How to Write a Cover Letter plus Resources and Tools
A simple question of “how to write a cover letter” ought to be just as simple to answer. Yet apparently it is not. Because if it were, there should not be nearly as many people searching for an answer (49,500 average monthly search on google for those exact words versus 1,830,000 monthly searches for just the words – cover letter) as there apparently are. AND a search of those words yield 8,270,000 search results – wow!
So how do you go about the task of writing this cover letter and why – or is it all that important? Is it worthwhile – is it effective – does it product results?
The answer is yes – but…
It is only yes, when the cover letter is written context and that means this…
A cover letter is most effective when that cover letter is relevant to the person reading the cover letter. Obvious, I know. Yet, job seekers continue to “mass” produce both cover letters and resume; and proceed to shogun blast it to any and everyone. It’s the “some mud’s gotta stick the wall sooner or later,” approach.
And in process, forget that the cover letter should be a personal letter from job seeker to the prospective employer, stating why it is worth the reader’s time to both read the resume and call the job seeker. The letter must be targeted, must be focused.
What Is the Most Important Thing Here?
What do you want to do? Where do you want to do it? Why would you be good at it, and why there? Lastly, and it is lastly, how do you plan to get it (the perfect job in the perfect location, perfectly matched to your skills). If you haven’t done this research, than stop and do the research.
After the research, then what is the strategy, what will give you the highest success percentage? And it is also the time to begin looking at the tools you need, the cover letters, the resumes, the rolodex, and more to implement your strategies.
And if you have done your homework and you’ve sent a bunch of resumes out, been to a lot of job fairs and not getting any bites, then you need to make a decision. Either your homework was no good or your tools are no good.
Your homework is all you.
As for the tools.
As for the tools – there are so many great resources – where does one start? How many different books can there be on writing resumes and cover letters and CV’s and whatever else you need? First the resume, this is your bread and butter document. You cannot afford to cut corners here. You can read more about my thoughts on resumes by clicking here, or navigate to it with the above tool bar.
For a cover letter, do you really need to do a lot of research here or effort? What is a cover letter? Really, what is it?
To my mind, cover letters are no more than a brief introductory letter. It says who I am; why I am writing; why the reader should care; and by the way, call me. Do you need to attach a resume to it? Good question – one for another day.
Should it be long, short, medium height with dark complexion – I don’t know, really.
It is up to you and what you seek to accomplish. So, I am saying that you probably do not need to spend 30 or 50 bucks getting a software or template program to do it for it. You should be able to write the letter yourself.
Unlike a resume that may change several hands, or lots of hands; your cover letter should go to one person, period. Hence, do you need a lot of outside help writing a personal, introductory letter to one person? You truly do not need to pay anyone several hundred dollars to write one for you.
If you have never written a business letter, then by all means, head to your nearest library and study first. Use your search engine to find examples and templates of cover letters that you can copy. Resources abound.
The fundamental questions to answer with your cover letter are again:
- Who are you?
- Why are you writing?
- What can you do for me?
- Why should I care?
- What exactly do you want from me?
How you put it on paper is English business writing 101. If you slept through that, again, head to the library.
Also, check out the “cover letter” subtopic of the Job blog. There are literally hundreds of articles on how to write a cover letter (and every aspect of job hunting) posted there for your edification plus more added daily. Some of the better articles I think are:
Five Steps to Dressing Your Naked Resume with the Perfect Cover Letter – this article by Lisa Newman is more a dissertation than an article – a good, comprehensive look at cover letter writing.
Again, a lot of great resources out there to help put together a winning cover letter, and a lot in here too.
As a Side Note
If you have read any of my articles on job search strategies, then you know that I have little regard for “mass” mailing or posting of resumes to jobs found on the help wanteds and online postings. It’s not that you can’t get a job that way but that the odds are so against you. You go through all the trouble of crafting a brilliant resume, only to have it sit as one of several hundreds, with ever diminishing hopes of being looked at.
That said, there is this one alternative. It is a resume distribution service run by ResumeRabbit. For a one time fee of $59.95, they will instantly submit your resume to 86 different job sites. If you are going to spend any time posting your resume online, then this is a viable alternative. Do it once and get it to everyone in one huge, shogun blast versus hours doing it one at a time. Check them out here.
Unless you need help.
