How NOT to get a job. Lousy advice from “experts”

If you want to squander far too much energy and precious emotion failing to get a job, here’s where to start.  Or you can get my free e-book on the subject

Here’s a good joke I heard years ago from a friend in Management Consultancy.

“An expert is someone from out of town who knows nothing about the subject but has lots of slides”.

If you ever have to make a speech, just insert the word “Powerpoint” and it’s a good opening.

Here is a letter that some “experts” suggest will get you an interview. After you’ve read it I will tell you what’s wrong with it.

Cover letter: Standard
12th April 2015
Recruiting Manager
Bose Media
11a Main Street
W10 1AF
Job reference: Grad/15

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing with regards to the graduate vacancy advertised in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers directory. I am enclosing my CV for your information.

Having recently graduated with a BA in English Literature from The University of Manchester, I am now looking to apply the knowledge I have acquired into the workplace and the graduate role at Bose Media offers the perfect opportunity to do this.

I believe I meet all of the requirements outlined for the post. During my studies, I developed an excellent eye for detail and have significant experience of reading and interpreting large amounts of materials in a range of genres. I undertook a number of team projects as part of my studies, so I am very comfortable working as part of a team and am confident in my interpersonal and communication abilities. I have received feedback from fellow team members that helps to affirm this.

I am experienced in working to deadlines and accept that this would be an important part of the role. My abilities in this area are further demonstrated by the position I held as assistant editor at the university’s student newspaper, The Voice, during the final year of my degree. This role required significant responsibility and commitment in terms of time and effort – something I relished. It was also necessary for me to hone my prioritisation and multitasking skills in order to effectively carry out this role alongside my academic studies.

I would welcome the opportunity to explain more about my interest in your company and the skills and experience that I can bring to the position. You will note from my CV that I have a real passion for literature, media and current affairs and look forward to sharing this with you and contributing to the future success of Bose Media.

I look forward to hearing from you in the near future regarding my application.

Yours faithfully,

(Signed) Print name

Are you wondering what’s wrong? I mean besides the fact that it has no personality or enthusiasm and is full of dreary business jargon and cliche? But at least it says why the writer can do the job.

Let me tell you, then.

It breaks one of the principal rules of marketing.

It is written from the point of view of the seller, not the buyer.
It’s all me, me, me – not you, you, you.

God knows how many people I have hired over that past 50 years. But I can tell you one thing. I never thought of how much they wanted the job. I wanted to know what they could do for me that other applicants couldn’t.

If you’d like to know how to go about getting a job, send for my little e-book called – very creatively – How to Get a Better Job.

It is free. It is also the most popular thing I have written in the last ten years. I am not trying to sell you anything. I hope it helps.

About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.


  1. Brendan Berigan

    Thanks for the insight. I am including an example of a “genius” resume that focuses on what he will do for them and completely ignores expounding on what he has already accomplished. You may well have seen this but if not enjoy!

    Leonardo da Vinci’s Resume
    Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo da Vinci was an artificer, an armorer, a maker of things that go “boom”.
    And, like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.

    The translation of this letter is quite remarkable:
    “Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.
    1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
    2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.
    3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.
    4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.
    5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.
    6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.
    7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
    8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.
    9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.
    10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.
    11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
    Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.
    And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.”

    What a fantastic piece of personal marketing! There’s none of his famous backwards-mirror writing here — this letter was intended to be read and to persuade.
    I’m a hopeless pedantic, so of course I’m going to take this opportunity to let you know what you can learn from Leonardo’s resume…
    You’ll notice he doesn’t recite past achievements. He doesn’t mention the painting of the altarpiece for the Chapel of St Bernard; he doesn’t provide a laundry list of past bombs he’s built; he doesn’t cite his prior employment in artist Andrea di Cione’s studio.
    No, he does none of these things, because those are about his achievements, and not about the Duke’s needs.
    Instead, he sells his prospective employer on what he can do for him.
    Now imagine being the Duke of Milan and receiving this magnificent letter / resume from the young wunderkind of Florence. The specific descriptives paint a wonderful picture (that is, if you’re a Renaissance Duke) of siege engines and bombardments and mortars and trench-draining and bridges to defeat the enemy. You can almost imagine the scenes that ran through the Duke’s head as he held this letter in his hands and read through Leonardo da Vinci’s bold statements of capabilities.
    I mean, who wouldn’t want “kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; [that] can fling small stones almost resembling a storm“? Sounds pretty enticing.
    And that’s exactly what your Value Proposition needs to do, too. Not the laundry list / standard bio that talks about you, but the marketing piece that talks about the benefits to your future employer and how you fit into his or her needs and desires.
    So it turns out that even 500 years later, this remarkable fellow, Leonardo da Vinci, can even teach us something about the modern job hunt…
    What a genius…
    Apologies, could not post copy of actual resume.

  2. kenO

    How to Get a Better Job.
    Good evening,

    I am very interested in your ebook on how to get a better job.

    I would appreciate it if you would forward a copy to me at

    Kind Regards

  3. Rich Vandiver

    Would love to get a copy of your book. I try to soak up everything I can from the master.

  4. David w. Harris D.C.

    I am a retired chiropractor but I love reading your thoughts and advice. I wish I would have known you 40 years ago. I do give out your name

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