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Is this the most modest job applicant in America? Wall Street bosses hail 'best ever' cover letter from student at 'average' university with 'no special skills' (although he forgot to mention he's a star athlete)

By Rachel Quigley

Published: 07:09 GMT, 16 January 2013 | Updated: 21:52 GMT, 16 January 2013

Humble: Matthew Ross was the consummate three-sports star at Placer High School and most recently wrote what is behind hailed as the best cover letter ever to Wall Street bosses

The finance student who penned what is being called the 'best cover letter ever' to Wall Street bosses asking for a summer internship appears to have hugely undersold himself when he told them: 'I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities.'

Because Matthew Ross, a 22-year-old undergrad at San Diego State University, has been revealed today as an ambitious high school sports star whose outstanding skills in baseball, basketball and football earned him almost heroic status at his high school in Auburn, Placer County.

Matthew's refreshingly sincere cover letter went viral yesterday after he sent an email to a broker at finance and investment company Duff and Phelps in New York, referring back to a chance meeting they had in a steak house two summers ago.

Rather than inflating his qualifications and bragging about his grades or past job experiences, the humble applicant simply stated his case and matter-of-factly asked for an internship.

He wrote: 'I am aware it is highly unusual for undergraduates from average universities like SDSU to intern at Duff and Phelps, but nevertheless I was hoping you might make an exception.

'I won’t waste your time inflating my credentials...the truth is I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities, but I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you.'

He added that he would be happy just to 'fetch coffee, shine shoes or pick up laundry' and will work for 'next to nothing' just to be around professionals in the industry.

But far from having no special skills to speak of, Matt is a multi-talented sports star whose 'exploits on the athletic fields brought championships and stellar moments' to his high school, according to the Auburn Journal.

Not happy to excel in just one more sport, Matt was the consummate three-sport star at Placer High School before he graduated in 2009.

Scroll down to read the enlarged letter

Ingenious: The undergraduate finance student penned a refreshingly sincere cover letter this week asking for an internship at a boutique investment bank on Wall Street

Company: Matthew Ross is seeking a coveted summer internship at finance and investment firm Duff and Phelps in New York

He was the starting quarterback for two years and led the football team to the Sac-Joaquin Section championship game in his senior year. 

Big fan: Matthew's mother Lynell said her son is a great kid - smart and hard working

He was a starter on the basketball team for two years and his athleticism on the court was hailed as exceptional.

Matt was brought up to the varsity baseball team as a freshman and started for four years, with his final athletic moment coming when he was the winning pitcher in the section championship game against El Dorado, according to the Auburn Journal.

Despite the dazzling write-up in his local paper, even then Matt seemed to be self-deprecating about his skills and talents - despite coaches at the school raving about his leadership and character.

'I definitely enjoyed the camaraderie of each sport I played,' he said in an interview. 'I had a ton of fun just hanging out with all of my teammates. Also, every coach brought something different that I liked.'

He added that now he is studying finance at SDSU, he is taking academics 'more seriously'.

Athletic director at Placer High Mark Lee said of him in the same 2009 interview. 'There’s certain kids that you coach that really touch your heart. And Matt’s definitely one of them. We’ll really miss him next year.'

His mother Lynell Ross - a life coach and personal trainer - is another huge fan of Matthew, and told the MailOnline: 'Matt is a great kid, very smart and hard working, never afraid to put everything into everything he does.

'I am very lucky to be the mother of such two great smart kids. The letter sounds exactly like the type of thing Matt would write. He's great.'

And it appears that the 22-year-old's bold approach has paid off, reaffirming the old adage that honesty is indeed the best policy.

Ryan Bouley, a broker at Duff and Phelps, said if someone with Matthew's qualities were to come on board, he certainly would not be shining shoes and said he is just the type of person the company are looking for.

'His candor, humility and willingness to roll his sleeves up and work hard to get the job done are all qualities we think represent our firm.'

Mr Bouley said the company have been in talks with Matthew about a possible summer internship and are 'excited about the possibility of bringing him on board'.

All star: Matthew Ross was featured by his local newspaper for his excellence in high school football, basketball and baseball

Praise: The cover letter was sent around the bank and other Wall Street financial institutions

Nation-wide: The student may find himself inundated with calls today for job interviews or opportunities for internships

Interest: He might end up being more than just a lackey

The clear-eyed, candid letter instantly went viral, being forwarded to other investment firms, some as far as Houston, Texas.

Business Insider shared a list of promising replies, among them: ‘This might be the best letter I've ever received.’

