Cover Letters – Purpose and Structure

Cover letters are not part of the “job seeker’s toolkit” because they are part of implementing your overall “self-marketing” strategy. That’s right – a cover letter is a compelling sales presentation!

With cover letters, you reach a very concrete goal – a job interview. Cover letters are the most widely used method of presenting your credentials to an employer. And it can serve as one of your most powerful selling tools!

Avoid the “regular and boring” types of cover letters employers receive every day. “I am very interested in a job at The Motley Corporation as a Programming Analyst. Attached please find my resume…” A message like this is basically saying, “Hey, I need a job and here’s my resume!” Not an impressive sales pitch, is it? More importantly, it does nothing to set you apart from the crowd of other applicants who send the same kind of standard, shoddy letter with their usual resume.

In professional level research, there are different characters for different purposes!

There are many times during your entire search campaign implementation when you rely on a written letter to speak on your behalf. The way you present yourself on paper can make or break your success during any stage of the process.

Just think of all the different situations in which letters can be useful in opening doors, making a strong first impression, and in keeping your candidacy in “first place” in the eyes of key decision makers. These include:

* Reply letter to the announced opening

* Personal or professional referral follow-up letter (this is my favorite)

* A letter introducing yourself to the decision maker (it’s called a “cold approach letter” – my least favorite type of cover letter)

* Letter of thanks (after the first meeting)

* Follow-up letter (after multiple meetings/interviews)

* Respond to a job offer letter

* and others…

In general, there are three parts to a cover letter – and the middle part is a kind of sales pitch. Here is the outline:

Part 1: Introduction – Explain to the employer why you are writing. Did you see a job posting? were you referred by a friend or colleague; Did you see one of their executives present at a conference or meeting; Did you read anything in the business press about the company? Be specific and use your search. Give your correspondence recipients a sense of your knowledge by pointing out industry trends, specific events, or media coverage. This is the best way to show your interest in the organization.

Part 2: Sales Presentation – To sell yourself effectively, tell the employer your qualifications and give examples of your relevant experience. The same elements that make your resume work effectively in your cover letter: use action words; be brief; be specific. Write about specific accomplishments and use facts and figures to back them up.

Part 3: Conclusion and Closing – Be sure to restate in one sentence what you can do for the organization. Summarize your cover letter as powerfully as you open it. Reiterate your interest in working with the company and why. It’s hard for a business owner to resist genuine interest and enthusiasm, combined with your knowledge of the company! Close the letter by asking for a face-to-face interview. Take charge of the process by defining the time frame in which you will be contacted. Then follow up exactly as promised, showing how responsible and professional you are!

As you can see by now, cover letters can serve many purposes—the main one being to “sell” you when you’re not in person in front of the hiring manager. When written correctly, your cover letters should create a great deal of leverage in your job search. This, in turn, will lead to more interviews and eventually more job offers!