No, I’m not kidding, there is more than one type of cover letter

I literally said this to someone at the gym the other morning.

Perhaps not the way I would normally respond, but give me a break, it was early. Chief somehow gets us to the gym in the ungodly hour of 5 am so I wake up sometime around 6ish on a treadmill.

The guys at the gym know what I do. Not that they asked me. They asked Chief.  It’s the southern manners, they often talk to the man instead of the woman.

It’s very interesting, especially for someone not from the south. The closest I get to being a Southern Belle is Carol Burnett’s Scarlette.

On this day, Chief was out of town so it was just me. Somehow, a couple of the guys were talking about early retirement, changing jobs, job searching – you know, stuff up my alley. Then I hear one tell the other that it’s good for him to keep his resume updated all the time (true) but not to worry about a Cover Letter, they’re dead.

Wait. What?

Now boys, I appreciate the southern charm, I really do. However, that advise is as useful as a steering wheel on a mule. And you’re fixin’ to get me riled up.

Too late, riling happened. I had to interject. Because, you know, this is what I do….

Now if you think a couple of good ol’ boys are going to believe a girl who’s just about knee-high to a duck just because she said so well then you’ve only got one oar in the water.

So after the above mentioned “No, I’m not kidding” I did convince them (and educate a little) with some Q&A:

Q: What if you saw a position posted and they asked for a cover letter? Oh, well yeah…
A: That’s right, you would have to write a Traditional Cover Letter, which targets a specific job in a company.

Q: What if you were referred to send your resume to someone in the company? Uh, the same thing?
A: Just about, just a tiny technicality in calling it a Referral Cover Letter which mentions the person who referred you.

Q: Now, what if you wanted to be proactive in your job search and reach out to a company, companies in an industry or an entire region to discover a position that isn’t even posted yet, create enough interest that one is created for you or make such an impression that they refer you to a hidden opportunity – meaning hardly any competition? You can do that?
A: You betcha! It’s called a Value Proposition Letter, which is a crisp, focused letter demonstrating your value. There are versions to this, with minor differences:
– A letter of interest – written without a specific job in mind to a specific company.
– A broadcast letter – written without a specific job to several employers in a targeted sector.
– A prospecting letter – without a specific job to a smaller, more targeted audience.

Q: Okay, lastly, what if you wanted to do something new but didn’t know anything about it so you wanted to reach out to someone to get their advice on how to get into their industry, find out more about what the position is like or even what else you can do once you get into it? I don’t know
A: Another letter – or email – but this time it’s a Networking Letter. You’re basically asking for an Informational Interview to get their advice or gather information about a position, industry or your job search.

My good deed and workout were done for the day.

Oh, and don’t think these things are just thrown together haphazardly. Oh no, each letter is thoroughly researched, targeted and meticulously crafted for the most impact. The most impactful and successful Value Proposition Letters are no more than 150 words – total!

Some hiring managers and recruiters may take the side of the gym boys saying the Cover Letter is dead. It may be in their eyes. But not for everyone.

I know many decision makers across multiple industries that do read the Cover Letters. Some read it before the resume and use it as a deciding factor if they want to read the resume. Some read after the resume as a test to make sure the person sounds the same in both.

Across our industry, it is generally accepted that on the low end, at least 60% of jobs are hidden – meaning they aren’t advertised. Think about it for a minute, how often do you hear or know of when a position needs to be filled, internally you hear those four little words, “do you know anyone…”?

This is why networking and hidden job market strategy using Value Proposition Letters are so amazing. They get results.

Every piece of communication is an opportunity for you to expand your network, cement your brand and open doors. Why would you turn that down? The person on the other side of the desk can choose not to read that letter, but wouldn’t you rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it?

Of course, I guess if someone doesn’t want to make the most of every possible opportunity, they have their reasons, bless their little heart.

 

Has one of these letters been successful for you? Bonus question – I had a lot of fun with the southern sayings in this – I think “bless their heart” is still my favorite. What’s your favorite or one that you don’ hear anymore? 

✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰
As a triple certified as a Professional Resume Writer, Career Coach and Social Media Brand Analyst I help amazing professionals break out of a suffocating corporate existence and get happy in their career.

I’m the career alchemist – I turn job lead into career gold!

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about we can work together to get you career happy.

Don’t Let Writing a Cover Letter Get You Down

Lexi has the bluesYou 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.

