Ideally your cover letter should be sent to an individual or a specific department with which you would work. As I noted earlier, if it is generically addressed to Human Resources, or opening with “To whom it may concern” it won’t be taken seriously, won’t have the intended effect and, for all practical purposes, your effort will stall right then and there. So invest in some research into specifically where and to whom you want it to go.
For the opening portion, introduce yourself and state your purpose; it should be a few sentences or a short paragraph. Be professionally courteous but get to the point and, now or at the end, don’t dance around it with platitudes by saying something such as, “I am interested in working for XYZ corporation and it would be the highlight of my career…blah, blah…” Part of being and presenting something impactful, means you'd better be-- impactful. I am all about stripping away unnecessary fluff, less smoke and more horsepower, no hamburger helper, just 100% prime cut meat.
For most people, the entirety of your cover letter need not be more than three paragraphs (intro/body/close). Ironically, the longer it is the less impact it will have. Write a series of drafts, each time honing and sharpening your message just like creating a sharp blade edge; form a blunt edge and then carefully and precisely sharpen it. For the main body, my best suggestion for content is an adaptation of your F.A.B. presentation, which, as readers of this blog are aware, is the central component of your job search efforts in order to generate interest in you. If you don’t know to what I am referring, review my previous blog entries entitled What Do You Have to Offer, parts I, II & III posted April 15th, 18th and the 22nd. This info, with some minor adjustments, should be the central focus of your cover letter; it provides the foundation for why you should be considered, compared with the empty rhetoric most other people will rely upon.
Close your cover letter with a positive, affirming and somewhat assumptive statement, such as, “I look forward to speaking (or meeting) with you”. Do a thorough review for typos, mistakes and then send it, get it out there, make things happen for yourself. If you do it in the manner I am suggesting, you are not likely to be sending it en masse, everywhere. Instead, you’ll be selective in where you send them. I think this is more effective than mass mailing generic garbage for yet another reason; you simply can’t keep track of too many sent hither and yon. It will inevitably increase the chance that when you are called, instead of listening and engaging the caller, you’ll be nervously trying to figure out who it is that is calling you since you sent so many letters all over the map – how good a first impression will that leave?
There is one more step most people fail to do; they don’t follow up with the intended recipient. If you took the time to research for whom it was intended, one week to ten days after they will have received it, call them and introduce yourself, you have a good reason, to verify if they received your cover letter and resume. However, you can do none of this if all you did was send a pile of generic letters to human resource departments addressed “To whom it may concern” because, who you gonna call? On the other hand if you were more selective and specific about where and to whom you sent a cover letter, you know with whom to follow up. Furthermore, doing it my way provides you with yet another means for contacting a decision maker before you speak with HR, then being able to call human resources and say, “Mr. (or Ms.) Smith referred me to you…”
One thing should be crystal clear and that is, anything which will increase your chances of separating from others takes time and effort to be effective. It is up to you how much you want to set yourself apart from everyone else competing for the same job(s). If you choose to use a cover letter, do the work it takes to produce something that will have the intended affect.
Feel free to comment about this post (no registration required)