Why do so many job seekers spend all of their time and resources on writing the so-called “perfect resume” and then fail to give the cover letter the respect it deserves?
The cover letter is your resume’s secret assassin when it comes to targeting the attention of your potential employer or hiring manager. If the cover letter is worthy of being called a “secret assassin”, don’t you think it serves more time and space to enhance the effectiveness of your resume? Your cover letter is like a trained ninja ready to go into battle and fight for you!
Your cover letter can easily help you land more job interviews (see our Job Interview Magic Portal for more tips, strategies and tactics to land your Dream Job) than just your resume alone. The cover letter helps you to maximize your 15-seconds of fame to market yourself. Your cover letter serves to pinpoint all of your best qualifications into a something like a neat “storybook”. Every top marketing executive will tell you that the best way to capture peoples’ attention is by telling a strong. Heck, it worked for Steven Speilberg and he is the master storyteller of this century!
Before you start to write your cover letter, you must write down on a notepad the answer to one simple question, “What is the one action you want the employer to take when they read your cover letter?” This call-to-action question predicates the theme and mission of your cover letter!
Once you have the answer to that VERY important question, you have the framework to start writing your cover letter.
Your cover letter is really the resume’s “sales letter” and secret assassin with special ninja powers! Your cover letter will get your foot in the door and help you land more quality job interviews than your next best competitor in line.
First, start your cover letter by addressing it DIRECTLY to a real person (if you can). “Dear Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern” are just so lifeless. You can easily use the Microsoft Word merge feature to add a field to your cover letter to give it a more personalized touch. Like any sales letter, open your cover letter with something catchy and interesting to tap into the attention of the employer. Okay – so if you got this far – you probably have them for another 10 seconds…..
Next, cater the body of the cover letter exclusively to the job posting if one is available. Once in the second paragraph of the cover letter (don’t wait any longer), the purpose and message of your cover letter should be very clear and highly crafted to match the requirements of the job posting. You need to do everything you can to “be in the right place at the right time” at this point if you still have their undivided attention!
Next, once you have structured the first two or three paragraphs of your cover letter, start to rate your cover letter’s enthusiasm and passion index on a level of 1 – 10. It should be overwhelming with enthusiasm and passion at this point – if not, start over. Your cover letter should be using value-adding words and clearly focused to the job posting.
The next strategy (#4) is to slowly integrate your call to action. Do you want an interview in the next 72 hours? Do you want a quick 10-minute coffee-talk session with no obligation or strings-attached? The foundation for your cover letter starts with understanding your call-to-action!
Next, customize the next two paragraphs to highlight your career achievements. You are telling the employer why you feel you deserve the job and most importantly, you are dictating the tone of your future job interview. With cover letter and resume in hand, your employer will most likely make bullet notes on the sidebar of the printout to discuss in your job interview DIRECTLY on your cover letter. So, you are positioning yourself for power at this point by dictating the tone of your job interview even before it has been offered to you!
Is this your ah-ah moment — this is where your cover letter tells your resume, “my kung-fu is strong!”
Next, spend as much time as you can optimizing your story about your qualifications to tell the story by focusing on how you can help your employer. This part of your cover letter is prime-time real estate…this is where your employer literally may grab some popcorn and make his or her decision to grant you a job interview. You can discuss your qualifications as much as you want – six, seven pages if it tickles your fancy — but if it doesn’t scream “what’s in it for me to the employer?”, YOU are DONE!
Next, like any good sales letter, start working on your closing statement. The closing statement of your cover letter should be a powerful call-to-action statement however at this point, you are branding yourself as someone with a strong reputation. Your second to last paragraph to an employer should start like, “I have established a strong reputation…the work performed under my direction (suggests that you have management experience so you can ask for a higher salary without screaming it out loud) has come in at or below budget….and every employer loves when you “meet project deadlines”.
In your last paragraph (you are still closing here – always remember to close, close, close) — you call out the reason you are seeking employement (i.e. I have chosen to leave Disney for personal reasons, my company was acquired and my duties have been outsourced to California, etc.). You are dictating the tone of the future job interview by clearing indicating that you are ready for a career change and that you are eagerly requesting a job interview!
The general theme of your cover letter should not be overbearing – it should always focus on the call-to-action and focus on one simple and very important question, “What can you do for your future employer?”
Chance favors the prepared mind so look to your cover letter as the secret ninja assassin that’s going to blow doors of opportunity wide open for you. Your cover letter sets you apart from the pack of hundreds of other applicants. It tells a story. It doubles or triples your chances for success in so many ways! Give your cover letter the respect it deserves!