How to get every job interview that you really want

How to get every job interview that you really want

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What is the first thing than an employer or personnel director sees when he/she gets a range of applications for a job?

It isn’t your cv, listing your qualifications etc etc, it is your covering letter (if you send your application by post) or your email, to which the cv is attached.

99.9% of cvs look the same, and go something like this

Dear Sir,

I’d like to apply for the position of [insert name of job] at [insert name of company].

I have worked for many years in [insert type of industry] and feel I would be ideal to work with your firm.  I am hard working and a good team player, and look forward to meeting you at an interview.

Yours faithfully

Ann Applicant.


Since many firms report that for each job they advertise they get 50 to 100 applications, you can imagine that if all the covering letters look pretty much the same, the whole approach to finding the right person for the job gets fairly dull if not boring.

But supposing that one covering letter isn’t like this at all.  Supposing it is different, lively, interesting, and stimulating.  Then what?

At the very least you can be sure that the writer of this letter will get an interview at the very least.  What’s more when the interview comes along everyone conducting the interview will sit up and take notice, because this will be the person that they want to see.   

For everyone will want to know, what does the person who write such a different letter of application look like.  They might not have decided to employ this person yet but they sure as hell want to see this person.

This whole approach was actually tried out by a friend of mine – a friend who had very modest qualifications and had sent in over 50 job applications without getting anywhere at all.   So she was desperate and ready to try anything.

She knew that I ran an advertising agency and so the notion arose that if I could write adverts for all sorts of strange products and services, why not an advert for a person?

Now, in writing adverts for products and services there are three overriding rules which are

  1. Grab Attention
  2. Be different from every other advert
  3. Don’t talk about the product, talk about the customer’s wishes and needs.

When I thought about this for a job application I decided to that only a couple of small tweaks were needed so the list would read….

  1. Grab Attention
  2. Be different from every other applicant
  3. Don’t talk about yourself, talk about the employer’s wishes and needs.

So that’s what I did.

And then having written the letter I became worried.  I wasn’t worried that it wouldn’t work – since I’ve written thousands of adverts through my career I know that people react in fairly standard ways no matter what the situation, and besides my friend was being turned down all the time anyway.

No my concern was that my letter was so different from anything I had ever seen written as a job application, that she might not use it.   So when I handed the letter over I told her that if she felt it was too radical, too different, and that her reaction was, “I CAN’T SEND THEM THAT!!!” I would understand, and it wouldn’t make any difference.

However she was more daring than I thought, or perhaps more desperate for a job than I thought, and so she did.   And she got the job.

That job in fact turned out to have some serious disadvantages so after a couple of months my friend wanted to change again.   I said I was sorry, but perhaps she would use the same letter again. “I certainly will,” she said. “If it weren’t for the letter, I’d not even bother trying – I’d just stay in this same job and be miserable.”

So she did it again, and got the next job too.   In fact she has used the letter three times in the last three years, and got each job.

OK, now you want to know what the letter looks like.  Here it is.

Dear Sirs,

For the next person you appoint you’ll be wanting someone who has learned never to bow to pressure and never to make a mistake.

There are two things in life that waste time: mistakes, and letting the pressure get to you.  If these events can be avoided everything gets done twice as fast.

And there’s a bonus, because if you have a member of staff who feels the pressure then there is every chance that she or he will start influencing everyone around.

Soon, instead of one person looking fevered, scowling, complaining or slamming the phone down, everyone is starting to feel edgy.

When I worked for the RAF as an administrator in the supply chain, processing requests for replacement parts and new equipment, I knew that people’s lives could depend on every single action I took.  One mistake by me in ordering up the wrong part, losing a piece of paper, deleting a file that needed to be forwarded, or omitting to forward a copy of the requisition to the right demand, could cost lives.

So I never made mistakes, and I never let the pressure get to me.

It’s a habit that has stayed with me all my life, and if you choose to employ me, it’s a habit I’ll bring to working for you.


OK, you might be saying, this could work, I can see that, although I’m a bit unsure about writing a bold headline like that.  But either way, it’s hardly relevant since I’ve never done such a job, so I can’t write that.

But my point is that every job has something in it which you can extract as essential.    Let me give a couple of examples.

Supposing you have worked as an assistant in a petrol station, taking money for fuel, selling snacks, and all the other stuff garages sell.

Ask yourself, what’s the difference between a good employee in such a situation, and an average employee?   The answer is the good employee is not only efficient, but also a person who adds that little bit extra so that customers are likely to return.

Thus we get a letter that reads



Dear Sirs,

What is the one thing that a petrol station assistant can do to increase the profits of the company he works for?

There are two things that people like when they come to pay for their petrol:  getting in and out of the shop quickly, and dealing with someone who is pleasant.  

And there’s a bonus, because if you have a member of staff who is both efficient and pleasant, not only is each customer more likely to return next time around, but also more orders can be processed per hour, leaving cars at the pumps for less time.  

Soon, everyone knows that at this petrol station the service is quick and pleasant, while at the next station along the road, the staff chat to each other rather than customers, and make people wait while sorting out some other issue.

When I worked for Ridgway Motors in Shropshire, the management didn’t particularly measure how long it took to serve each customer – but I decided to do that, for out of interest.  I got the time down to two minutes.

Six months after I left, as my family was moving south, I returned to the garage when re-visiting friends in the area.  It took me four minutes to be served in the shop.

My point is that everything can be improved, just by simply trying to do one’s job a little better.


This sort of letter, with variations of course, can be used whether you are applying for a job as a teacher, a receptionist in a GP practice, as an accountant, or an administrator in a local authority office.

You write a headline that grabs attention, and talk about the job and what makes it work more smoothly.  Only then do you talk a little about you.

Behind that you attach your cv.  But by then the cv is irrelevant.  They can’t wait to interview you.


Untold Social provides practical articles on the everyday things we can all do, to make our own lives better.   If you would like to contribute an article to the series, or if you would like to suggest a topic we might tackle in the future please do write to


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