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

 

How to Get Your Resume Rejected Immediately

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.

Even with all the wealth of information available, these suggestions are often not headed.

Perhaps a different communication approach is in order.

So today, I will address what to do if you do not want your resume 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 go against the grain and choose to ignore them.

Do not 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.

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

Do not list your qualifications – paint a really broad picture.  Stating 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 does not tell them how you perform the job, the value you bring or any of your accomplishments.  If it was enough for the job 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, with no connection to value.  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 and contributed equally as much.  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, all you need is a chance and you really, really, really want this job.  They will eat this one up!  Who needs transferable skills and accomplishments?  You have unbridled enthusiasm!

Do not 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

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!

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.

First Impressions: The Written Word is a Powerful Thing

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I use this saying a lot in my marketing pieces and when I speak at functions. How many people have heard this but not give it any credence? Many people I talk to assume this only relates to the visual aspect of a first impression or forget that it extends to all forms of communication. For example: have you ever received an email from an individual or company and immediately formed an opinion of the sender? Today I want to look at written forms of communication and give few tips and reminders about first impressions, which I call Gentle Reminders. I learned this from Miss Manners.

Email.

Oh, I love email. Oftentimes I would rather people communicate with me via email than on the phone because I can get my email on my computer and on my phone so I can instantly respond to them. Yes, I truly fit the definition of one that has a “CrackBerry”, I am never without my phone and only during family time am I not checking it or responding to something I have received on it.

My first gentle reminder is this: email is not texting. You cannot abbreviate or use two letters for entire words. It is not acceptable and frankly you look uneducated when you do so. Can you imagine a hiring manager getting the response back, “tnx for the email, c u 2moro” It almost looks like a Prince song (wow, have I dated myself there).

Email gentle reminder two: please make sure your Caps Lock is NOT on. I have literally emailed someone back asking them to stop yelling at me when I receive an email in all capitol letters. It was a gentle reminder but effective. Read the following lines and see if you can pick up on the difference:

Thank you for your time yesterday; I truly enjoyed our conversation and look forward to meeting again next Tuesday at 3:00.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME YESTERDAY I TRULY ENJOYED OUR CONVERSATION AND LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING AGAIN NEXT TUESDAY AT 3:00.

Same sentence yet there is a major difference in tone.

Email gentle reminder three: Tone, humor and subtleties do not translate well in email so you must keep this in mind. A majority of humor and subtlety is translated through non-verbal communication i.e. a slight smile, a raising of the eyebrow, a widening of the eyes. The reader cannot see you, they cannot read your mind and they certainly do not know what frame of mind you are in when you are writing the email so you must be vigilant in creating a message that is clear and leaves no room for interpretation. Let me state it frankly – humor does not translate well at all, just do not use it period.

Here is another thought to keep in mind: the intended recipient may know you well enough to understand you, but do you really know that they are the only one that will read the email? How many companies have filtering programs for their emails? How many other eyes view their emails? That was something that I had to do in a former life, check all incoming emails for a company and let me tell you, I read a emails containing information that I really did not want to know and wish I could forget!

Email tip: Write the email then walk away. Let it sit then come back and read it again. I have written an email or even a blog and thought what I was writing was exactly what I was thinking and it all was very clear. Much to my dismay, in re-reading the information later I found that the two were not the same and revisions were necessary to make sure my point was clear.

Letters, Thank You Cards, Cover Letters etc.

Gentle Reminder One: First and foremost – check you spelling. Now check it again. Do no solely rely on spell check. I can tell you that I worked four Merrill Lynch. The word “four” in the previous sentence is spelled correctly, but it is the wrong for! And grammar check did not pick up on it either. One misspelled word can ruin a wonderful creation and send it straight into the trash. Have someone else proof it, someone you trust to proof read. I have business partners, two are wonderful at reading content for content alone, making sure the message is clear. The other is wonderful at spelling and grammar. They are an invaluable team: Manuel, Jackie and Jake, I value their opinions and trust their thoughts.

When I write a hand written note, I type it out on the computer first to use spell check as my first line of defense. Then I print it out and go through it word by word. Then I will copy it to the note. And if my writing is not neat, I throw it away and start again. No use sending a hand written note if no one can read it, it defeats the purpose.

Gentle Reminder Two: When writing a hand written note, be sure to reference something that the reader will remember in order to connect you to the interview. It should be something that was a positive exchange. For example, if you are sending a thank you note after an interview, be sure to include something discussed during the interview. “I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the new automotive ordering process, what an incredible time and money saver!”

One caveat, do not refer to an “inside” joke or lighthearted moment during the interview. It may have eased the situation at that moment, however a day or two later the recipient may not remember the environment in which the exchange transpired or simply not think it funny today.

Gentle Reminder Three: When addressing the envelope, please make sure that it is done neatly and professionally. Use full titles, company name, spell out the address (Suite 500 not Ste 500), use proper business form as it is business communication.

Assistance Letters

This I am making a separate topic due to the uniqueness of the letter. Whether this be a request for an information interview, an introduction or any other appeal make sure you are very clear. If you are appealing to someone to share their time, opinion or expertise please do not send them a five page flattery-dripping letter praising them and in the last sentence end with “by the way, can you….”

Be sincere, honest and direct. If you are asking someone to grant you their time, tell them why you are making this request, they will want to know. No mater who you are your most valuable asset is time and for someone to share theirs with you will require information. I am not simply going to meet with someone because they asked me to. I know that may sound snobbish, and in a way I suppose I am being selfish. I have children, a fiancé, family, friends and a business. My time is valuable and I have limited time to share with everyone that I would love to so please, let the recipient know your intentions.

For me, I want to know why you want to meet with me, what you would like to discuss, and an expectation of time. If you do not set the time expectation, I will. I would also like to know what lead you to contact me specifically.

Let me give you an example. I recently received a request for a meeting. The gentleman and I had met a few years ago through another company and he had found me on LinkedIn. He is a period of transition and would like my advice on a specific topic. He was very clear to tell me that he has attended workshops and done quite a bit of research, which tells me that he is not looking for me to provide all of the answers. He asked for a specific amount of time and suggested a time period for me to check my calendar, at my convenience.

I appreciated several things about this request:
1. He told me how he knew me and was able to establish a connection.
2. He has done his homework on the topic he would like to discuss.
3. He was very specific about the time requested.
4. He recognized the value of my time and promised to honor this.
5. He was specific about the topic, which will lead to a well run meeting.
6. He was very professional in all of his communication.
7. He used common courtesy and manners.

We are meeting next week and I am looking forward to meeting this gentleman, I have been impressed so far. I have no doubt, as there has been a stream of communication that he will present as professional in person as he has in the virtual world.

Gentle Reminder: You set a tone when you are writing correspondence. It is imperative that if you establish a very professional tone you uphold this through out any future contact or communication.

In short, take your time, be clear, be professional and be positive. The written word is a powerful thing when used wisely.