We have previously given examples of good stories in letters of intent, so I wanted to take the opportunity to show some examples of poor letters of intent. These examples are from letters which were overall evaluated as “unrankable” for internships, but they apply to any stage of your professional progression. Although the entire letter was given a low value, I wanted to sample the specific segments I think are most illustrative.
“Whether it’s researching alternative therapies for treating an incontinent cat, working a busy ten hour shift in the ER, or consoling an upset client, I really enjoy my work. I am positive, hardworking, determined, organized, and good at working with others. I love to research and think outside the box when it comes to addressing challenging cases. I love working with cats, dogs, and pet exotics. I particularly enjoy emergency medicine, internal medicine, and companion exotic animal medicine. Being on the verge of completing veterinary school at Unseen University in the top 10% of my class, I want to pursue further study with a one year internship followed by a residency in exotics. I am looking for a rigorous small animal internship in which I can have primary case responsibility, a heavy and varied case load, and the opportunity to continue learning under the guidance of veterinary specialists.”
As an opening paragraph, it is an abrupt start. A little bit of a lead-in would be nice. It is highly self-promoting: telling the reader how amazing the author is. They give some indication of what they want, but not why.
“An internship will provide me an opportunity to expand my knowledge base under the guidance of mentors and will continue to grow my veterinary school technical education. It is my desire to be trained by committed and passionate people who are experienced in helping interns to develop a good medical judgment and clinical skills. Likewise* the high volume of clinical cases in specialty practices will assist me to learn and manage multiple cases efficiently. A private practice internship will also enable me to provide optimal care for patients, learn to maximize customer service, and provide opportunities to develop interpersonal relationships with clients.”
What in the world does this entire paragraph tell me? Of course an internship will help you grow. Everyone wants to be trained by great people. The high volume is a good detail- I know this person would be a better fit for a busy practice than a slow, cerebral one. I think ANY job would help you provide optimal care for patients, work on customer service, and work on interpersonal relationships.
“As there is increasing public interest in exotic and nontraditional companion animals* I have exploited every opportunity to continue my education and clinical training with species beyond those routinely presented to the Unseen University Teaching Hospital. As a zoological and wildlife intern at numerous institutions I was responsible for patient care, heard health, public health, animal husbandry, and patient medical records. Through my direct interactions with chief veterinarians at esteemed zoological institutions I participated in numerous procedures, as listed on my C.V., and attended journal clubs and quality of life meetings. Professional collaboration was essential in these settings as I discussed patient care and wellbeing with multiple individuals whom were all invested in the same animal, yet possessed differing degrees of medical knowledge. I have knowledge of avian, reptilian and mammalian wildlife, including proper handling and restraint through my experiences caring for these species at the Nature Center and Unseen University Wildlife Ward.”
Let’s analyze each sentence:
1 – Convoluted. How have you exploited them? Exploited is not a good word choice.
2 – Misspelling error in ‘heard health’. Also, how is this different from anyone else? Of course you’ve done medical records. What do you want, a cookie?
3 – Great, if it’s on your CV, why is it here? I HAVE your CV, why waste valuable letter space on this?
4 – I can’t even unpack this sentence. “Whom” should be “who”.
5 – Great, you have skills. I’m not too interested in skills- I can teach you what you need to know. How are you to WORK with? Based on this, self-promoting and superficial.
* – Missing comma.
I know these applicants were sincere and dedicated and really wanted a position. I do not want to dismiss their passion. Unfortunately, passion is not enough. They didn’t reach out to mentors and friends for feedback, resulting in relatively poor letters. I hope you can learn from them, and avoid these missteps.