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Four Strategies for Writing a Powerful Cover Letter

Posted By: Nimish Thakkar In: Job Seeker - Cover Letters

Writing the perfect cover letter that screams “call me” takes practice -- a lot of practice. After having reviewed and written tens of thousands of resumes and cover letters, I can verify that for the right candidate a well-written resume and cover letter could open a world of opportunities. Unfortunately, many job seekers do not take this aspect of their job search campaign very seriously. Worse still, some choose to follow unreliable advice from well-meaning -- but ill-informed -- supporters and create career documents that damage the future of an otherwise promising career.

 

There is a lot of discussion about creating a captivating resume, but very little attention is paid to the document that introduces the resume: a cover letter. A powerful cover letter can not only deliver a solid first impression but can also persuade the hiring manager to pay more attention to the accompanying resume, which, otherwise, would rarely win more than ten seconds of face time.

 

Forget about template cover letters and samples from friends and loved ones. They are not designed to showcase your unique strengths. Your cover letter must deliver a unique impression and position you as a unique solution for the employer’s needs.

 

Consider the following strategies as you attempt to improvise your cover letter:

 

Take stock of your strengths

 

Take stock of all your strengths and accomplishments and create a list of “selling points” that you could address in the cover letter. Not random selling points. The list should encompass highly desirable traits that an employer would absolutely love to see in a potential employee.

 

Translate your past accomplishments into potential benefits

 

Many candidates do a remarkable job of presenting their past experience and accomplishments, but what they often fail to do is translate those accomplishments into “future benefits” for the potential employer. This may sound very trivial but viewed from a hiring manager’s perspective it makes much more sense, especially if you are reviewing thousands of resumes every month.

 

The following example clarifies this point:

 

Weak Example:

At ZZZ Corp, I was responsible for hiring and training staff.

 

Better:

At ZZZ Corp, I leveraged my leadership skills to recruit, train, and develop a cohesive team of thirty employees. As a result of my training, our team increased productivity by over 30% within six months. I am confident that I can utilize my ability to motivate teams to maximize performance and deliver double-digit gains at your organization as well.

 

Stay focused

 

Don’t try to create one cover letter for every position you will target. The ideal strategy would be to write a customized cover letter for each position, but if that may be too much, at least create one cover letter for every job target so you can address specific requirements that may be unique to that job function.

 

Craft a compelling positioning strategy

 

Ever wonder why top brands are so successful? Popular brands are very successful at crafting a compelling message that positions them as a cut above the competition. There are some very valuable lessons that these brands provide for the benefit of a job seeker, especially while developing career marketing documents such as resumes and cover letters.

 

Consider the following excerpt from a cover letter:

 

I provided outstanding leadership at XYZ Company.

 

Better strategy:

 

As general manager for XYZ Company, I utilized my leadership skills to lead, motivate, and manage a cohesive team of thirteen senior-level direct reports, who in turn oversaw 1,000 cross-functional employees. In addition to my team leadership skills, I specialized in turning-around challenging situations into opportunities for growth.

 

Notice how the writer positions herself as a turnaround specialist in the second scenario. The first example conveyed a fact but the second version positioned the writer as someone offering unique skills.

 

Presentation counts. It is true that one must have the goods before trying to sell them, but a lot depends on how you present them as well. Experience and presentation work together to create a solid first impression. One falls apart without the other.

 

In addition to being an introduction, the cover letter should serve as a brief proposal highlighting how your past background prepares you to serve as a powerful contributor toward the company’s success. It must position you as a unique player who can catapult the organization to new heights.

 

 
What do you think?
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Comments
Posted by: Tedd F
One thing the article did not mention was to be succinct and not too long.  I hate to play devil's advocate, but I have a feeling no one is going to sit down and read a mini essay full page cover letter. The most success I have seen people get is with a 1-2 paragraph cover letter, not a long full page cover letter. It states that "in reference to xyz position, I would like to respectfully submit my resume for your review and consideration". Then 1-2 great statements about accomplishments. End with "Thank you in advance for your time and consideration".Then attach a strong resume and any supplemental information that might be attention worthy. Thoughts?
Posted by: Ella n
I loved the article. I will definitely follow your advice.Thank you
Posted by: Anthony B
Most employers have a list of specific requirements for each job. If you don't meet each item on the list, they will not call you, no matter how good your cover letter and resume are. If you do meet every requirement, and your documents don't undermine your initial impression, you have a chance.
Posted by: William R
Excellent article.  Thank you.  I will be reworking my cover letters based on this advise.
Posted by: David B
Very well written.  I always include some of what I know about their company and make a match with them and my skill levels, expertise, etc. Also, always say Thank you!!!! Some where on the left.  Been told many a letter is reviewed looking for those words and if they don't appear, that letter is headed to the circular file. Thanks for the great reminders.
Posted by: AI-MEI C
Very good advise!It really wakes me up!
Posted by: William P
Like several other commentators, my experience does not translate into % increases in sales or production, so it is hard to list attention-grabbing accomplishments.
Posted by: Diana V
Very informational. I changed my cover letter immediately. Thanks for the help.
Posted by: Kathy P
I have the same challenges as some of the other readers. My past accomplishments cannot always be calculated into a numbers statement. I purchased a professional resume, but still struggle with cover letters, as my resume looks great, but I'm not getting many calls. This would be a great service for someone to offer...Thank you for your suggestions though.
Posted by: Sandy M
I'm already using these techniques without any success. With little of no responses to all the resumes, I'm sending out, it's getting quite frustrating.
Posted by: ELIZABETH K
Thank you for offering professional cover letter.I would always get confused when asked to send a cover letter.I now understand what the employers look for when hiringRegardsElizabeth
Posted by: Gary K
how can I get help to write  a cover letter
Posted by: Sergio G
I think it's a very interesting article, but I have problems in applying these strategies to my own experience. I would like to know how to position myself, if I only have a social service, and did nothing that can be translated into numbers.
Posted by: Kim C
This article is a good way to understand the craft of a cover letter.Times have changed but this is still an effective way of introducing oneself.Every person has skills and attributes which could pop off the page/screen as accomplishments and potential. Thank you for the article!
Posted by: Abraham C
Great advice! It makes perfect sense.
Posted by: diao z
Good advice
Posted by: Alieu S
Great insights from Pros obviously!
Posted by: GOULIELMOS V
Great advise
Posted by: Rose W
Very helpful, the examples really illustrated the difference!
Posted by: Preston M
There is nothing in my job history that I can write about as an accomplishment, its all been manual and menial work. What has brought me the most satisfaction and sense of accomplishment is devising a system's chart that got me invited into the Demng Management Forum and invited to present it twice at  the Educational Session.  The ideal job is just found but I'm 57 and don't have the qualifications for such a place yet if I were there I wouldn't be completely out of place. Should I emphasize this achievement and my desire and not focus upon the bland work histo, yet accept that as a reality?
Posted by: Richard P
This was insightful and helpful. I am incorporating these suggestions into my own job apps.
Posted by: Mehnaz R
Highly helpful
Posted by: Juana C
Is great advise
Posted by: Ida B
Thank You, for this artical I want to make a stronger cover letter for my presentation.                                   
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