Writing a Compelling Cover Letter
Much attention is paid to the resume, however, without a strong cover letter the hiring manager may not notice your resume. A well-crafted cover letter will call attention to your best features and benefits, “sell” you as an ideal candidate, and engage the reader to want to know more about you. To compete in the job market these days, you need strong marketing collateral – gone are the days when a generic “to whom it may concern” letter and an “obituary-style” resume will land you an interview. It’s critical in these competitive times to differentiate yourself – you must come right out and tell the reader why you are the must-interview candidate.
When writing your cover letter, don’t use a generic template. You need to highlight why you are a qualified candidate for each specific position. Various components of a strong letter will achieve this goal.
Opening Paragraph: Don’t use the standard “I am writing to apply for the position of Sales Manager.” Instead, grab the reader’s attention with something like, “As a senior sales executive who spearheaded the launch of several successful brands, I will bring immediate value to your organization” or, “Could a sales manager with a solid foundation in new business development, product marketing, and key account management have an impact on your company?” Just like marketing copy, you need to “hook” their attention immediately.
The “Middle”: Between the opening and closing paragraphs is the core message of your cover letter. You want to include 3-4 bullet points that articulate the specific value you bring that is directly relevant to that position. There are two ways to do this.
In a conventional letter, lead with a strong qualifying sentence followed by bulleted statements that highlight key accomplishments.
“With 20 years of brand and product marketing leadership, my past contributions are indications of what you can expect from me in the role of Sales Manager:
~ Exceeded profit targets by a least 22% per quarter since the start of FY 2010.
~ Defined multi-year strategic plans that enabled XYZ Company to turn its first-ever profit.”
An alternative to the standard business-style letter is a “T-letter.” This type of letter was popular in the ‘90s and is being used again. Like the name implies, following your opening paragraph you’ll create two columns. On the left, list job requirements from the posting and on the right match your qualifications. This format provides the reader with quick confirmation that you are a qualified candidate. Here’s an example:
Job Posting Requirement: Establish sales in a newly created territory.
Your Qualification: Drove Midwest region startup from $0 to nearly $2.5 million in sales the first year.
Closing Paragraph: Reiterate why you are a strong candidate and ask for the interview.
“If this is the level of leadership you need to develop and deliver innovative business solutions to your customers, then I welcome an opportunity to discuss in more detail the value I will bring to your team.”
Here are a few additional final tips:
~ Write a concise, to-the-point letter that is laser-focused on how your skills and experience matches the job requirements.
~ Present fresh information; never reiterate what is presented on your resume.
~ Leverage every sentence to position you as the perfect solution to the hiring manager’s problems.
~ Express confidence and enthusiasm. The reader must believe that you are genuinely interested in working for their company.
When you demonstrate the value you have to offer, you provide the hiring manager with the motivation to read further and want to meet you!
Kathy Keshemberg is a Nationally Certified Resume Writer and Certified Career Management Coach. Since 1983, she has created thousands of interview-winning resumes and related job-search materials for satisfied clients around the world. Need assistance with your career? We’re here to help! www.acareeradvantage.com