What is it about a cover letter that makes it compelling? What is compelling and who is it compelling to? And the answer has nothing to do with how well the cover letter is written. Besides, it’s not an “A” you’re looking for – it’s a job you want.
But first, let’s begin with these two statements:
“I can really make your lawn look green and great; just as I have done with the houses at 216 Elm St. and 18 Main st.”
“Your lawn will look beautifully green without you having to worry about anything, just enjoying the beauty of a well kept lawn, just like the owners at 216 Elm St. and 18 Main st.”
Which sentence seems more persuasive or more compelling? Is there a difference? If no – don’t read any further, it would be pointless. If yes – what is the difference? If yes – what is the point?
Here’s the point
I believe that there are only 2 factors that determine how compelling a cover letter is or will be. The first one is how much research you have done with regard to the company you are applying to. And the 3 levels of research you must do is:
- The company you are applying to
- The job you are applying to
- The person you are applying to
Nail those three and your cover letter becomes compelling by virtue of its specificity. As for helping you to the do research, the following websites can help:
- Hoovers – you have to pay but use the free trial
- SEC – good standby
- Monster Company Profiles – Monster does have some good resources, as does CareerBuilder.com, just don’t waste your time on their job boards
- Manta – some free, some not; but a place to start collecting info
- Also, don’t forget your local chamber of commerce, junior colleges, community colleges, and most important – your library
- And obviously, the company website of where you want to apply.
- As for the person (s) you are applying to – use LinkedIn or Facebook to source the info
Second, your cover letter must be devoid, or have the bare minimum number of I’s, my’s, and mine’s. This is point that needs to be hammered over and over again. No one really – honestly – cares about your need for a job. And certainly not the recruiter or the HR rep or the hiring manager or the owner reading your cover letter.
What matters is how they benefit by clearing you to the next level, or selecting you for that coveted position. Positon all your sentences to center around the reader and do not write sentences that directly state what you will do or have done.
The point is that you want to begin to paint a brief picture in the reader’s mind of you doing the job. You start that process by dropping the “I” and using the “you.”
Take a look at this example of a poorly written cover letter (will open in another window, so you can compare). This letter violates all the guidelines for making it compelling. The only compelling urge would be throw it away.
Now take a look at this one. Notice the good mix of you and I in this letter. The writer constantly brings the focus back to the reader – that is key. By the way, this letter was written using Phil Baker’s OneClick Cover Letter Creator, but his software isn’t necessary (In fact, if you click on the “How to Write a…” link along the top of his sales page; it takes you to a lot of great advice and tips on how to do just that – write a cover letter – without paying for a thing). You just need to keep the focus of the cover letter on the reader to make it compelling.
As you write, keep these points in mind and you will do fine.
- Cover letter addressed to a human being.
- State why you are writing clearly, and immediately – job, job opening number, job open reference, etc.
- Minimal use of I to start a sentence.
- Use industry-specific language, but not jargon or slang.
- Brief and succinct – the trailer versus the movie (resume – you).
- Specific accomplishment to support claims – but – accomplishments relevant to the job you are applying for
- Written by you and not copy/paste form letter.
- Personable, yes, but written in clearly business format.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread, proofread – should I go on?
- Has a definite call to action
Are the more points and guidelines – probably. For more specific instructions, read these:
- How to Write a Compelling Cover Letter
- How to Write a Cover Letter
- Principles of a Great Cover Letter
- You Had Me At Hello
- Five Steps to Dressing Your Naked Resume with the Perfect Cover Letter