Having said all that – I understand that writing may be a challenge for some. Nothing wrong with that. Writing is both art and science. And if you feel that you need every “edge” you can get – go get that edge.Â And if that “edge” is a professionally produced document, then by all means, get a program that can generate or write that professionally produced document.
On an issue as insanely important as getting a job, it is critical that you have the wherewithal to seek help if you need it. This is no time for the “rugged individualist” approach. Don’t know something, ask. Can’t do something, ask. Absolutely a terrible writer, give it to someone and dictate. Don’t know anyone, copy a template or grab a program. If you are not sure or not confident, don’t take any chances.
For more research on your own, I’ve listed some of most popular cover letter creators and templates for you here (and reviewed one). I took a deeper look at the OneClick Cover Letter Creator, and although concluded that it seemed pretty good; it would be disingenuous for me to claim it can get you an interview. Other than tell you that a program can produce a good looking letter, I really do think it would be hard to say whether you would get an interview with it or not.
If you decide to try any one of these, do so because it can help generate great looking and sounding letters for you; but not for the notion that you are going to get swamped with phone calls for interview. Maybe – I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.
By the way, no knock – really – on some of these review sites out there, but granting a great review to a resume or cover letter program isn’t exactly like reviewing the latest car model. Will it work or not work, it’s a guess, again, not really like checking the rack and pinion steering. It’s my guess that all these programs will generate decent letters. Whether the letters generate interviews and jobs – tougher call.
Cover Letter Software and Template Sources
OneClick Cover Letter Creator, by Phil Baker
“Now You Can Instantly Create Brilliantly Crafted and Customized Cover Letters With A Single Mouse Click So Powerful Your Phone Will Ring Off the Hook For Interviews and Soon Have a Flood of Job Offers Pouring In…
No Writing Required!
Guaranteed to Get You Interviews!” – Phil Baker
You can read the full review here – in short, the program was ridiculously easy to install and use. Has a lot of flexibility. You can send as is or you can tweak as much as you need to or want to. Can’t get any easier than this. Cost is $34.95. You also get 3 bonus EBooks. All download instantly.
Amazing Cover Letter Creater, by Jimmy P. Sweeney
“In Only 3½ Minutes, You Can Quickly And Easily Crank Out A Killer Cover Letter That Is Guaranteed To Have Your Phone Ringing Off The Hook With Hot Job Interviews And Top Job Offers… Without Writing One Word!” – Jimmy P. Sweeney
Very popular program with a solid reputation. A lot of good things written about Jimmy Sweeney. That said, I did take a look at it and it does generate some good looking cover letters. As for what Jimmy claims – well – I think he goes too heavy on the hyperbole. But you can watch my youtube video and decide for yourself.
Cost is $39.95 and the download is again instant. Includes bonus EBooks.
Cover Letter Templates and Guidelines, from University of Missouri – Kansas City (pdf file)
Nice explanation plus a couple of good examples. A bit on the “textbook” side, but a good look, nonetheless. No cost.
Career Servies @ Virginia Tech
A good site with useable links and cover letter examples and samples to follow. Also, discussion on what to put in a cover letter, paragraph by paragraph. Good, quality info.
Federal Citizen information Center
Courtesy of your hard working tax dollars, the FCIC has put together a very nice EBook covering all things resume and cover letter. Unlike Karen’s product, which you would have to pay for, yet do everything for you; this EBook is free and strictly DIY.
You need to really study this little booklet hard; do a deep dive; and then use the information and guidelines to build your resume and cover letter scratch. The good news is that because you put it together from your building blocks, you own it, you know it, and that’ a huge confidence builder. Plus, your only cost is nothing. Uncle Sam’s got ya back!
Career Services, University of Pennsylvania
Although meant for Upenn undergraduates and alumni, I see no reason why you could not benefit from it. Great breakdown of the principles behind a good cover letter. Also covers followup letters and thank you’s.Â Again, strictly DIY, but solid nonetheless! Check it out.
At day’s end, the most effective cover letter is the one that gets you the interview. And like betting football games, you only know if you’re right after the game ends. At times, it may seem like a crap shoot when you mail that letter off.
But, like betting football games; you can be the research, study the stats, understand the intangibles of the game and make a best guess that can give you the winning edge. In football betting, the winning edge is about 53%.
In job hunting, knowing how to write a cover letter can help vastly improve your odds of getting a job interview way beyond that.
Lot of resources here and a lot of resources out there.