Hindsight... it's a wonderful thing

When I moved back from Oxford I wasn’t sure what to do. I wanted to transfer to Bournemouth but I had to wait until August for confirmation. I ended up working in lettings for three months. But before that, I looked at jobs in the local area. I just finished my first year of a Communications degree - I was 19 years old. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have a clue.

One thing happened that has stuck with me though… I applied to a local company, who, in hindsight I can honestly say I had no idea what they did. I thought I knew at the time… I was just oh so wrong. And I wish I was joking but I sent a cover letter that was about two sentences long with a CV attached on a word document that left little to be desired.

Reading it now, I don’t know why anyone would bother wasting their time replying but this guy did. And this is what he sent:

Subject: RE: CV
Date: Wed, 27 May 2009 08:01:50 +0100

Dear Jessica,

Thanks for your email and for sending me your cv. I do have vacancies for marketing people at the moment and am always interested to hear from people who are prepared to do work experience / work for free. I am skeptical though... Your CV and covering email look like they've been thrown together in about 5 minutes and do little to convince me that I should invest any time in you.

How about I make a suggestion? Spend today completing the following four challenges, answer them thoroughly and to the best of your ability. Send the answers to the first three and a brief description of what items you have for challenge 4 to me by 18:00 this evening and if you are able to complete the challenges at a level which demonstrates that you have sufficient quality to come and work for me then I will meet you tomorrow for a face to face interview.

1. Taking the cinema at Tower Park, Poole as an example - guesstimate the amount of revenue that the cinema will make in one week. Give me as much detail as you can and show me your working out so that I can see how you've come to the right answer.

2. Imagine that you are asked to run the same cinema on Saturday. You have the challenge of increasing profitability by 50%. How will you achieve this?

3. Take one of
{our} customer facing brands and suggest one element of the customer journey that could be improved. What impact would this have?

4. Take £20 and go shopping in your local town. I want you to purchase three items that would be good products for
{us} to launch in the coming 12 months. Be prepared to do a short presentation on why each of the items would be a good product to launch when you come for your interview. (I will reimburse you the cost of the items up to a maximum of £20 if you bring me receipts)

I look forward to hearing from you before 18:00.


I never even tried to complete those tasks. I was completely out of my depth. I had studied Communications and knew very little about Marketing at all. Give me those tasks now, after three years with Bournemouth and growing up a little, I could do them in a few hours but at the time, I hadn’t a clue.

This one email made me change my CV and way to handle applications from scratch. My cover letter now consists of an awful lot more than two sentences and I wouldn’t dream of not knowing a company inside out before the application process. At the very least, I should know the industry they’re in. But what amazes me, other than my naivety at the time, someone would take time out of their day to reply. Let’s face it, he probably knew I wasn’t going to be able to complete those tasks. But he did offer a chance to prove if I could and I’m grateful for it. If and when I get to the point people are emailing me for jobs way out of their league, I intend to take this approach.

Jessica North

Author & Editor

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