The Basics

The Intent

It is simply a piece of paper allowing you to bring out your personality to introduce your resume.  No more, no less.

The Format

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.

The Message

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.

The Content

Salutation

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 Sirs

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?

The Feel

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.

The Body

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.

Introduce Yourself

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.

Closing

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’s it.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

You Call it Paranoia, I Call it Preparedness

Image

I am a huge fan of the show Criminal Minds.  Great show, great cast and great nightmares.  The picture on this blog is my laptop in my office.  You will notice the little smiley face on the top – that is a result of Tobias Hankel. 

There was an episode where the unsub – Tobias – used webcams to choose victims.  Literally watching them through their own webcam without their knowledge.  Kinda creepy.  Given my lack of technical savvy how do I know when I call a help desk there isn’t a Tobias on the other line linking into my webcam?

So I put a smiley face up there.  Take that Tobias! 

Since I am already in the Criminal Mind world, I will just go on to say that I can just see Rossi giving me the look after those last couple statements.  Fans of this show know what I mean, the Rossi look.  The one where after someone says something he gives this look as if to say, “Oooook, you just might be crazy.”

 Crazy – maybe.  Paranoid – maybe.  Aware and prepared – yes.

I like to be prepared.  When my son played sports all through school I had the sports bad.  The contents depended upon the sport and season.  For baseball we had sunscreen, bug bite stuff, granola bars, pencils (I keep the book), water, washcloth in a bag (for dipping in the cooler and place on the back of necks for overheating), sunglasses, gloves, hat and so on.

Someone asked me the other day about cover letters and if they were even necessary.

I have already put it out there according to the Rossi look that I might not be quite right so I will just continue the theme and let it spill that I love cover letters.  Yes, I am a freak, I love cover letters.  I love resumes and networking and LinkedIn – this is why I do what I do. 

Back to point: cover letters.  Yes, they are necessary  They serve a very important purpose: they introduce you to the reader and entice them to want to read your resume.

Sometimes they are read after the resume and sometimes they are not even read at all.  But remember – we are all about being prepared.  I would rather have them and make them great than not have them and need them. 

Way back when before cell phones and all the modern technology we used to do something in the dating world called writing.  We would write “love letters” or “notes”.  These were to entice the object of your affection to gain interest in you and agree to go out with you. Sigh – the good old days.

Today the cover letter is that love letter.  The first date is the resume. 

A cover letter is a wonderful thing because it does not have to follow the constraints of the resume.  You can talk about whatever you want to in the cover letter – anything.  You can mention something from your past that is touched on or not even mentioned in your resume to gain interest or make a point. 

You can spell out directly how you are an exact match to the position.  I have seen cover letters where there are two columns; the first is a list of the job requirements and the second a list of the candidate’s qualifications showing an exact match.  Creative.  Cool.

I had one client who grew up on a farm and in college he was a member of a national championship football team. We used it.  If I remember correctly the sentence went something like, “I understand the value of hard work and being a contributing member of a team having grown up on a farm and as a member of the XYZ college national championship football team…” 

It demonstrated strong qualities that were ingrained in him and also gave a couple unique talking points.

Cover letters can serve as a test, too.  It is expected that there will be incomplete sentences or incorrect sentence structure in a resume.  It is your resume; therefore, it is written from a position of an assumed I.  You do not say I or me in the resume. 

Perfect English and writing style is essential in a cover letter.  The test can be if you proofread your work, as well as your communication skills.  Can you write an effective business communication? 

One of the keys to a good cover letter is to understand your audience and their needs.  Read the position posted and research the company.  Go beyond the home page of their website.  Get a feel for the environment in terms of clients, communication, values, mission and goals.  Get a feel for how they “talk” on the website.  People are drawn to others who are most similar to themselves.  

Stay on task of the task at hand: the job.  Tell them the position for which you are applying, tell them why you are applying and how you qualify.  Then thank them and leave it on a positive note.  Let them know that you look forward to speaking with them and give them your contact information.

Lastly, make sure that your cover letter matches the look and feel of your resume.  The letterhead should match, as should the visual elements of your resume.  

However, I do not recommend using homemade pink stationary as Garcia did. 

 

Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

Why Do Cover Letters and Mondays Always Bring You Down?

Lexi caresMonday 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:

 

The Intent

It is simply a piece of paper allowing you to bring out your personality to introduce your resume.  No more, no less.

 

The Format

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.

 

The Message

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.

