Guide To Job Search
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Cover Letters: Brief & Focused
As published in The Flightpath News - December 30, 2002
By Kevin T. Buckley, CPC
Cover Letters: Brief and Focused
Your cover letter is a sales tool, introducing who you are to a potential buyer, the employer. The product you are selling is you and you want your presentation to sparkle.
As recruiters, we hear of many people making the mistake of telling the potential employer what they want for themselves without first establishing what they can offer. Others send lengthy documents repeating the contents of their resumes. Some people send out letters addressed to a generic title instead of an actual person. This wastes an opportunity to make a positive impact and to stand out from the competition. If you want the reader to review your resume, edit and polish your letter, omitting unnecessary words. You want to avoid leaving a neutral or negative impression through using poor grammar and spelling, platitudes and dull introductions.
You need to connect with the employer’s point of view in a cover letter, not your own. The employer is thinking: What can this person do for us? What problems can he/she solve? How will my company benefit from hiring him/her? Is it worthwhile to bring this person in for a meeting?
State the purpose of your letter clearly in the first short paragraph. Why are you writing? Have you been referred by someone whom the reader knows? Are you qualified and experienced for the ad that you are responding to? Is your letter a speculative inquiry to learn about possible openings? Why would you be a good fit for the company or a specific position? You have a small window of time to captivate the reader, so make every word count. Write the way you would speak normally. You want your personality, your drive and your positive attitudes to resonate with the reader, creating the interest and curiosity to learn more about you. Avoid the standard openings: “I’m seeking a rewarding challenge that will further my knowledge and progress with a growing company”; “I am looking for a position that will best utilize my acquired skills and qualifications.” Bland statements do little to arouse the reader’s enthusiasm.
In the second paragraph focus on your qualifications and the benefits the company would experience by hiring you, supported with examples of real and relevant achievements in bullet-point form. Where would you be of greatest value to a potential employer and why? Why should the employer hire you? Why are you qualified for serious consideration? Convince the reader that it is in their interest to actively review your resume. Reinforce the idea that it is in the employer’s best interest to meet you.
The final paragraph is where you can partially control the follow up. Express your thanks in advance for the time the reader will take to read your resume. Mention your availability and flexibility for a meeting, or set a time and day when you will call to see what questions the reader may have, then follow up. Include your telephone number and e-mail contact under your signature. Use Arial, Courier, Times New Roman, Verdana fonts, 10 or 12 pt. Avoid using multiple exclamation marks.
A well-written cover letter will be
noted and often remembered. As a targeted sales tool it can frequently
uncover hidden job opportunities. It can even serve to create a job where
none exists currently. If you make a strong enough impression on the reader,
your name may come to mind next time there is an opening.