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!

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Make Your Resume Stand Out: Know The ‘What’ And ‘Why’ Before The ‘How’



There are no hard and fast rules for resumes, which can make it difficult to know what to write. A lack of knowledge or overload of information, if doing research online, can lead to generalization.  Generalization is using your job description as your resume.

It is perceived safe to use a job description – and easy. What you do is already written out and can easily be plunked in your resume. However there are two challenges with this theory:

  1. It tells the reader what you were hired to do, not what you did.
  2. It leaves out the two most important elements that should be in your resume: you and your value.

The point of your resume is to convey to the reader that you are their perfect candidate for the position. Generalization does not accomplish this goal, it actually works against you: you end up sounding like everyone else.

Before you begin to write – the ‘How’ – think about the position you are targeting and clarify two items:

  1. What skills or strengths are necessary for this position?
  2. Why are these things important?

These are the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ and will make the how easier.

Roles are changing in business, rarely is one position siloed. There is an interconnection to strengthen two most important aspects: revenue and efficiency. A Chief Financial Officer is a great example. This role is evolving from a purely finance function into a strategic leadership partner.

They have a key role in decision making from strategy creation, implementation and measuring impact. They must be able to communicate their insights to the executive team in a manner that allows them to fully grasp the relevance and practical application of the information to identify risk management, value creation and opportunity to improve efficiencies.

They can have a unique advantage in understanding the organization in full spectrum for a high level to in the weeds perspectives. On a broad scope they can ground the executive team conveying real time consequences of financial or operational decisions while directly impacting line functions from vendor selection to system changes to realize improved efficiencies or cost reductions.

Given this we can quickly pick out a few ‘What’s , what stills or strengths are important for the role: strategy, communication, collaboration, vision to name a few. The ‘Why’s following the ‘What’s are the results: smart decision making, strategy design and implementation, capitalize on opportunities to improve profitability, reduce costs, expand markets and so forth.

Now to the how: how did you do what you did, who did you work with, how did you work with them – these questions help you frame the how. Sometimes it is helpful to include the challenges in the ‘How’. If you helped overcome a significant challenge, knowing why it was so challenging gives more depth and impact to your contribution.

Here is an example:

  • What is important: Get everyone on the same page and moving forward on new initiative
  • Why: Do the right thing for the client – new initiative mission and motto
  • How: Communication, leading change
  • Challenge: big internal resistance to change

After a bit of tweaking – and adding language that supports and represents you:

Overcame internal barriers by championing X initiative leveraging targeted, consistent communication and internal advocates to create enterprise-wide buy-in with the overarching vision: do the right thing for the client.

As said before: the point of your resume is to convey to the reader that you are their perfect candidate for the position. You are actually writing for them – to them – to get this exact point across.

Know what is important for the position and why is actually knowing what is important to them. When you speak their language demonstrating your value, your message will be heard loud and clear.



As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

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