Monday is the most dreaded day of the week. No one likes a Monday. We start complaining about it on Sunday. Anything that goes wrong during the day is instantly blamed on it being Monday. We continue to berate it all the way through the day until the work day is done.
Poor Monday, it never really did anything to you. It is a necessary day. Without Monday there would be no Tuesday. It would love to be the fun Saturday, but it can’t. Someone has to start the work week.
I find a lot of people look at Cover Letters the same way: hate them, dread them or are in fear of them.
They do have something in common with Mondays – the more you dread them the harder they are.
So let’s go through the process of creating a Cover Letter from a new prospective: let’s look at a Monday like a Saturday. Let’s have some fun with it.
First, let’s break it down to the basics:
It is simply a piece of paper allowing you to bring out your personality to introduce your resume. No more, no less.
It is a letter – not an essay or synopsis of your life story. It is an introductory letter. It should also have the same look as your resume. Your letterhead and font should be the same for both. Consistency builds a brand – your brand.
I am your guy/girl and here is why. We are not begging for the reader to give us a chance nor are we apologizing for our resume or background.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Now, let’s start putting it together.
Often you do not have a name or title to use in addressing the Cover Letter. No worries, this is not a trap. It is a matter of convenience. They don’t want to give a name so that desperate job seekers get a hold of a name or title and bug that poor person to death.
There are a few options you can use here.
Dear Sir or Madam
Dear Hiring Manager
-or- here is a radical thought – don’t use a salutation at all! Instead you can do something like this:
City, State Zip
Re: Position Name
Go right into your first paragraph.
What not to use: To Whom It May Concern. It sounds like you do not care who reads it. If you don’t care who reads your resume why should they care to read it?
Before you write one word do your homework, which you should have already done in preparing your resume for the position. Your resume should already be tweaked depending upon the job and company. Each position deserves a unique resume – even if it is just tweaking a bit.
It may be moving the bullet points around to make sure you have your proof first and foremost in the resume and job descriptions.
So, knowing what they want is the first step.
The second is getting a feel for the job or company. This means reading the job posting or their website and listening to your gut. What feeling do you get when you read it? Does it sound like fun, does it sound like a behind the scenes position, does the company sound fun or straight-laced and conservative? Get a feel for it and write in that tone.
This helps you “speak their language” and helps them align with you. We all feel comfortable around people similar to us.
Yes, I am starting with the body of the letter. I like to write the opening paragraph last. It is just my way. I find it easier to introduce the introductory letter once I get a good feel for what I am presenting.
So what are you presenting? Why are you the best candidate? Why would they want to talk to you?
Take your queue from your homework. What did they stress in the job requirements and preferred candidate qualities?
Speak directly to their need. If they want someone with experience in x, y and z then list out that you have x, y and z. Then take it a step further. Demonstrate not only your experience with x, y and z but also your successes and understanding. Talk the talk and walk the walk.
I was in the financial industry for quite some time, if I was applying for a position to go back into the financial position I would speak their language. Using industry words appropriately let them know that I was part of that industry, I knew it, I lived it and I was good at it. I understand it.
Don’t try to bluff your way on this one. It doesn’t work. If you are new to the industry stick to the skill set and accomplishments of it.
There are some different things you can do in this area, variations of presentation. You can utilize a couple of paragraphs or bullet points. It is up to you.
For example if they are looking for someone with experience in leadership, territory growth and managing people you can present as an introduction to the paragraph or as a bullet:
“While managing and mentoring a team of x number of people….” Then go on to describe how you were an awesome leader. Flow into the next point with something like, “Having build a strong team we were able to surpass expectations in growing our territory ….”
Or – list is as bullet points:
*Leadership* Speak to their importance of leadership, whether that be working with senior leadership, overseeing several areas or collaborating with internal/external stakeholders. One or two lines is sufficient.
*Territory Growth* Detail how you grew your territory not just in numbers but also some details of how you accomplished it (new campaigns, targeting new markets etc.)
*Team Management* Detail how large your team was, your leadership style and who was on your team – and how they succeeded with you as their leader.
Stop Sweating What You Don’t Have
Let me just say this: the expectations and preferred qualities list is a Christmas list. This is their ideal candidate; however it does not mean that you have to have every single item on that list of ten. If you meet seven of the ten then for goodness sakes apply!
If they want a certain degree and you do not posses it but have equivalent work experience then focus on the work experience. Go into a bit of detail letting them know you know your stuff. A degree is nice but having someone who has been there done that means a lot. Focus on the positive and be able to sell it.
The Dreaded Salary Requirement
When it is asked for you to submit your salary requirement do your homework. Yes, I hate this too. It feels like a trap, a way to disqualify you. Stop sweating it. My goodness, if you are going to get freaked out about this then we really need to talk before you have an interview.
Go to a salary site like Salary.com and do some research on comparable jobs in the area and the range of salaries. In the cover letter you can indicate that based on your experience and research the range for this position is x-y, which is acceptable to you. You can also let them know that you know this is a range and would be influenced by other factors including responsibilities and you would like to discuss the position in more detail before giving a definite number.
I always compare Cover Letters with Love Letters so saying, “I am submitting my application for the position of X that I saw on career site” sounds a lot like, “my friend said you were cute, do you want do grab a pizza?”
Not very flattering or inviting.
Again, speak to their need based on what you have. That could be the length of experience, certain expertise or matching their attitude. For example:
“Having two decades of experience doing x, y and z I look forward to bringing a, b and c to company name in the position of open position.”
“As a proven industry leader continually surpassing expectations in a, b and c …”
“What makes an exceptional Account Manager: presence, presentation and professional persistence…”
Thank them for their time in reviewing your resume and let them know that there is more to tell. This can be something like, “even though my enclose resume speaks directly to x, y and z, there is considerable more to relate.”
Let them know that you want to talk to them. Follow that sentence with “I look forward to speaking with you soon to discuss how I can be an integral part of company name in the role of position title.”
I normally close with Sincerely, your given name and “enclosure” at the bottom.
Now, one final thing – print that sucker out and read it. Read it backward, from the bottom up and from the end of each sentence to the beginning.
We read what we expect to read and often overlook simple spelling or grammatical errors due to this. That is why you want to read it in an unconventional way to trick your brain out of being lazy.
One error, one mistake or one little oops could cost you an opportunity so take the time to really read it.
Then send it off and let it go.
That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
*Becky – I hope this helps and thank you for the note!