The first time I got it was from my friend George. The subject of his e-mail was "another Penn tool." I was a little concerned, but only because he reminds me of Patrick Batemen from American Psycho, but that is neither here nor there. Then five minutes later I got it again, from my friend Paolo. Then it became ridiculous -- the damn thing came 17 times. Honestly, I became less than amused at about No. 14. Attached to the e-mails was a cover letter from a current Penn senior, Nidhi Chadda, who had applied for a position at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in Menlo Park, Calif. What propelled this letter around the globe is puzzling. In her letter, Chadda said she and the company were puzzle pieces that would "fit perfectly together," demonstrating her point with appropriately labeled visual aides. She went on to provide a checklist of how she and the bank fit -- i.e., all the typical Whartonian overachiever stuff: top 10 percent in her class, JWS, BFS, a financial internship in New York, community service, yadda, yadda. That is all very well and good, and she should get a job or a cookie or something, but it was no reason for anyone to send me her resume. Reading the letter was not nearly as amusing as reading the comments others supplied as they passed it along; it was like reading the first generation commentaries around the Talmud. "Exactly why not to hire Wharton undergrads," one commentator from Goldman Sachs said. "Do you believe those Penn kids?" asked a trader at Merrill Lynch. It was like that hundreds of times, everywhere the cover letter went. The trail went through every major banking institution and consulting firm, and then back through the Ivy League. Princeton kids were particularly pleased to see a rival getting slammed; I was told one student from the wastelands of New Jersey wrote that the letter was an example of "the bourgeois element at Penn." Surprise: Touchdown, Nidhi Chadda! This is absolutely the finest cover letter I have ever seen. Whether she knows it or not, everyone on Wall Street -- and London, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo and the bastion of capitalism that is the Toledo, Ohio, school system -- has seen who she is and what she has to offer an organization. Intentionally or unintentionally, she solved the conundrum of how to differentiate herself before the rat race even began. This letter, as uninteresting as it was, managed to overwhelm the industry and live up to Morgan Stanley's recruiting mantra of "networking the world." Chadda made everyone who forwarded the e-mail look bored and inconsequential, only confirming my doubts about those two-year programs everyone seems so excited to interview for this week. This fiasco speaks dreadfully of the Morgan Stanley office in Menlo Park and the HR person who forwarded Chadda's letter to the world. Sharing an individual's personal information is unprofessional and demonstrates the lack of ethics of which corporate America is so often accused. Although it is expected that once you send a resume to an employer it will share that information within the firm, there is a tacit understanding that it will stay within the company. Patricia Rose, the director of Penn's Career Services office, said she was appalled by the level of "immaturity that is almost mind-boggling and how quick others were to criticize her, piling on critiques." Rose spelled out the "impropriety of sharing information outside the bank" and explained how she was in touch with the institutions through which the e-mail had been passed. Those who improperly passed on Chadda's letter, she assured me, "would be appropriately disciplined" by their firms. Rose was quick to add that in her 20 years of advising students, she had never seen anything like this, and that such a breach of privacy was unlikely to happen again. But e-mails like this will be sent again and again until ethics catch up to the technology that is simplifying the recruiting process. I imagine Morgan Stanley will have it down in no time. What remains impressive is that a girl from Penn sent a single letter out about a month ago and friends of mine on three different continents wrote to tell me about it -- that, without question, is a success. So Nidhi, wherever you are, could you look over my letter next week?Comments powered by Disqus
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