The Effective Cover Letter: Yes, You Can Write One Too
Piping Hot Secrets to the Effective Cover Letter, Served Fresh Daily
If there is one weapon that you want to make sure to stock in your job search arsenal that weapon is an effective cover letter. Even more than a resume, an effective cover letter is one of the job hunting elements that can separate your application from the dozens or even hundreds of other candidates who are going after the same dream job.
The secret of the effective cover letter is that it is the closest thing to a face to face conversation that you can have with a prospective employer before you actually sit down for an interview. While a resume is just a cold and lifeless listing of facts and history a cover letter is a one-on-one talk. If written correctly, it takes the reader from knowing nothing about the writer to an introduction, an understanding and then an agreement.
Additionally, the cover letter makes the reader ready to take an action in a way that a resume just canít. After these things, the cover letter shows itís worth by telling the reader how to take the action that makes the job one step closer to reality for the job seeker.
You Donít Need a PhD in Effective Cover Letter-ology
Luckily, the crafting of a really effective cover letter is not some sort of obscure skill only mastered by career communication professionals. Given the right sort of knowledge and insights, just about anyone can write a cover letter that makes their application for a job stand out from the pack and get noticed.
Hereís how. First, you need to stop thinking of your cover letter as a piece of paper that basically says "look at my resume." Theyíve already got your resume, so chances are good that they are going to look at it. For the same reason, itís not just a one page summary of the high points of your resume either.
Your cover letter is a sales tool. Itís the written equivalent of an agene that would go in and tell the hiring manager why you are the best solution for the business problem that the manager faces. As a sales tool, it must take the reader through a number of phases, in order, to make the sale.
Make the Reader Sit Up and Take Notice
The first phase is to get the readers attention. Given the number of cover letters and resumes that are littering the desk and email inbox of the busy Hiring Manager, he or she is probably just trying to get through them as fast as he or she can. So youíve only got a couple of seconds to establish with the reader that you offer what he or she is looking for. Otherwise, your cover letter, along with your resume and your chances at an interview will vanish forever.
A good way to get this attention is to start with a bold, all caps sentence that tell the reader what the letter promises to deliver.
"EXPERIENCED SALES MANAGER AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY" for instance is a surefire way to get the interest of the Hiring Manager on the search for a Sales Manager.
Once youíve got that attention, you donít want to lose it. Start with an interesting, provocative opening that is sure to intrigue the reader or make him or her wan to know more. Now youíve got the reader hooked, itís time to eel him or her in.
The first step in making a sale is to let the buyer know that you understand what his or her wants and desires and needs are. So the beginning of the letter should be a sentence or two that establishes that you understand the problem that the manager is facing, and are familiar with the issues that confront him or her. Obviously, to convey this information you must first know it so if you are unsure about any of these issues, you should do some research first.
Get the Facts Straight First
The first piece of research you should do is the job title and duties. Additionally, you should want to learn as much as you can about the company as a whole, the market, the industry and the people that you will be working with. You especially want to know the name and title and address of the Hiring Manager. The internet is one source of information for these items, as are publications, friends and family and any acquaintances that you may have who can help you.
Hopefully, by the time you establish that you understand the problem, you should have the reader nodding and thinking to him or herself "Thatís right. Thatís exactly what the problem is." Establishing this builds a trust with the reader and makes him or her more receptive to the solution that you will present.
Which leads us to the next step: Presenting the solution.
One of the ways that the effective cover letter differs from even the best written and most impressive resumes is that it can clearly and directly link the problems that the company faces with the solution that you present. If, for instance you have show that you understand that the business faces the challenge of expanding the market share of a product against tough competitive forces you can show and prove that you have a way of doing that exact thing.
You Have to Prove It
To prove this you have a lot of facts that you can throw into your argument. You can refer to your education, your credentials, your personality; your life historyÖ just about anything that you believe will be relevant and convincing. Most of all, though, you can use your job experience.
Nothing proves that you are capable of handling a problem and solving it for your new employer like listing the times and ways that you have handled and solved that problem in the past. List any sorts of recognition you have received and any sort of figures or numbers that establish this point. Often, putting these sorts of supporting facts in a table or putting them in a bullet pointed list is a good way to make them more readable and easy to grasp at a single glance.
Once you establish that you have met this challenge before, many times, you are no longer a gamble for the potential employer. You are a sure bet for the company and someone that they know they could hire without having to waste company time and resources with handholding and training to do the job.
Now, the Final Ingredient: Passion
The next step that an effective cover letter takes is to cement this image of problem solving and add the sparkle of enthusiasm. Every employer wants for their employers to be devoted and dedicated to their job for reasons besides simply cashing a paycheck every two weeks. Consequently, each cover letter should have a sentence or two which describes and explains why you find the job that you do to be so rewarding. Maybe it is the challenge, maybe it is the feeling of satisfaction you get from helping others, but there has to be something that drives you to succeed and employers like to know what that is.
At this point in the cover letter, the hiring manager should be more or less salivating to get you into their office and start enthusiastically problem solving for them. So the effective cover letter takes this excitement and channels it into a simple task: Taking the hiring process to the next step.
In 99% of cases, this means calling the candidate up and scheduling an interview. So thatís what you should ask the reader to do at this point. Say something like "I look forward to showing you my enthusiasm in person. Please call me at this number so we can schedule an interview."
Give It a Rest for a While
Once youíve finished writing your letter, get away from the compute for a couple of hours and go do something else. Preferably, get out of the house and do something that doesnít involve reading or writing. When you get back, print up your resume and read it out loud. How does it sound?
You are going for something that sounds natural and direct and clear. You donít want any big words or fancy jargon or clumsy sentence transitions. Make any corrections that you think are necessary at this stage.
Now print it up on white or ivory paper and mail it with a resume on matching paper. If you believe that you would rather go the email route, send it in the body of the email, along with a copy of the resume cut and pasted in the body as well as attached. Many HR departments donít want to open attachment for fear of computer viruses. Others do want the resume in Word so that they can print it up and look at it. By including both you cover all your bases.
Congratulations. If you have followed these guidelines you already have an effective cover letter which will blow 90% of the competition away.
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