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So Much Resume Cover Letter Help is Pure Garbage
A simple google search or walk down the career section of your local mega-bookstore slash coffee shop should amply prove that there is no lack of people that want to offer you resume cover letter help. The price that they are charging for this supposed help varies from free (Websites) to outrageous (personalized resume cover letter help consultants). All of it, however, has one thing in common. This resume cover letter help is intended to help you create a resume cover letter that increases your chance of getting the job you want.
Like anything else in the world, some of this resume cover letter help is excellent, some of it is awful and the rest is somewhere in between. A good bit of it, however, is lacking in one important element that goes beyond merely helping you to create a particular cover letter. Namely, teaching you how to think about writing cover letters so that you can write them for the rest of your career with the confidence that your resume cover letters will get you interviews and jobs.
Learn It, Then You Can Use It
Youíve all heard the sayingÖ "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life." Most of the resume cover letter help falls into that first category, and sometimes serves you up a tasty seafood meal indeed. If, however, you are ready to start catching your own fish, then grab your life preserver because itís time to get in the boat and head on out to sea right now.
The first step of learning how to think about cover letters is to get a firm idea of their purpose. Naturally, thatís simple. To get you the job interview. The second part is a little more subtle. Just how do you think resume cover letters go about getting that interview?
If you answered something along the lines of "presenting your qualifications," you are close but not quite there. If you said "demonstrate your interest" thatís not the full answer either. The correct answer is that a well-written and effective resume cover letter MAKES THE CASE THAT YOU ARE THE SOLUTION TO THE HIRING MANAGERíS MOST PRESSING BUSINESS PROBLEM.
If you break down this sentence you will note that there are several pieces to that concept; MAKING THE CASE, YOU ARE THE SOLUTION, THE HIRING MANAGER, and MOST PRESSING BUSINESS PROBLEM.
Consider These Elements Carefully
Each of these elements is vitally important and deserves to be treated on its own. Letís start with the last element and move backwards. The only reason that a company would hire you is to solve a problem that they have. Whether that is selling more widgets, designing promotional materials, interacting with the media or building a wall around a castle, each hire can be thought of as a solution to a specific business problem. Consequently, to get that job, you are going to need to find out exactly what that MOST PRESSING BUSINESS PROBLEM is.
Frequently, this means research to find out about the company you are applying to, the department where you want to work, and the business that they conduct. What kind of tasks must they perform? What goals do they set for their business? What issues or challenges do they face? What set of outcomes would be considered success? What would be considered failure? The more completely you understand these issues the more accurately you can present yourself as the answer to the problems that business must face.
Whoís the Man (ager)?
The next part of the sentence to cover is THE HIRING MANAGER. Who is the hiring manager and what is his or her name and correct contact address? You would be surprised by how many fine candidates have their cover letters thrown away because they are addressed to the wrong person, or even worse, to "whom it may concern."
Moving backwards, we see that the next portion to cover is that you are THE SOLUTION. With the companies pressing business problem in mind, what characteristics and attributes do you possess that make you the best solution to that problem? Chances are the answer to this question will involve many aspects of your self. Your education, for one thing, may have prepared you with the skills and knowledge necessary to solve the companyís business problem. Likewise, you may have some specialized training from the workplace that makes you particularly skilled in solving that problem. Other characteristics, like interests, dedication or a familiarity with the field from research might also play a role.
None of these, however, will make as big an impression on the Hiring Manager as the simple fact of experience solving that problem for some other employer. Hiring Managers, you see, arenít interested in taking risks on someone who may theoretically be capable of the job when they can choose someone who has proven experience solving it.
As a result, the best resume cover letter help that someone can offer is to advise, recommend, plead, beg and command that you list your experience solving they companyís biggest business problem as prominently as possible. This is the single most important element that the Hiring Manager is going to consider before granting an interview.
Putting the Pieces in Place
Lastly, we get to the part of the sentence that puts all the elements together: MAKE THE CASE. Itís not going to be enough for your resume cover letter to simply list your experience, attributes and problem solving capabilities down on a piece of paper. You need to orchestrate all these facts in a way that is clear, understandable, logical and most importantly, persuasive.
Practically speaking, the following approach is your best bet:
First, you want to begin your cover letter in a manner that will immediately attract attention and shows that you arenít going to waste the Hiring Managerís time. One effective way to do this is a headline that proves you understand their problem and offers a solution.
Something along the lines of EXPERIENCED BUSINESS GENERATING SALE EXECUTIVE AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY gets right to the point in an attention grabbing way.
Once youíve got the readerís attention, your next step is to show that you understand their problem. If you can do that, then you immediately have them sitting on the edge of their seat thinking to themselves "thatís right! Thatís exactly the problem that I have." When that happens, you are no longer trying to sell yourself or push yourself on the Hiring Manager. Instead you have become something more like a consultant, the possessor of an inside knowledge of the Managerís dilemma.
Naturally, you should follow this definition of the problem with your case for why you are the best solution to that problem. As we mentioned before, you can use any information from your background and character to prove this case, but recounting specific, relevant experience will be the most effective. It canít be stated enough that this is where the research that youíve done pays off. Once you know what the Hiring Managerís most pressing business problem, once you give examples of when you solved that exact same problem before you are well on your way to getting the interview. As an aside, this knowledge is also handy for writing your resume as well, so before you send your resume cover letter and resume be sure to check that the two match perfectly and that both specifically list the problem solving experience that will be of the most immediate concern to the targeted company.
Show Your Passion!
Part of this section is what is often termed the "passion paragraph." Thatís where the candidate goes a step beyond saying that they can solve the problem, or even that they have solved the problem and say that they love solving the problem.
Think about it. Every Hiring Manager seeks someone that is enthusiastic over someone that is just showing up at work to do their job and collect a paycheck. The Manager knows that an enthusiastic worker, who genuinely enjoys what they do, will not only do a better job and stay longer, but will actually act as a mood and moral boost for the entire company. Consequently, this information is very important to add to a cover letter.
Once youíve made the case that you understand the problem, can solve it, have solved it before and love solving it, you must close the sale by telling the reader what he or she must do next. Donít assume that the Hiring Manager knows what the next step is. You want the interview, so go ahead and ask for it.
Nine times out of ten that will be as simple as asking the Hiring manager to pick up the phone and call you up to arrange an interview. A standard way to request that is to simply say, "I look forward to discussing my enthusiasm for this opportunity in person. Please call me at 555-555-5555 at your earliest convenience so that we may set up a time to speak."
Once youíve written this, sign off, give it a thorough edit, including reading it out loud and send it to your target with confidence that you have the most effective cover letter in the job market making the case for you.
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