How to Write a Cover Letter
by Wim Dodson
Writing a cover letter is like dressing for an interview. Of course, you dress for success! (or, put another way: You fake it ‘til you make it!). Cover letters are the very first impression potential employers have of you.
Many job applicants believe that if they are applying to an opening through a diversity channel, they have to hide the fact they belong to a minority group. On the contrary! The complexity of business today and the rich mix of buyers in the marketplace make it more important than ever before that companies and teams be diverse.
So let them know you not only have an amazing set of skills on offer but also perspectives that will reduce the costs of corporate missteps and make the company money!
Anatomy of a Cover Letter
First, be concise, three or four paragraphs at the most. And then finish with a “call to action”.
The first paragraph will show you know something about the business and are interested in working for the company.
The second paragraph will reflect the business's challenge and that you’re the person to resolve the problem.
The third paragraph succinctly shows how you are resolving or have resolved a similar challenge for a company.
The final paragraph is what is commonly called in marketing a “call to action”. The call to action motivates the reader to take the next step in getting to know you and how you may be able to contribute to their organization.
Writing the Hook
Let’s say you scout a job at an IT company. Research the company on the internet. Focus, especially, on the most recent news items about the company. Short of a scandal about the business, you should be able to find a headline that extols the company. Use that.
For instance, you could open the letter with something like:
First of all, congrats on the $89 million investment from Joe’s Investment Fund. As your CEO John Smith wrote, “ It validates Acme’s strategy and strong growth potential in a highly competitive industry.” Acme’s success in the marketplace is precisely the reason I’m applying for the Sales Associate position.
Writing the Business Case
Here is where you showcase your technical skills and the benefits of your perspective as a diverse professional. You can write something like:
With sales plateauing in their traditional markets, organizations are increasingly seeking opportunities to grow in diverse communities.
Beta company had significant challenges understanding the buying patterns of one such local community. I offered an approach to pitching its line of internet-enabled hair brushes that increased sales 50-percent in six months!
Go ahead! Take the credit for your contribution! Don’t be shy that you had input and that in some way, shape or form what you had to offer was implemented.
Call to Action
The Call to Action does not say, “Hire me!” It simply encourages the prospective employer to take a next step that is easy for them. The next stage should move you closer to an actual meeting with a hiring manager.
Try something like this:
If you’ve got a few minutes this week let’s talk through Skype. My Skype ID is ABCXYZ.
The cover letter is your most effective leverage for gaining attention. Write with energy and enthusiasm. And write concisely. For one, people have little time to read lengthy treatises.
Managers only want to know what you can do for them now!
So, do not go on and on about how great you are. Don’t tell them about your awesomeness, show them!
Be what you mean.™