 

Salutation

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 Sirs

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:

 

Company Name

Address

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?

 

The Feel

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.

 

The Body

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.

 

Introduce Yourself

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.”

 

Or

 

“As a proven industry leader continually surpassing expectations in a, b and c …”

 

Or

 

“What makes an exceptional Account Manager: presence, presentation and professional persistence…”

 

Closing

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’s it.

 

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

*Becky – I hope this helps and thank you for the note!

How to Get Your Resume Thrown in the Trash in 15 Seconds or Less

trash can fullThere are all sorts of blogs, articles, tips and tricks that you can read that tell you what you should do with your resume to get noticed.  I know, I have written and read many of them.

But still, often these suggestions are not headed.

Perhaps a different communication approach is in order.

So today, I will address what to do if you don’t want your resume to be noticed, at least not in a positive way.  These tips are for general resume guidelines.  Of course, there are specific areas that these would not apply.  (A picture, for example, may be perfectly acceptable if you are an actor)

Use bright or “pretty” paper.  Nothing screams immature, under-qualified and possibly a baby-sitter is needed like hot pink paper with purple flowers on it.

Forget the computer – write out your resume with good old pen and paper!  Set that tone immediately that you are completely outdated in the technology driven world and even though resources are available you throw go against the grain and choose to ignore them.

Don’t list your contact information prominently on the top of the first page.  Heck, don’t list it at all.  If they really want you they will hunt you down!

Use a completely unprofessional email address.  Because everyone knows “Sexymomma65”, “BoyzBMine”, “Player”, “HoesBTrippin” or “DownTo…” (you get the idea) automatically equates to professional, career and customer-minded individuals.

Don’t tell them the position you are applying for.  Again, let them work for it!  Of course they have time to read your entire resume to figure out just where you fit in their organization.

Don’t list your qualifications – paint a really broad picture.  You know your potential and in telling them that you have a CEO-mindset should tell them everything they need to know in how you are qualified to do this job.  Never mind the fact that your current career path is as a customer service agent, you think like an executive and can “talk” like an executive so of course they will let you run the company!

Copy and paste your job description.  That certainly explains everything you were hired to do.  Forget the fact that it doesn’t tell them how you perform the job or any accomplishments you have had.  If it was enough to describe the job for you last applied for, than it should be good enough for them.

Use “I” and “me” in your resume.  Go against the grain again and forget the rule that the resume is about you so it is implied in your sentences.  Make yourself sound like that obnoxious guy at a party who talks about himself in third person – they really love that!

Tell them why you are no longer at an employee.  Why give yourself the opportunity to explain it in person and put a positive spin on it – just give it to them in the beginning to they can have a negative aspect to hold on to.  While you are at it, just go ahead and pick and choose which jobs you want to explain and which you do not.  They will never know that the ones you do not explain are the ones you got fired from – shhhh!

List out every single job you every held, starting in high school (even though you are in your 40s).  When I was 16 and worked at Dairy Queen I learned all I needed to know about customer service, and the fact that I can still do the curly-q with soft serve ice-cream is a bonus!

Have a five page resume.  Now this will really stand out!  Having so much to say why not give them a mini-novella for them to take home, curl up with a beverage and read it all night long at their leisure.

Bombard it with key words.  If they are looking for a project manager then by golly, you need to put that in every opportunity you can!  Content doesn’t matter as long as you hit the resume scanner programs it like a slot machine – Bing! Bing! Bing! Cherries everywhere!

Be super vague.  When you describe a previous position do not concentrate on the fact that you learned nothing from it.  Heck no, use very vauge, overall statements to sound super smart and leave them wondering just what the heck you did.

Apply for a job that you have not skills for what-so-ever.  Been a bank teller for 10 years and now want to run the construction company? No problem!  The fact that you don’t know the industry, have no transferable skills like contract negotiations, analyzing a P&L statement, managing people, running equipment, penetrating client rich target markets – no worries.  You can pick it up along the way.

Seem disinterested.  This is the playing hard to get of the corporate world.  In your cover letter tell them that you are just looking for a job that will pay your bills, that should intrigue them.

Be overanxious.  It is the opposite of the above, this time, try telling them that you can do any job better than anyone else if they just give you a chance.  They will eat this one up!  Who needs transferable skills and accomplishments?

Don’t use spell or grammar check.  Who has time for that anyway?  You are a busy person applying to 100 different jobs, you can’t possibly take the time to get it right for each and every one!  Besides, they know what you meant to say so that is good enough.

