Do More Than Say Hello: Easy Makeover Techniques for an Effective Cover Letter

by Locke, Abby Tuesday, March 06, 2007
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Nine times out of ten, whenever you send out your resume, you will need to also include a cover letter. How many times have you felt confident about your resume, but stumbled when it came to the cover letter?

While your resume will always be your key marketing document, don’t underestimate the value of a well-written cover letter. When you are about to develop your cover letter, picture the person who will read your letter and decide how you want to be perceived. Remember that in most cases, you have less than a minute to make a good impression.

1. Use the introductory paragraph to make a strong statement about your expertise, qualifications and unique promise of value. Compare these two introductions:

“Your recent posting on Monster.com for the Director of Sales closely matches my qualifications and experience. I have enclosed a copy of my resume for your review and consideration.”

Versus

“Implementing marketing initiatives that increase product/service sales, expand market share and improve corporate brands is how I add value. As an accomplished sales professional with deep expertise in sales management, marketing prowess and business acumen. I am well-qualified to serve as your next Director of Sales.”

Which candidate do you think stands out more?

2. Use your current position to highlight a recent accomplishment or major project completed. Don’t simply rehash what your responsibilities are – that’s what your resume will do. Compare these two paragraphs:

In my current role as Chief Operating Officer, I oversee a $25 million dollar which impacts the programming and services for over 3,000 customers in the Washington DC area.

Versus

“More recently as the COO of National Coalition on Civic Participation, I came onboard in the midst of internal chaos and operational upheaval as the organization faced financial uncertainties. Working hard to forge partnerships and alliances, I was able to garner over $10 million in operational support and bring the organization to the forefront of the industry.”

Again, you are using simple, direct language to “sell” yourself to key decision makers.

3. Show a consistent trend of top performance by showcasing at least one achievement for each position you held. Quantitative achievements are always more memorable, but other high impact statements work just as well. See examples below:

  • Orchestrated application management and implementation for $12.5 million system resulting in 99.8% on-time efficiency. (Director of Application Architecture – Northwest Technologies)

  • Saved company over $250,000 annually by proactively renegotiating new service agreements with existing vendors. (Technology Manager – ABC Communications)
4. Top off your cover letter with a strong finish – don’t leave the decision up to the reader. Clearly indicate your next course of action which should be either a phone call or follow up email. Mind your manners and thank the reader for his/her time and consideration.