By Phil Baker
Because I have seen so many cover letters send resumes to the trash can, I have written this how to write a cover letter series so that you will have better resume results and get interviews.
Imagine you attend a school where there are no grades. Each homework assignment, quiz, project, and test were returned to you stamped “accepted” or “rejected,” without any comments or marking of incorrect answers. You may only read books; there are no lectures or instructors. You are not allowed to ask questions or converse with other students.
This is similar to what’s happening when you send out your cover letter and resume. You are expected to know how to creatively write a precise, properly formatted, chronological, and grammatically correct, epitome of your skills, knowledge, education and experience. Then include a written introductory letter within the boundaries of expected criteria.
I have seen cover letters and resumes from doctors, lawyers, engineers, ministers, nurses, scientists, politicians, managers, mechanics, clerks, salespersons, and just about every profession that were woefully inadequate.
Many times I have resisted the temptation to make corrections and write advice in the margins and return them to applicants. I do not know of an employer who does this. Therefore you will probably never know why you did not get a call for the interview. The best you can do is become as educated as possible about writing cover letters and resumes.
Inept or imperfect resumes and cover letters limit the positions and pay people will achieve. Your entire career and lifetime earnings could very well rest on the single footing of the effectiveness of your cover letter and resume.
I have met more than one employer who inspects only the cover letters to decide who gets called for an interview. Due to time restraints they might (or might not) review the resume later, before, or at the interview. I, myself, am guilty of scheduling interviews based on the cover letter alone.
I cannot understate the power of a cover letter.
Remember, you have a captured reader. They are being paid to read your advertisement. The cover letter is the place to use every trick in the book.
Let’s start with the following basic cover letter I have seen multiple variations of:
Dear Miss Jenkins,
I am responding to the ad I saw in the Sunday edition of the Post. Enclosed please find my resume.
My qualifications are extensive and I would be an asset to any company. My present position ends soon and I am just starting to look for a new one.
Please contact me as soon as possible for an interview so that I can learn more.
Sincerely, T. Poor Writer
When I ask job hunters to read that letter and tell me what is wrong or what could be better, most of them think the letter is fine. They might suggest that the date is not there or throw in a sentence, but most people miss the point.
This letter is self-centered. This letter induces little if any feeling. Why not use the wisdom of successful mail order copywriters to create your cover letter. These savvy writers know that the more often they place the words you, your, and yours in their sales letters, the better results they have.
Dear Miss Jenkins,
Your advertisement in the Sunday edition of the Post caught my attention and intrigued me. Although I am presently employed, your ad prompted me to immediately send you the enclosed resume.
Your company sounds interesting and in order to assess your open position, I would like to meet with you to determine how my experience and skills can benefit your organization.
This is a good start. Can you see the difference? Imagine you received this cover letter. In the first paragraph this job candidate has made a subtle compliment of your ad. In fact, reading between the lines seems to indicate that this candidate was not even looking for work. This implies that the ad was so intriguing as to attract a candidate who doesn’t even need a job. This is very desirable in the eyes of an employer. What a boost if you’re the person who wrote the ad.
The second line states that the resume was sent immediately. This is a person of action!
The second paragraph doesn’t request an interview but indicates that this human being wants to perform a service that could benefit you.
Your cover letter is the first contact an employer will have with you. Make sure your cover letter is perfect.
After reading tens of thousands of cover letters, I have seen many mistakes. I have assembled a list of the ten most common cover letter mistakes below. Naming the number one mistake would be difficult as these all appear quite often, so these ten should be all be seriously avoided as they are not listed in order of frequency or importance.
How to Write a Cover Letter with a Sense of Urgency That Makes Employers Call You
Your cover letter must follow the principle of AIDA to be an effective cover letter.
Employers are people and therefore demonstrate the human characteristic of perceiving more value in a job candidate who is employed or has limited availability. Even though a candidate who is seeking a job out of desperation will no doubt be much easier to negotiate with, the employed candidate appears much more desirable.
Your cover letter should convey that you are employed. If you are not employed you must demonstrate limited availability to create value and a â€œsense of urgency. Employers often react to a qualified applicant’s sense of urgency.
After sending out over hundred resumes in response to advertised openings, a client came to me requesting I critique his cover letter and resume to help him attain an interview. His resume indicated he was qualified and a highly skilled professional recognized in his field, yet he was not getting calls. His cover letter read as follows:
Dear Mr. Jones,
This letter is in response to the opening in your research and development department.
I am presently teaching part time night classes at the local junior college while seeking full time employment. My last position ended several six months ago and I am anxious to return to work.
Please contact me as soon as possible to discuss your position.
After a few questions he stated to me that the junior college had offered him full time employment beginning the next semester but that was not what he really wanted to do. I suggested that was a sense of urgency he could utilize.
Besides some of my usual changes, here is the cover letter I wrote for him that creates a sense of urgency through limited availability for a part-time employed or an unemployed candidate.
Dear Mr. Jones,
The advertised opening in your Research and Development department intrigues me. Enclosed please find my resume.
Your company interests me and in order to assess your open position, I would like to meet with you to determine if my experience and skills can benefit your organization.
Please call me as soon as possible for we need to meet within the next ten days. After that I must make a decision about committing to another project and will no longer be available.
Wow! Now there is a sense of urgency! Andrew commented after he read the letter, “Are you sure this will generate some interviews?” “A sense of urgency is a powerful element of advertising and selling,” I answered.
Andrew sent the new cover letter with his resume to the same list of employers he had already responded to. He called me three weeks later to report that he had been to four interviews and had accepted a position!
Like most any method or idea, a sense of urgency will not work in every situation. A sense of urgency is most effective when responding to an open position. General canvassing of companies that may not have a position available at the time will have no urgent need to respond.
You can get updated “Sense of Urgency” cover letters in the OneClick Cover Letter Creator.
Ten Most Common Cover Letter Mistakes
- The letter is too long. Myself, and most of my colleagues appreciate cover letters that are one page, two to four short paragraphs.
- The letter contains bad grammar, misspelled words, or is poorly organized. As easy as spell checking software is now, misspellings indicate such lack of knowledge or laziness these cover letters almost always immediately eliminate the candidate.
- Misspelled company or contact name.
- Omission of candidate’s name, address or telephone number. More often than should be, resumes get separated from cover letters and sometimes even lost. Include all of your contact information on both documents.
- The letter does not state the resume is enclosed. Again if the resume gets separated from the cover letter, by reading the cover letter there is no way to know if the resume should have been there.
- The cover letter does not follow the “age old principle.”
- Contains inappropriate information.
- The cover letter contradicts the resume. I have seen cover letters state the candidate is unemployed and their resume reads they are employed. I have read cover letters that name the candidates’ present employer as a different company than the resume. These mistakes can send your resume to the trash can.
- The letter contains irrelevant information.
- The cover letter does not contain a “call to action.”
You can avoid making most of these mistakes by using the extremely powerful OneClick Cover Letter Creator.
This article came from Phil Baker’s ResumeDictionary website. It is a superb resource for any job seeker and I highly recommend visiting this free – yes, free – website and take full advantage of all the great info and advice there.