Put a picture on your resume.  You are right cupcake, those dimples will be the deciding factor.

Maybe, just maybe, I was a little over the top on the comments.  But here is the thing: I have seen every single one of these immediately-in-the-trash tricks before.  Trust me, they work.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

Effective Cover Letters/Poetic Love Letters – There is Something To This…

Beyond the obvious aspects of always being on your best behavior and trying to impress the person across the table there are interesting similarities to dating and job searching. Luckily for my boys I will not be using them as an example; instead I’ll use myself and my fiancé, Manuel.

In August of 2011 Manuel and I are getting married. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but trust me, it is. It took over twenty years, but we are back together and making those around us a little nauseous with our absolute devotion, admiration, love and respect for each other. We have even been told our pictures look like those fake ones companies put in picture frames, we just do not seem real because we are “too happy”. We courted all those years ago and continue to do so today.

When Manuel and I were dating at the ripe age of 18 we did not have cell phones or internet and we both had jobs. So when we first began to get to know each other we wrote a lot of letters. We took our time and crafted each one purposefully to share glimpses of ourselves, get to know each other; in other words we courted each other. Your cover letter should be approached in a similar way. Your cover letter is like a love letter without the ooey gooey of course.

Most people I speak to in my workshops hate writing cover letters and nine times out of ten the reason is: “I don’t know what to say.” Try thinking of the cover letter as a courtship letter or love letter to someone you do not know but that you are introducing yourself to with the hopes of getting to know them better.

If you send a cover letter that states something to the effect that you are attaching your resume because you saw their ad on Career Builder, well then you have basically said one of three things

1. “My buddy said you’re cute, want to get a pizza?”
2. “I like you, do you like me: circle Yes or No”
3. “I’m sorry to bother you, I’m sure you don’t want to go out with me anyway.”

Not too impressive.

Your cover letter must show there are similarities between the position and you. Show them that you have commonalities; you belong together – without going overboard of course. If you have nothing in common why on earth would they want to meet you? Do you have the exact qualities that they are looking for in a candidate? Then tell them, show them, explain it to them, court them.

Do they want someone with solid experience? Give them something to whet their appetite before reading your resume. Narrate an example of how you absolutely succeeded when dealing with similar situations, budgets, environments – lead them down the path to your door.

Do your homework, research the company, their core philosophies, their clients, the industry. Have they recently been mentioned in the news, expanded, reorganized, merged, had a recent success, does the company values resonates with yours? These can all be written into your cover letter. Manuel did his homework and knew yellow roses were my favorite: big bonus points when he showed up at my door with a beautiful bouquet. Research shows interest.

Do you really want to meet? Do not assume that they know you want the job and why. One of the complaints I hear from hiring managers and HR reps is that they have too many candidates that apply that do not qualify for the position. When they receive resumes, which are numerous, they are a little skeptical. They run across people that apply but only do so because they have to or just to say they did something. Make sure the recipient knows you want the date, the interview, and convince them that you are worthy.

Impress me. I am a huge baseball fan – specifically a huge Cubs fan. I’ve been a fan since Jody Davis was behind the plate, the Penguin was in the infield and Leon Durham dominated the outfield. Manuel impressed me by writing stories about when he played ball or teased me about my staunch belief that American league is not real baseball. (Pitchers should bat and National League is more defensive. But that’s another story.)

When writing your resume you should be thinking about accomplishments you can utilize to emphasize your abilities. When doing this remember to save something for the cover letter. If you give me a great example in your cover letter I am going to be excited to read more in your resume. If I am reading your resume and see the same example I will be a bit disappointed and possibly think, “This is all you have?” You are not one dimensional, neither should your accomplishments be.

Mind your manners. Use appropriate business language, remember this isn’t a note to pass in class; this is an important business introductory letter. Remember to express gratitude for the person taking the time to read your cover letter and resume. Show interest in following up with them to discuss your abilities, skills, added values in more detail at their convenience.

A well written cover letter will interest the reader into wanting to find out more about you and lead to them reading your resume. This in turn will, if written well, further intrigue or impress them to meet with you to find out more. Take your time, do your homework and remember to tailor it to each individual position for which you are applying. No one wants to receive the same love letter that their friends received! This takes time and practice. Over twenty years of writing love letters and Manuel can still take my breath away.