Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cover Letters

Today we are going talk about Cover Letters. Last week we were unable to discuss the cover letter a listener sent me, so this week I want to tackle that. Today’s advice will help our listeners design themselves a powerful and persuasive letter of introduction, or “cover letter’ as they are usually called.

Before we turn to the analysis of the sample, I want to tell our listeners about the 4.2 things they should remember when creating a cover letter.

The first thing we should remember, is that each cover letter should be uniquely designed for the company we are sending it too. No generics allowed. BORING! SOULLESS! LAME!

The second thing we should remember is that cover letters should be specific. They need to be addressed to a specific person. (No Dear Sir, Dear Human Resourses.) Cover letters should be targeting a specific job. If they are not targeting a specific job, then they are merely a query letter, asking if there are openings. Cover letters should target a specific job.

The third thing we should remember is that a cover letter should be interesting. It should grab the readers attention right off the bat. Start with a powerful punch. A great story. Tell stories stories stories. (Passion Stories, Stories that address the needs of the employer, Educational preparation stories, stories about solving problems, etc.) You want to engage the reader immediately, make an emotional connection.

The fourth thing we should remember is the purpose of a cover letter. What’s it’s purpose? To persuade. You are writing to motivate a specific action. You want them to call you and invite you for an interview. So don’t ramble in your writing. Stay away from aimless autobiographical meanderings. Instead, highlight aspects of your experience most useful to an employer.

We should remember THIS POINT TOO (.2) Always think design. Make your letter reader friendly. Make it look pretty. Use Bullets. Read it from the employers perspective. If you think it’s boring, if your friends think it’s boring. Then, it’s boring. Change it! Make it WOW! (Same fonts as resume, different information than your resume, snappy writing, etc.)

So let’s move to the cover letter.

In all, the letter looks pretty good. But, as esteemed business writer Jim Collins wrote--as Voltaire originally quoted--GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF GREAT! This letter has the potential to be great!

The writer has the both their address as well as the address of the company being applied to at the top of the page. GREAT! It contains the date. GREAT! The letter has only four paragraphs. GREAT! The letter is only one page. GREAT!

The writer starts the letter with the phrase: Dear Mr. or Mrs. HR Manager. …um…COULD BE BETTER. HOW? Specific! Call up the company. Get the specific name of the person in charge of hiring. Even if you can’t find THE EXACT person, it’s better to have it addressed to someone within HR. Shows initiative.

The writer starts the intro talking about the honor they feel about applying to the company. COULD BE BETTER! The writer talks about the job offered on the website. (Don’t assume it’s the only job being offered. A) Start the letter off with a bang. Tell them what your going to do for them in A SPECIFIC POSITION! For example: reading into the second paragraph, the writer describes their educational experiences. This can be a great way to start the letter. ‘As a strong speaker of German, Japanese, English and Korean, I can help your company increase it’s global reach in the position of sales manager. (or whatever job is being applied for)’. If the writer is uncomfortable with the confident tone, then at least write directly and specifically. “I’m applying for the position of sales manager.” !!!

The second paragraph describes the writers educational story. This can be improved. (In all our cover letters, we should really utilize the power of story telling. Our writer here does tell a good story. But it’s a little unrelated to the company and the relevance. Never assume that the HR manager will discern a place for you to fit. Be proactive. How will your educational experience benefit the company? State it exactly. Write a story. Predict the future. Use the brilliant imagination that so many of you have. “During my schooling years and my early working career, I’ve been able to build many different relationships. I have best friends in four continents because of the time I’ve spent abroad learning different cultures and languages. My ability to build and establish relationships is a gift I possess, that I know will assist your company in growing.”

Don’t be too autobiographical. Keep your stories focused on the task of motivating an interview. Don’t be boring. Remember the old adage: ‘Be brief, be brilliant, be gone!”

In the third paragraph, the writer explains the obvious. That the reader can find out more information in the resume. (OF COURSE THEY CAN!) Instead of pointing out the obvious, be direct. Tell them what you want them to do. Tell them what you are going to do. Don’t be afraid. Be brief in all your words, but especially here. “Please review my resume. I’m confident you will see my experience and education qualify me to be an outstanding addition to your firm.”

Also, don’t refer to yourself as a HUMAN RESOURCE. Makes you sound like cattle. Moooo!!!

Depending on the culture and circumstance, you can add to this by saying proactively, “I will contact you in the next 10 days to arrange an interview. Should you wish to contact me earlier, please call me at 00000, or email me at 0000.”

Remember, don’t be flattering and gushy. Be sincere, but be confident in your language. This is difficult in a second language. But try to think simple.

The writer says thank you. GREAT! Thank you is brilliant.

Finally, the writer leaves no space between yours sincerely, and their name. Always leave space for your signature. Remember that your signature is a powerful representation of you. It’s your logo. Take time practicing it. Make it unique. Sign it confidently. I recommend getting a digital signature you can add to your emails, word documents, etc.

Today we’ve covered a lot. Thanks to the writer “you know who you are”. I hope today’s information helped you, as well as, the other listeners. Have a great day! Keep up the fight. And write me!

Michael Jay.

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