You found the job you want – it is a perfect match. You have the skills, experience and all the qualifications they seek in their ideal candidate. This is the job! Reading through the position posting your excitement grows until you read those five dreaded words at the end of the post:
Submit Resume and Cover Letter.
It isn’t the resume that sinks your heart, you have that ready to go.
It is the Cover Letter.
The poor Cover Letter. It is dreaded, hated and feared.
The more you fret over writing the Cover Letter, the harder it seems to do.
Take a breath, and let’s look at Cover Letters in a new way: let’s break it down to make it friendlier, easier and have a little fun.
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.
Your resume answers the question, “What can you do for me?” The Cover Letter’s message is “I am your ideal candidate here is why.”
Come from a place of confidence. Be careful not to sound as though you are begging for the reader to give us a chance or apologize for your 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. Often a company does not give a name to keep that individual from being bombarded.
There are different schools of thought on the salutation and more opinions than there are options. I am including a variety from which to choose.
Dear Sir or Madam
Dear Hiring Manager
No Salutation. That’s right, do not use a salutation at all. Instead, after the Company Name, Address and City/State, space down twice, use a reference line (Re: Position Name), space down two more lines and begin your opening paragraph.
One salutation I strongly suggest not using: To Whom It May Concern. It sounds like you do not care who reads it. This equates to if you do not care who reads your resume why should they care to read it?
Before you write one word, do your homework. Most likely you have done so in preparing your resume and tweaking it appropriately. The resume tweaking could include reordering bullet points, modifying the areas of expertise or adjusting your opening statement.
The research you do is to first know what qualifications are important for the position. The second aspect is to get 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? What is the impression you get of the position and company? An inclusive, team-oriented open environment or a segmented, straight-laced or conservative environment?
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.
What are you presenting? Why are you the best candidate? Why would they want to talk to you?
Take your queue from your homework in answering these questions. What did they stress in the job requirements and preferred candidate qualities that align with your experience, expertise or abilities?
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.
Stop Sweating What You Don’t Have
Let me just say this: the position 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 go for it.
If they want a certain degree, which you do not have – but you do have equivalent work experience then focus on the experience. Go into a bit of detail letting them know you know your stuff. Sometimes a degree is an absolute must; however, there are situations that experience means more. Focus on the positive and be able to sell it.
The Dreaded Salary Requirement
It feels like a trap, a way to disqualify you. Stop sweating it. Honestly, it may be a way to narrow the candidate pool, it may not. The bottom line is, they asked for it, you must provide it. The best thing you can do is, again, do your homework.
Go to a salary site like Salary.com and do some research on comparable jobs in the area and the range of salaries. You can then state something along the lines of 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.
Make an impression, build an alliance. Speak to their need based on what you have. This could be the length of experience, certain expertise or matching their attitude. Build an immediate alliance between their need and your ability to provide a solution.
Starting from this perspective rather than, “I am submitting my resume in response to the position posted on XY Career Site.” will you stand out in a positive way.
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. You can follow the above 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.”
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
Brand Strategist & Career Coach
Certified Professional Resume Writer