How to get yourself sacked before you’ve even started

Rintu BasuBusiness6 Comments

This article is about a fundamental mistake that people make when applying for jobs but also has uses in a wider persuasion context. The article deconstructs a persuasion process as applied to job hunting.

How to do it badly

Recently I got really angry over an email that I was sent. In fact the guy was offering his services completely free but I didn’t even bother opening or reading his CV. Let me show you the email and then we can discuss what he did wrong and how you can create a better impression.

Sun 03/07/2011 12:27

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have just completed the first year of my 4 year psychology course (placement year included) and write to ask if you would consider me for even a few days unpaid work experience between now and October. I have always had a fascination with communication skills ever since I read a body language book at age 12 and now over the past 3 years have been learning NLP and hypnosis. I understand you are probably very busy and would not normally consider a student for work experience for such a short time period, but the type of work your company is involved in, appeals to me as being an incredibly exciting career which I am interested in later pursuing. I therefore enclose a copy of my CV. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully


So What is the Problem

Here is the key issue with this email, the generally held perception of job hunting and most persuasion contexts. If this one concept is the only thing you learn about persuasion then it would be a brilliant start.

“Think about the benefits for the person you are persuading”

Have a look at the email. This guy is so focused on himself he has not even bothered looking at the website. If he had he would have quickly found my name, discovered I am male and been able to address the email to me specifically. As it is I am already disinclined to read any further.

But let’s say I do read further. The rest of the email tells me about him and his interest in the subject and then effectively begs me for a job. But at no point does he tell me why I should employ him, or more specifically how would I benefit from the arrangement.

Deconstructing the Persuasion Process

Imagine that this guy spent a few minutes looking at my site, looking for what I do and how he could assist me to do it. Can you already see how his email would have changed? This may not have been possible, but consider just how much the email would have changed if he had spotted something that only he could offer that I was missing on me website.

For the moment let’s go with the idea that he is able to find some things that he could do that would benefit me. He can then write the email, personalise it, hopefully point to something specific that I have said and then highlighted how he could help me. He could then explain his situation and what he is looking for.

But let’s take this a little further. Right across my site and specifically my articles I let out information about my identity, my beliefs and my values. What would be the implications if this guy had matched some of them in his email? For example, it is no secret that I am a trainer and am interested in seeing people grow, develop and use my material in interesting ways. If he had taken that idea and developed into his email, I would be almost completely inclined to take him on right away.

 Take the Time to Get the Job

One of the big complaints I get about my approach to CV / Resume writing is that it takes more time and effort than a standard CV / Resume writing. I tend to agree with them and ask them if the objective is to pass bits of paper around or to get the job. In this case it was three months before I calmed down enough to write this article about it and I still have not opened the CV and looked at his credentials.

If you want to specifically know how to elicit company values and feed them back in a CV so that you get the interview then have a look at my NLP Job Hunting course.

If you want to know how to conversationally elicit a person’s values and feed them back so they are almost hypnotically compelled to do your bidding then you have two options available to you. Firstly you can book on the London course for December. Or you can look at Advanced Persuasion Patterns the most comprehensive download persuasion skills programme on the internet.



6 Comments on “How to get yourself sacked before you’ve even started”

  1. Pheori

    Thank you for the information, but I wonder who to address a cover letter to, or even how to address one, when the job listing to which you are applying leaves no information regarding the company or the name of the HR manager who is overseeing the hiring of new employees.

    I look for work mainly on classified ad sites where that information is not readily available. The company website isn’t even mentioned. Most of the time the email address is relayed through the classified ad website system and is hidden. Most often there is no phone number listed either.

    So my question is this: If I can’t say “Dear Sir/Madam,” what can I say?

    1. Rintu Basu

      Hi Pheori,
      This is a different issue because the company are deliberately not giving you information. Personally I would not respond to this sort of advert because it does not give you the opportunity to present yourself in the best light, but if you do then you are left with nothing but a Dear Sir / Madam and a generalised CV. I think you are better of finding companies that have a better approach to recruitment and better deserve your attention.



  2. Rintu Basu

    Okay Guys you caught me. I wasn’t really that angry just mildly irritated in the same way as I get annoyed when it starts to rain when I am walking home.

    The thing is it doesn’t make a great headline, “Here is an article that had me mildly miffed and two months later I remembered to write the article it inspired.” I thought I would ham it up and be a bit of a drama queen about it.



  3. Stuart Wright

    Hey Rintu, thanks for deconstructing this job application email and offering tips on how to get such correspondence read and acted upon.
    What I’m curious about is the headline of your accompanying email ‘Some people just get me really angry’ and your comment ‘The guy seriously wound me up’.
    Do you have any strategies for avoiding negative reactions when others do stupid/insensitive things?

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