College Students in Boston Ask About Cover Letters

November 9th, 2011

Alright gangsters. I received a bunch of really great emails / comments / posts / everything from my recent resume post. Glad to see people are digging this and working hard to get out there and land jobs. Work. Ethic. I love it.

I got a lot of questions asking about the infamous "cover letter." The question I got most was: "How should I write a cover letter / what should go into it?"

Word. Let's solve this little puzzle.

First of all, I'll start by saying that I believe "cover letters" (an actual one-page letter that sits on top of a resume) are close to useless in my line of work. 90% of the time, a cover letter should be replaced by an email (with a resume attached). The other 10% of the time is most likely because you're applying COLD (aka... the "send and pray" method of applying to jobs) through a job board like or some other site. I'm not a big fan of applying cold . It wreaks of future failure, and in the world of probabilities, simply does not put you in strong contention. But, if you do have to apply cold, I suggest still using my same format below.

So, here's my advice for the 90% crew. Write your cover letter email / letter like this. THREE PARAGRAPHS gangsters. Three.


Hi Jim,

I would like to submit my application for the position of Associate Product Manager at CampusLIVE. I was recommended to apply by Bob Bobinski. Bob and I grew up together in Andover, MA and he is a close friend. I've been speaking to him daily to hear his input on your company, your market, and your recent developments. It all sounds very exciting.

I believe I am a great fit for CampusLIVE. While in college, I have worked hard to excel in athletics (as a three sport Division-1 athlete), academics (as a Finance and Engineering double major), leadership roles (as Co-Founder and President of the Entrepreneurship Club), community service (as Fund Assistant to the World Peace Nonprofit), and entrepreneurship (as Project Manager at Wyziwiz, Inc). I have taken it upon myself to venture far beyond the classrooms of UMass in undertaking leadership roles, and have done it with extreme persistence.

I understand that the position at CampusLIVE calls for someone who is a leader. Someone who can handle many things at once and who has initiative. I believe I have all of these attributes, and I would love to prove this to you. I would very much appreciate a few minutes of your time to discuss this position. Please let me know what day and time works best for you. I will make myself available for whatever is most convenient for you. Thank you sir for the opportunity.

Kind Regards,

Ryan Durkin



WORD! There are a few things I did there. And I'll write them out to make my points.


  • I introduced the email with "Hi." Not "Hey." Not "Hello." Not "Dear" ... "Hi." Use "Hi."

Paragraph 1: Say why the HECK you're writing.

  • I began by saying why I am writing. "I'd like to submit my application."

  • I then mentioned a person who recommended I apply. If you are applying cold to all of your positions, you're bound to get a cold response back. Instead of going in cold... go in "warm." Find someone in the org structure who works there and get 10 minutes of their time. Impress them. And tell them you're thinking of applying for "x" position. If you can't impress someone within the company, how are you going to impress the guy running the show (who has dollars and cost saving on his mind at all times)? Get them to believe in you and use them as a reference. It will make a WORLD of difference. 9 out of 10 hires we make here come out of a recommendation from a current team member. 9 out of 10.

  • Show your excitement by actually saying the word "excited." --> "It all sounds very exciting."

Paragraph 2: Say what's so special about YOU and show you're a LEADER

  • Say that you are a great fit for the company. Don't wackweed around it. Say it. --> "I believe I am a great fit for CampusLIVE."

  • Then. Write one big long sentence by bolding topics that you excel in and then in (parantheses giving the bolded word some detail). --> Ex: "athletics (as a three sport Division-1 athlete), academics (as a Finance and Engineering double major)...". This is a really effective way to show that you are a renaissance man/woman in a short amount of space. After reading this paragraph, the job interviewer / HR person will be saying: "Holy smokes. This kid's a beast."

  • In the concluding line, mention that you are striving to "venture far beyond the classroom in undertaking leadership roles." Who doesn't love someone who is a nerd, but who also has work ethic across other areas of their life? Everyone loves that!


  • Mention that you realize the position calls for "a leader." Every company is looking for leaders... not followers. So say it, as straight forward as you can.

  • Mention that you know the position calls for someone who can "handle many things at once and who has initiative." This shows that you can clearly take on a ton of stuff and also are super excited to take on more work (without being told to do so, which is the KEY).

  • Challenge the interviewer / HR person to take you in for an interview: "and I would love to prove this to you."

  • CLOSE the deal! Close the damn deal! Your goal as an applicant is not to APPLY. It is to CLOSE. Close the deal by asking for their time. For a day and time that works for them. Tell them that it is at their convenience. And that you will work around their schedule.

  • End with "Thank you for the opportunity." A job is an opportunity. Show that you realize that by SAYING IT.

  • Signature: I always go with "Kind Regards" for first timers. If I know someone well, I end with Regards. Whatever your closing signature is, include it, and stick to it. I suggest "Kind Regards,"

  • Put your name after the signature.

