Today, I’m sharing some thoughts on something a little different than investing.
I know that career advice isn’t why (most of) you read us. But unless you’re made of money, getting a job is the first step to having money to invest… you can’t invest money you don’t have.
And the better the job, the more money you have to invest… the sooner compounding can work for you… and the sooner you need to make decisions about cash… macroversification… and how to best use trailing stop-losses.
And the first step toward getting any job (if you don’t know a guy who knows a guy… or if you can’t get an introduction through someone in your network) is having a good cover letter. Cover letters are the first time you introduce yourself to someone who might employ you. It’s the nice-to-meet-you handshake. It should be your best foot forward.
But as an employer – in the recent years that I’ve been building up Stansberry Churchouse Research, and in my professional experience over the previous two-plus decades – they’re often the graveyard of job applicants.
So here are my thoughts on how to avoid that, and in doing so increase your chances of landing that dream job…
- Talk to me – not “Dear HR manager”. I am constantly astounded that someone who puts the time into writing a cover letter can’t be bothered to find out my name, and/or the name of the person he’d likely be working with. I am not difficult to find out about… a two-second Google search will reveal my name (which is conveniently unusual, so you won’t need to choose between 50 people with the same name). Like most people on earth, I respond much more positively to someone addressing me by name rather than by “Hey you!” – which is what “HR manager” or “hiring manager” says to me.
- Do what’s asked of you. If the job ad says, “In your cover letter, tell me the name of your favourite stocks for the next 12 months and why,” do that. If you ignore my instructions, expect me to ignore your letter.
If you’re auditioning to play Mary Poppins in a Broadway revival, and I ask you to sing, and you don’t sing…. well, you wouldn’t get the job. If I ask you to tell me about your favourite stock and you don’t… well, you just lost the small sliver of hope you had for getting the job.
“Follow instructions” was one of the big lessons of kindergarten. If you don’t get that… then I’m probably not going to hire you. (And chances are, neither is anyone else.)
- Sing in a way that gets my attention. While we’re talking about singing… the cover letter is your audition. It’s your 30 seconds with me. Don’t waste it on brainless blather like “I believe my background in solutionising multidimensional teams across temporal horizons provides me with the perfect attitudinal context to be your stock analyst”. (Not an actual quotation. But it could be.)
Instead, draw me in: “Kim, the best stock I ever bought moved up 300 percent in two years. But that was after it fell by 30 percent when the CEO died in a parachuting accident. And an incident involving hot wax and my Barry nearly prevented me from buying it in the first place. Let me explain.” That’s a story I’d read. And I’ll hire you only if I read what you’ve written me.
Or… how about this (from an actual cover letter I received)…
Did this get my attention? It certainly did.
- Address my needs, not yours. “I believe this position would be an excellent step towards my objective of becoming a stock analyst.”
You’re asking me to hire you, remember? You’re supposed to be telling me how you would address my needs… not how me doing you the favour of hiring you will help you get you to where you want. Maybe it will, and in fact if it does, great – we all win. But don’t make that as part of selling yourself to me. That’s completely upside down.
And there’s more…
- Tell me your full name. If you can’t trust me with that essential morsel of information, you can’t possibly expect me to trust you enough to hire you. So no mysterious first name and last initial business… give me a full name. (And while we’re at it… If I can’t figure out where you live based on your resume or cover letter, I’m not going to hire you. Maybe you’re a citizen of the world, in which case, bully for you. But I know you live somewhere, because everyone lives somewhere. Just tell me where that is and you’ll get over a very early hurdle.)
- Don’t tell me that your favourite crypto or stock is “too sensitive” to share with me.
What are you, PricewaterhouseCoopers with the envelope containing the name of the Oscar’s Best Picture winner? The Nobel Prize committee about to announce the name of the world’s current biggest physics genius? No. So tell me.
(And by the way: I actually don’t really care what your favourite crypto (or stock, or whatever) is. I’m only asking you to see how you present your argument.
- Extra credit. If you cite something of my experience or background or interests in your cover letter (not that I need my ego to be petted), it shows that you were interested enough to do some research. Do you miss smoking in pubs in Dublin? Or grow up in Spain in the 1980s? Show me that you can do a bit digging – and that you know how to relate to people.
In short, if you want to get the best job you can – to make the most money you can to invest – you need to nail the art of the cover letter.
You’ll find thousands of articles online about how to write the perfect cover letter. And the essence of the cover letter hasn’t changed over the decades, despite time and technology.
So remember this next time you – or your spouse or kids or grandkids – are applying for a job: Tell them about yourself and make an argument for yourself.