well-crafted cover letter. Follow these tips for an expert guide to doing just that.
1. Catch the Hiring Manager’s Eye Using Bullet Points
Your cover letter acts as a highlight reel of your resume. Pick out your most attention-grabbing achievements to draw in the hiring manager and include those as three or four bullet points in the body of your CL.
The bullet point format is beneficial for a couple of reasons:
First, it breaks up the format and makes for an easier read. While paragraph-only cover letters are entirely appropriate, they can come off as heavy and you risk the reader becoming bored.
The candidate gets to slide in a couple honors worth making note of, and they get to subtly indicate that their performance has been recognized by superiors in the past
With the bullet format, the hiring manager will immediately be drawn to the page and their attention will be broken and subsequently revitalized over the course of their read with the jazzed-up format.
Second, the bullet format allows for a concise recap of major achievements. Rather than trying to fit in every accomplishment you’ve collected over your years of experience, you can pack in your most noteworthy successes by dividing their mention between paragraphs and bullets.
For example, this is a great place to include awards and achievements.
Achievements in real estate are often recognized in an official capacity. Include one or two that you’re particularly proud of in your cover letter to add some extra flare.
The best place to insert such commendations is in the bullet point section like the candidate does below:
By doing this, the candidate gets to slide in a couple honors worth making note of, and they get to subtly indicate that their performance has been recognized by superiors in the past.
2. Don’t Forget that You’re Speaking TO Someone
No matter whose hands your CL ends up in, you’re relaying what you have to say to a person – not a brick wall. Speak to them with a level of familiarity and ease instead of a distance tone.
There are two key areas where applicants should be particularly concerned with employing a conversational voice.
For starters, your address line should NEVER read:
Instead, it should read something like this:
- Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name],
Do your research and find out who reads the applications. Address them by their name or, if absolutely no name is available, address them by their title.
For example, if your research doesn’t bring up a name to input in the address line, you can write something like:
Another way you can bridge some distance between yourself and your cover letter’s reader is by employing a friendly tone. Avoid sounding stiff and overly-professional by infusing your own voice and personality into your cover letter.
Read your final product once aloud. If it doesn’t sound natural to you, it definitely won’t sound natural to a hiring manager.
One way to avoid sounding stiff is by using the pronoun “you” where applicable. This implies a direct relationship between yourself and your CL’s reader.
3. Show What You Know
Include at least one detail about the company that has caught your attention or made you particularly keen to apply there.
Notice how the candidate leads into this paragraph:
Not only are they paying the company a compliment, but they’re proving that they care enough to do their research.
Most importantly though, the applicant is offering a further understanding of why they are seeking employment here based on a shared professional value.
Always do your research before applying to a company. Check out their website, social media pages, and online reviews.
4. Close with Confidence
Eliminate the all-too-common hesitation from your closing paragraph by finishing your CL with confident, actionable statements. Most candidates will say something along the lines of:
- I hope to hear from you soon and perhaps get the chance to come in for an interview.
Losing force at the end like this could be detrimental. The final note of your cover letter will determine the tone that resonates with the hiring manager.
End with the conviction that you and that hiring manager have matters yet to discuss and they will think the same.
We recommend something along the lines of:
- I’m eager to further discuss my qualifications with you face-to-face. Please email me at [email protected] or call me at (xxx)-xxx-xxxx to set up a time for us to chat at your earliest convenience. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for the perfect cover letter. But combining these tips with the example above will hopefully give you the inspiration and insight you need to catch any hiring manager’s eye.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to focus your energy elsewhere, use our custom builder to have professionals help craft your CL in minutes.