One of the questions I ask when I take a resume and LinkedIn profile order is “would you like a cover letter with that?” Job seekers often say “no one reads cover letters. Why should I prepare them?”
Some hiring teams do rely on cover letters, often called job search letters, to help them differentiate job candidates, although estimates on the percentage of managers that read letters vary. A recruiter that did a survey and posted the results online stated that 69% of her respondents read letters. Other estimates are lower.
You could lose an opportunity if you do not prepare a letter. So, start writing!
Most of us do not write letters often, and others don’t like to write them, or don’t know how to write a traditional letter. We can help! Click here to set up a call with us.
Your post-COVID19 cover letter will have to be stronger than the letters you may have written last year because the job market is more competitive. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Match yourself to the job posting,
- Organize your correspondence as a business letter,
- Address the hiring manager or recruiter by name,
- Get the hiring team’s attention,
- Show them you are qualified, and
- Call for action!
Preparing a cover letter will help you find a job faster because you will focus on applying for jobs you are well qualified to fill, and you will understand what makes you qualified.
Match yourself with the job posting.
Frequently, I speak with job seekers that tell me their resume is not working. They are clicking on job posting and sending resumes to hundreds of job leads without results. When this happens, I look at the job seeker’s resume, and ask them to show me or tell me about the jobs they apply to fill. On several occasions, the job seeker is applying for positions they don’t match.
An example is that recent graduates sometimes apply for jobs that require years of experience in the field. For example, a prospective client who just completed an advanced degree asked me to write a letter for a job that required about 10 years of industry experience. This would have been an exercise in futility since she lacked required credentials.
It’s relatively easy to avoid wasting your time applying for jobs where you do not match the requirements. Put two columns on a page or screen—your requirements and my background. You will quickly see whether you are likely to be considered for the job.
There are ways, of course, to overcome deficits in your education or experience and land the job of your dreams anyway, but you should be realistic about the chances for a positive outcome.
Organize your correspondence as a business letter.
Once you have matched yourself to the job announcement, it’s time to format your letter. The format I have used for many years, and that most experts recommend, is the block business letter style. All this means is that every line except for your letterhead starts at the left margin. Coincidentally, this is also the easiest format to execute in MS-Word. Keep it simple and do not be creative. You will stand out because many job seekers have not written a business letter.
You will find a simple guide for business letter formatting at this link. More extensive guidance may be found in the (expensive) Gregg Reference Manual, too.
Modern business letters start with a stationery letterhead, so remember to paste your name and contact information header from your resume onto the top of your letter.
Address the hiring manager by name.
Formally address your letter if you have already taken the trouble to correctly format the document. The easy part is finding the employer’s postal address. It can be more of a challenge to acquire the hiring manager’s name and title.
Company street addresses are commonly listed on their web sites. The “old school” tactic of calling the company’s main phone number and asking for an address will often work, too. Your letter will have a professional polish when you include the address even though you will send it electronically.
Locating the hiring manager’s name and title can be more of a challenge because employers do not always provide this information in job announcements. LinkedIn is an excellent source for this information. You may be able to ask someone in your network for the name and title of a hiring manager if you cannot immediately find the correct person on LinkedIn.
Your address and salutation should look something like this:
Vice President of Government Affairs
Pennsylvania Cares Association
123 States Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Dear Mr. Bo:
Of course, there will be occasions when you will not find the hiring manager’s name and title despite excellent research. An alternative is to include the company address and then omit the salutation.
Get the hiring manager’s attention.
Your next step is to get the hiring team’s attention. Standard expressions most of us have used for years such as “Please accept this letter with the enclosed résumé as an expression of interest in the Director position you recently advertised…” are inadequate in a highly competitive market. You could write something like this:
”The Pandemic turned jobs upside-down shortly after I started my role as the first full-time director of policy and legislative relations at Pennsylvania Advocacy (PA). It thrust me into leading a 5-member task force charged with acquiring PPE for the direct service workers at our member organizations. The team under my leadership purchased $1 million in PPE within 3 weeks from non-traditional sources, as well as medical suppliers although none of us had procurement experience. Then, I turned to shoring-up funding for member organizations and secured millions in CARES Act money through advocacy with members of the US Congress.”
This opening story serves two purposes. First, it gets the hiring manager’s attention. Then, it addresses the potential “elephant in the room” and explains why the job candidate was doing a different job during the Pandemic year—something many job candidates may have to address in the coming months.
Show the hiring team that you are qualified.
Your next step is demonstrating to the hiring team that you are qualified. Traditionally, many of us did this by lifting a few bullet points from the resume, shortening them, and adding them to the letter. In a competitive market this will not be enough.
It’s time to get out the worksheet you used to compare your credentials with those required in the job posting. For the job candidate above, we would have suggested the following for her letter:
In reviewing the senior-level government affairs director opening posted on your website, I was happy to see an outstanding match between your requirements and the skills and experience I offer, as outlined below.
|Your Needs||My Qualifications|
|Have at least 3 years of legislative experience.||Have more than 18 years of experience representing 3 organizations.|
|Expected to work independently on the association’s many legislative and regulatory policies.||Secured passage of 9 landmark legislative initiatives at the Pennsylvania Statehouse while independently leading advocacy.|
|Be familiar with legislative tracking tools such as PLS and grassroots platforms.||Fostered grassroots issue advocacy by creating citizen action teams, and tracked results using online platforms.|
It is hard to argue with the close match above. We would have made the letter even more persuasive, though, by adding a senior executive’s quote from last year’s performance review.
Call for action!
Last, but not least, we have to ask the hiring team to take action and contact us. Advertisers call this the “call for action.” For example, we could add the following to the letter above:
“I would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you and discuss how I can advance your legislative initiatives. You may reach me by email via email@example.com or by phone at 555-555-5555. Thank you for your time and consideration.”
We cannot promise that the wonderful cover letter you send with your resume will be read, but you will achieve 2 things by including a letter. It will keep you in the chase if the employer does consider letters. You will, at a minimum, know you are applying for jobs you match, even if the letter is not considered, so the work you put in to prepare the letter will not go to waste.
We can work with you to compose persuasive cover letters to include in your resume submissions. Contact us today and get started.
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