In the many years I have advised individuals on creating attention-getting cover letters, the one thing that is most difficult for them to grasp is how to turn a statement about themselves or their expertise into content that addresses the hiring manager’s needs. Too many people still think of the cover letter as formal business document when in fact, it’s most effective use is as a sales letter that promotes your skills, knowledge, and experience as a service you are offering to the hiring manager. Forego much of the stodgy style between the salutation and the close of the cover letter and use a little self-promotion language. You have 5 to 7 seconds to grab the hiring manager’s attention…if you do and he or she reads your cover letter, you have set the hook for them to then look at your résumé.
Here are a few examples of how to take statements about you and turn them into statements directed at the hiring manager’s needs:
- Throughout my career, I have been able to save both capital and man hours with my proven ability managing design and simulation optimization.
New version: Your organization will benefit from proven expertise managing design and simulation optimization–saving your organization capital expense and man hours.
Notice how the new version removes the “I/me/my” tone and replaces it with “your.” Rather than “me” saving capital and man hours as part of a past accomplishment, the hiring manager’s organization becomes the beneficiary of those savings in the new version.
- Not only do I know how regulators view and approach issues but I also understand the challenges that corporations face in remaining competitive while meeting their regulatory and control requirements.
New version: You will need someone who knows how regulators view and approach issues, and understands the challenges your organization faces in remaining competitive while meeting regulatory and control requirements.
Not a bad statement in the original, but simply taking “I” out of it and redirecting the tone toward the hiring manager (“you/your”), it becomes a more powerful selling statement for the candidate, and edges the hiring manager closer to looking at the résumé and perhaps setting up an interview (especially if the candidate takes control of the next contact in the closing paragraph of the cover letter).
- My time spent on audit engagement provided me with experience for assessing internal controls, analyzing financial statements, and honing my professional skepticism.
New version: You will need an expert experienced with audit engagement, internal control assessment, financial statement analysis, and sharp professional skepticism on your forensic accounting team.
Again, rethinking the core essential information in the original statement and slanting it to the hiring manager’s needs makes this expertise more directly pertinent to the hiring manager. The three instances of “I/me/mine” in the original that highlight the past have been replaced with two instances of “you/your” that address the hiring manager’s needs going forward.
Reminders (see previous posts for details):
- Don’t use “please” or “thank you” in a cover letter.
- That first sentence MUST grab the hiring manager’s attention for him or her to continue reading.
- Avoid stating the obvious: “I am writing to you in response to…” or “I have enclosed my résumé…” or “Feel free to contact me at the number below.”
- Take control of the next contact: Avoid “I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience…” “I am available for an interview at your convenience.” Instead, tell the hiring manager when you’ll be calling to follow up…don’t think “cover letter”–think “sales letter.”
- Standard close is “Sincerely,” not “Kind regards” or “Yours truly”
This will be my last post for the year. Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas and New Years…see you in 2014.