The response to the letter has been overwhelmingly positive, with some recipients describing it as ‘hilarious but bold’ and ‘instant classic.'’

Without dropping names and boasting of his smarts, Matthew managed to pique the interest of the jaded finance community, which is likely going to land him an interview or two.

One of the recipients wrote: ‘I wouldn't be surprised if this guy gets at least a call from every bank out there.’


Matthew Ross' letter comes as a refreshing antithesis to survey results released last week showing that American students have an unprecedented level of self-infatuation.

Nine million people have taken the American Freshman Survey in the last 47 years, which asks students to rate themselves compared to their peers since 1966.

Psychologist Jean Twenge and her colleagues compiled the data and found that over the last four decades there's been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being 'above average' in the areas of academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability, and self-confidence.

But researchers found a disconnect between the student's opinions of themselves and actual ability.

While students are much more likely to call themselves gifted in writing abilities, objective test scores actually show that their writing abilities are far less than those of their 1960s counterparts.

Though they may work less, the number that said they had a drive to succeed rose sharply.

These young egotists can grow up to be depressed adults.

A 2006 study found that students suffer from 'ambition inflation' as their increased ambitions accompany increasingly unrealistic expectations.

'Since the 1960s and 1970s, when those expectations started to grow, there's been an increase in anxiety and depression,' Twenge said. 'There's going to be a lot more people who don't reach their goals.'

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(MoneyWatch) Looking for a job? I may be able help. Having hired a few folks recently, I've noticed a trend in the job applications I've reviewed.

We're talking about cover letters. You know -- the document that makes your very first impression with HR and the hiring manager. I personally glean a lot from the cover letter, and have pulled together some cover letter-related tips for anyone on the job hunt.

Pictures: Body language -- 23 must-know moves

1.Be sure to include one. Many people seem to think that since cover letters are optional, it's okay to omit them. I've even seen some trendy new job-hunting advice recommending that cover letters have fallen out of style, and so you should only submit a resume. No! The cover letter is your opportunity to own the narrative, to tell the hiring manager why you're a great fit for the job and passionate about getting an opportunity to prove yourself. If you don't include a cover letter, the hiring manager needs to scan the resume -- which takes time -- to try to figure out if you have the right skills and experience for the position. That also requires parsing language that might be specific to your last company or industry and translates poorly to the local dialect of the company you're applying to. Bottom line: If you don't take the time to send me (the hiring manager) a cover letter, your resume almost certainly goes directly into the recycling bin.

2.Don't be arrogant. Your cover letter tells me things about your personality that aren't apparent in the resume. Regardless of how skilled or talented you are, I'm going to have to work with you every day after I hire you. It's important that I feel that I can get along with you. Indeed, many companies ensure that peers get a say in hiring decisions to ensure they feel good about the candidate as well. So don't lead your cover letter (as I have recently seen) with arrogant boasts or bulleted quotes from former employers, as if you were listing features on a product sell-sheet. Don't make silly claims like, "I will get a perfect score on any evaluation you give to me." Just be yourself -- unless "you" really is that arrogant guy, in which case you should tone it way down.

3.Don't shotgun applications to every job regardless of your qualifications. This should be common sense, yet I frequently see submissions from people with absolutely no experience whatsoever applying for fairly senior publishing jobs. For instance, someone recently applied for a role as a senior writer at my company and cited experience as a salesclerk and call-center operator in the cover letter. I know there's no real downside to this strategy, in the sense that the worst thing that can happen is that you don't get the job, but remember that it takes time to send these pointless applications. Focus on roles you understand and are qualified for, and be sure to customize your cover letter accordingly. If I'm hiring a writer, your cover letter shouldn't tell me about your experience inventorying ice cream sandwiches.

4.Double check your grammar. Don't rush through your cover letter. Check it for grammar and spelling. Yes, those things matter -- a lot. Likewise, avoid exclamation points. I know not everyone is as sensitive to this as I am, but if I see an exclamation point in a cover letter ("I am very eager to get this job!"), I automatically put the candidate on probation. If I encounter two or more exclamation points in a single cover letter, the individual is highly unlikely to progress to an interview.

5.Double check the job you're applying for. There's absolutely nothing wrong with applying for multiple jobs at once -- even multiple jobs at the same company. But if you do, read your cover letter very carefully and make sure you revise the details so it accurately reflects the role you're applying for. Recently, I've gotten several cover letters that were written for the wrong position. The candidates simply applied for a different job first and forgot to update the cover letter when they sent it to me. Granted, even that's not as bad as attaching a photo of Nicholas Cage.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user marshillonline