A cover letter’s only objective is to compel the reader into contacting you. In some ways, it is also to introduce yourself and set the stage for the resume. Yet, if you can write a cover letter that compels the hiring manager to call you, then the resume simply becomes what it is meant to be; a documented list of past experiences and accumulated skills.
Let us look at this from a sales perspective. A sales presentation is essentially composed of four parts:
The cover letter is the presentation and the close. The resume becomes the proof that supports your presentation as laid out in the cover letter. The approach is simply what you do to get the hiring manager to read your offer.
If the presentation is solid, the proof is something buyer needs to reinforce his belief that he made a good buy. So, in that light, the resume becomes the afterthought in a sense. If you have written a cover letter that effectively convinces the hiring manager to call you, then the resume simply reaffirms that, “yes, I am doing the right thing in calling this person, why; look at how sterling the resume is!”
On the other hand, if the cover letter fails to impress or convince; all the hard work of putting together the resume may be for nothing. A person must already have a “buying” predisposition for the proof to work, otherwise all the testimonials and proofs will probably not be enough.
Most people are familiar with the features and benefits of a product and what the differences are. In short, features are what make a product unique and the benefits are “what’s in it for me.” Yet in making the presentation, it is not enough to simply state mostly the benefits or mostly the features.
A good sales presentation makes the connection between a feature that the buyer most cares for and the benefit to the buyer. It is the connection that you draw that sets the stage for the close. It is not enough to say, “I am proficient in sales management, having directed 6 sales representatives in achieving 106% of sales quota for 2000.” That is the feature, that is nice; but so what.
It is not enough to say, “I can generate an increase in sales for your company by building a team of aggressive sales representatives.” That is nice, that is a benefit to hiring you I suppose, but what makes me believe that? And do I have to go back to the previous statement and make my own connection?
The feature and benefit must flow to something like, “I can bring increased sales and revenue to your company; as I did for Wily E. Acme Inc., where I achieved 106% of sales quota for 2000,” or words to that effect. You state the benefit first, and then, bridge to the feature. In this case, you are the product and so the cover letter is your sales pitch of you.
As you write your presentation, as much as making the connection for the hiring manager is critical, even more critical is making the right connection between the feature she is looking for and the benefits she needs. And the answer to that riddle is in the job description and your research of the company. You should not send form letters, willy-nilly, to every job you are interested in.
Select the position and the company that is a match for you, and then, you must dissect the job description. Make a bullet point list of what they are looking for. Then make a list of your skills and qualifications. And as you did in grade school, draw a line between what they are looking for and what you have to offer.
Research the company and industry and attempt to pinpoint which of the bullet pointed items seem to be the most important.
Mirror the words and descriptions that you picked out of the job posting and description. Nearly every job posting is pretty exact in what they are looking for. So,give them what they want in the words they wrote it in. If you use a template to get the flow of ideas down first, fine; then tweak the letter to mirror what the company is looking for.
And of course, you must close the letter by asking for a decision, “I suggest getting together immediately to discuss the possibilities between us, you may call me at (000) 000-1234.”
In concept, I suggest you write the cover letter as though it was a sales presentation. As you write the letter, write it in terms of what the buyer is looking for and in the words the company uses. You letter will be far more compelling.
Although not a job getting guru, Hyo Kim’s been around the block a couple of time. So, come over and take a look at some of the strategies, tips and advice, a few laughs and a couple of words of wisdom that he’s dispensing, plus his great list of resources at Landing on Your Feet Blog. Come on in, take your shoes off, stay awhile; can I get you a cup of coffee?