BOOM. There you have it. Cover letters / emails in ten minutes or less. Shazam!

Now, tell me what you think.


Durkin Resume Advice | Quick, Easy, and Sexy

October 24th, 2011

I got a lot of feedback from last week's post asking me for resume help. SO! Let's have some fun. WOO WOO! Let's build your resume. Let's get you employed! Why the hell not, right?!?! RIGHT! Well, to make things quick and easy (and sexy), I'll ask you to do the following: I want you to take my resume, and make it your own.

Let's begin:

  1. Open up my resume on Google Docs

  2. Once open... Go to "File" and click "Download As". Then select "Word." GREAT! NOW...

  3. Open up the doc and delete my name from the resume and put your own name there. This is now YOUR resume. BUT, we need to clean this puppy up.

  4. Delete my phone number, email address, and address and place your own on it.

  5. Delete my university and put your own.

  6. Delete my GPA and put your own. Continue on in this fashion from top to bottom, line by line. If you have never received any scholarships, then simply delete this section. If you have never played on a collegiate athletics team, then simply delete this section.

Spend time paying attention to formatting. No periods on your sentences. Italicize your dates. Make sure your indenting is consistent. Make sure you bold when I bold. Make sure your job posting and job location are formatted the same way I have them in mine. Garamond font works very nicely I've found.

Once you're complete, save your resume like this "Firstname_LastName_Resume.doc" and send it onnnnn back to me at

We can finalize your resume, and move on to what's more important: getting that job you want.

If you'd like to see a PDF version of my resume, feel free to open this puppy up:
Ryan Durkin Resume

In future posts later I'll be detailing very specifically why I recommend the order in which I present my resume, as well as the importance of scholarships, athletics, and interests.

Tell me what you think of this post gangsters.


The Most Important Part of Your Resume is NOT WHAT YOU THINK

October 20th, 2011

So, you're building your resume. Either for the first time, or the 100th. You're getting A's. You’re competing in athletics. Leading student initiatives. Organizing events. You’re trying to make the most out of your collegiate experience by interning, working part time jobs, etc. You’re proactive and one motivated, monstrous son of a bitch!

During senior year you begin looking for jobs. Nothing seems to be panning out right, and you’re getting frustrated.

It's time that you learn how to CLOSE THE DEAL. And here's a little tip as to how.

1. Find the part of your resume you are LEAST PROUD OF and delete it. Immediately.
2. Then add a new section heading to the bottom of your resume titled “INTERESTS.”
3. Within that section put 3 - 5 bullets of YOUR INTERESTS.
4. Keep the “Interest” to ONE WORD. Then put a colon (:). Then write a very specific sentence to describe it.

Examples include:
• Running: along the Charles River and throughout Cambridge, Back Bay, the North End, and Southie
• Golf: began working at Essex Country Club as a caddy at age 10 and rose to Pro-Shop Manager
• Real Estate: founded the Real Estate Society, and created the first Real Estate course offered on campus
• Piano: trained in Classical music and have been playing since age five; Billy Joel enthusiast

This tactic of buletting 3 - 5 interests in this form... "General Interest: very specific descriptive text"... JUST WORKS. And here's why.

Who do you know on earth who does not share AT LEAST ONE of the interests I have mentioned above (someone who runs, plays golf, is interested in real estate, or plays piano)?!??!?! Interests are great conversation starters guys! And they are the PERFECT way to close out a resume, and most importantly, an interview. If you do this one simple thing on your resume, your interviews will soon start to "close" like this:

Example. Interviewer: “You like to RUN along the Charles River? ME TOO! I go every weekend! Tell me… do you ever see that guy out there who wears the blue jacket that extends over his shorts so much that it looks like he’s not wearing anything!??! That dude is crazy!”


Example. Interviewer: “You GOLF? ME TOO! Where do you play? What’s your handicap? What type of clubs do you use? Titleist? Callaways? Have you tried the new X-9’s? They are amazing! I bought a set myself just last weekend on a whim. I can really crank it out with those puppies."

If you like to fish. Say it. And be specific with regards to which lakes in Maine or New Hampshire you like best.
If you like to dance. Say it. And be specific in which clubs you like to go dancing at in the city.
If you like to ride your bike. Say it. And talk about your longest bike ride you did for charity.

INTERESTS, I BELIEVE, ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A RESUME. There are a ton of strong candidates out there with strong pedigrees, strong “experience,” strong GPA’s, strong leadership track records, strong backgrounds. You've got scholarship winners, class Presidents, and people who simply have crazy awesome work ethic. BUT. You've got to stick out. And there's no better way to stick out in an interview than to talk about something you bond with your interviewer with outside of the office.

Get them saying: "ME TOO!" You'll thank me later.