By Karen Silins
Anthony was a client of mine who had worked his way up to production manager for a large manufacturing company over the past 12 years. When he came to me for help, he brought several online and newspaper classifieds. He liked what he saw in those ads and wanted a job that seemed more fulfilling than his current one. He also brought the rÃ©sumÃ© and cover letter he’d been using in his job search.
Immediately, the problem jumped out at me. He had none of the Four P’s in that cover letter, which he was using with every single application.
- There was no evidence of a powerful introduction.
- He had failed to personalize his skills.
- He had made no attempt to position himself as a great match.
- And he didn’t bother to propose a meeting or interview.
In fact the cover letter only contained two sentences.
I am applying for a position with your company, and have included my rÃ©sumÃ©. I would appreciate a call concerning my inquiry.
Two sentences is way too short. It’s too rude. Proposing an interview is good; telling them you expect a phone call isn’t the same thing. It smacks of an arrogant nature. It’s too uninformative. The letter doesn’t mention a job title, cite the candidate’s professional background, or tell how his skills will complement the employer’s needs.
Sometimes, my clients go in the opposite direction. Sidney, for example, had 20 years of experience in construction management and general contracting â€“ 12 of which involved facilities/asset management. He was ready for a change and was willing to take a job in any of these areas, as long as it paid as much or more than he was currently earning.
Sidney came to me with an impressive work history. He had managed up to $1.8 billion in project budgets. He’d supervised hundreds of field workers, contractors, subcontractors, union employees, engineers, field inspectors, and foremen concurrently. His specialties were power plants, military bases, and government projects.
The problem with Sidney’s cover letter is that he tried to cram all of his experience into one letter. The result? He wound up with a four-page cover letter â€“ much too long for a prospective employer to consider.
By helping Sidney highlight his major accomplishments, I was able to fashion a one-page cover letter that was not only read, it was instrumental in getting him an interview with a well-recognized construction firm.
There’s no room for dilly-dallying in your cover letter. You must keep it to one page. The questions before you are these:
- How can you be direct and persuasive at the same time?
- How can you pack all the necessary details into a single opening paragraph?
- What’s the best way to introduce yourself?
While it’s true you need to be direct and concise, you have to avoid being too direct or too concise. (Remember Anthony?) A happy medium means considering these questions before and while you’re writing.
Take a look at the following paragraph:
As an established construction management professional with twenty years of experience in all facets of the construction industry, I can offer your company a varied skill set and vast experience in this industry. I have enclosed my rÃ©sumÃ© for your review in regards to the job opportunity referenced above.
This is a perfect opening paragraph for a cover letter. It contains all the information a first paragraph should contain in just two sentences. It explains why the person is writing, includes personal and/or professional information, and makes the reader feel like he’s talking to an ideal candidate.
Here’s where I’m going to make things incredibly easy for you. When it comes time for you to write your cover letter, all you have to do is take the above paragraph and use it as the basis of your own. You can start by “borrowing” the last sentence â€“ you don’t have to change a single word! Saying, “I have enclosed my rÃ©sumÃ© for your review in regards to the job opportunity referenced above,” or, “I have attached my rÃ©sumÃ© for your review in regards to the position of [Accountant] advertised in [the Sacramento Bee] on [November 15th],” will always do the trick.
In your first sentence, you have to explain exactly why you think you’re the perfect candidate for this particular job. In other words, you need to make a sales pitch. What are you selling? You’re selling yourself!Â Remember â€“ create a Powerful introduction!
That’s it! That’s really all you need to say in a first paragraph. It’s concise, it’s formal, itâ€™s respectful, and it’s informative. What’s more, it tells what you’re applying for, where and when you saw the position advertised, and the fact that you included a rÃ©sumÃ©. This lets your reader know you mean business.
For more information about writing a cover letter that will grab the employerâ€™s attention, please visit:Â www.breakthroughcoverletters.com