En Route: A Career Blog

Cover Letters that Won Interviews

AUTHOR: Darlene Zambruski
CATEGORY: ,
POSTED: August 9, 2013 at 2:00 am

Monster College ran an article a few years back that detailed points in cover letters that garnered interviews for candidates. The rules haven’t changed since the piece first appeared. If you’re going to include a cover letter with your resume, it’s best to know what not to do and what will work.

Never Be Repetitive – Always Offer Fresh Information

Those who cut and paste portions of their resume into a cover letter with a ‘why not?’ attitude are deluding themselves. You may rightfully believe that your information doesn’t change from one document to the other so why take the time to write something new? Here’s why. Your audience will get bored. Have you ever read news stories in tabloids? The first paragraph generally tells you everything you need to know about the piece. After that, it’s rehashed again and again and again until you’re so bored you can’t wait to move on. Do you want that to happen when a hiring manager or recruiter is reading your cover letter and resume?

If you want to engage the individual use the cover letter to expand on what’s in your resume. In the article, one cover letter read: “The enclosed resume details my background but what you won’t see on that resume are my strong analytical skills and passion for video games.” The author goes on to write – and this is important:

“I see the world through a design lens: when traveling in Japan, I met a number of Japanese businessmen. We could not converse due to the language barrier, but instead, communicated through a series of video games. Throughout my days, I come across things and see them as the root of a video game. A recent trip to an older post office had me visualizing a zombie attack.”

Here, the individual is telling a story – showing his talent for turning ordinary events into ideas for video games. He got the interview.

Editors Note: Countless studies have shown that professionally-written resumes and cover letters get more interviews. Compare Resume Writing and Resume Editing to see which of our services is right for you.

Never Be Vague – Be Specific About What You Can Do

If you rely on generic terms such as ‘team player’, ‘excellent communicator’, ‘seasoned professional’, you’ll sound like countless others and you will be ignored. You need to hone in on and showcase precisely what makes you better than all of the other candidates. That means you have to show the results of your work. Here’s an example:

You might write:

‘I am a skilled professional with excellent communication skills who excels at working within a team environment. I saw your posting for a (name of job) and know I’m the perfect candidate.’

That sentence tells the hiring manager absolutely nothing except your opinion.

Instead you should write something like this:

‘Your job opening for (name position) closely matches my qualifications. At XYZ company, I led 3 department teams, boosting sales by 48% over a 6-month period. This resulted in additional revenue of $38,000 for the company.’

This is the kind of information that should be in a cover letter. It’s what sets you apart. It’s what hiring managers want to read.

Don’t Begin with a Weak Opening – Start with a Related Achievement

As the previous examples show, you can ramble on and on about how you feel you’d be great at the job (while providing absolutely no evidence to support that). Or you could show the hiring manager that you excelled in your current or previous position in the same way you can for their company.

Accomplishments that are related to the job you seek will always capture a hiring manager’s attention, urging him to read more. It’s like a well-written advertisement that touts what the product can do for you right from the get-go, whether it’s to help you lose weight, get easier credit, slake your thirst or make you look younger. In the first line of your cover letter you should prove what benefit you’ll bring the company.

Avoid Extraneous Information – Focus on What the Job Entails

Even if you’ve won numerous awards as a public speaker or you’re a revered scout master for your local troop, if that information doesn’t directly relate to what you’ll be doing at the targeted position, don’t mention it. The hiring manager wants to know two things: Are you going to make the company money? Are you going to save it money? Answer those questions with cold, hard facts (achievements/results) and you’ll win an interview.

Never Send the Same Letter to Every Position You Apply For – Customize

A one-size-fits-all cover letter won’t work. You may think you’re saving time doing this, but you’re wasting it, along with opportunities because you won’t be called in for an interview. Hiring managers are busy, they have a limited amount of time to give to any one candidate. More often than not, this is seven seconds or less. Given that, it’s essential that you customize each letter for each job opening. No two jobs are alike, you need to showcase what you can do for each position. If you don’t, you’ll be adding weeks, perhaps years, to your job search.

Cover letters are an important addition to your professional employment package. Don’t make the mistake of treating them as nothing more than a note to say you’re applying. The fact that you’ve submitted a resume states that. Your cover letters need to provide solid data as to why you’re the best candidate for the position. Do that, and you’ll be asked to interview.

Darlene Z.

Darlene Zambruski is a resume writing expert and CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer) with more than 13 years of industry experience. She has authored 10,000+ resumes in every industry and at every career level.

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