Fred Winston Cover Letter

Cover Letter

Magic

Second Edition

Trade Secrets of Professional Resume Writers

Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursmark

Cover Letter Magic, Second Edition © 2004 by Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursmark Published by JIST Works, an imprint of JIST Publishing, Inc. 8902 Otis Avenue Indianapolis, IN 46216-1033 Phone: 1-800-648-JIST Fax: 1-800-JIST-FAX

E-mail: [email protected]

Visit our Web site at www.jist.com for information on JIST, free job search tips, book chapters, and how to order our many products! Quantity discounts are available for JIST books. Please call our Sales Department at 1-800-648-5478 for a free catalog and more information.

Acquisitions and Development Editor: Lori Cates Hand Series Editor: Susan Britton Whitcomb Cover Designer: Aleata Howard Interior Designer: designLab, Seattle Page Layout: Trudy Coler Proofreaders: Gayle Johnson, Jeanne Clark Indexer: Tina Trettin Printed in the United States of America 07 06 05 04 03 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Enelow, Wendy S. Cover letter magic / Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursmark.-- 2nd ed. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 1-56370-986-4 1. Cover letters. I. Kursmark, Louise. II. Title. HF5383.E4787 2004 650.14'2--dc22

2003023186

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews. Making copies of any part of this book for any purpose other than your own personal use is a violation of United States copyright laws. We have been careful to provide accurate information in this book, but it is possible that errors and omissions have been introduced. Please consider this in making any career plans or other important decisions. Trust your own judgment above all else and in all things. Trademarks: All brand names and product names used in this book are trade names, service marks, trademarks, or registered trademarks of their respective owners. ISBN 1-56370-986-4

Contents Introduction

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .vii The Cover Letter Is How It All Starts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .vii How This Book Is Organized . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ix A Short History of Cover Letters and Their Evolution . .xi The Purpose and Objectives of a Cover Letter . . . . . . . .xii The Importance of Cover Letters in Your Winning Job Search Campaign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .xv The Rules: There Aren’t Any! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .xvi

Part I: Creating and Distributing Your Cover Letter...........................................1 Chapter 1

Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Cover Letter Formats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 The 10 Types of Cover Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Chapter 2

Preparing to Write . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43 Six Steps to Better Cover Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43 Step 1: Identify Your Key Selling Points . . . . . . . . . . . . .44

Chapter 3

Writing Your Cover Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67 Step 2: Pre-Plan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68 Step 3: Write the Opening Paragraph . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71 Step 4: Write the Body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .94 Step 5: Write the Closing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97 Step 6: Polish, Proofread, and Finalize . . . . . . . . . . . . .110

Chapter 4

The Anatomy of a Winning Electronic Cover Letter (Plus Electronic Resume Tips) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .117 Electronic Cover Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .118 Electronic and Scannable Resumes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122

Chapter 5

Cover Letter Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125 Developing Winning Visual Presentations . . . . . . . . . . .125 Design Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .126

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Chapter 6

Answers to Common Cover Letter Questions— and Tips to Help You Beat the Odds . . . . . . . . . . . . .135 Frequently Asked Cover Letter and Resume Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .136 Using Your PC in Your Job Search . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .145 Distributing Your Resumes and Cover Letters . . . . . . . .150 Managing the Paperwork and the Job Search Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .154

Part II: Sample Cover Letters.........................................159 Chapter 7

Before-and-After Cover Letter Transformations

. . . . .161

How to Use the Samples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .162 Chapter 8

Winning Cover Letters for Blue-Collar and Trades Positions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .179 The Top 5 Cover Letter–Writing Tips for Blue-Collar and Trades Positions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .179

Chapter 9

Winning Cover Letters for Young Professionals/ New Graduates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .189 The Top 5 Cover Letter–Writing Tips for Young Professionals/New Graduates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .189

Chapter 10

Winning Cover Letters for Mid-Career Professionals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .213 Top 5 Cover Letter–Writing Tips for Mid-Career Professionals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .213

Chapter 11

Winning Cover Letters for Senior Managers and Executives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .241 Top 5 Cover Letter–Writing Tips for Senior Managers and Executives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .241

Chapter 12

Winning Cover Letters for Technical and Scientific Professionals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .267 Top 5 Cover Letter–Writing Tips for Technical and Scientific Professionals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .267

Contents

Chapter 13

Winning Cover Letters for Career Changers

. . . . . . . .281

Top 5 Cover Letter–Writing Tips for Career Changers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .281

Part III: The Total Job Search: Thank-You

Letters, Recruiters, and Resumes..........................................................295 Chapter 14

Winning Thank-You Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .297 How Thank-You Letters Can Help You Land a Job . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .299 Frequently Asked Questions About Thank-You Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .302 Thank-You Letter Checklist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .303 One Final Recommendation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .304 Sample Thank-You Letters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .305

Chapter 15

Cover Letter Tips and Techniques from Recruiters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .311 Advice from the Recruiters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .311 Key Points to Remember . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .323

Chapter 16

Winning Resume Strategies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .325 Resume Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .326 Resume Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .330 Resume Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .338 Recommended Resume Formats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .340 Magical Tips on Resume Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .358

Part IV: Appendixes....................................................363 Appendix A

Using Keywords to Win in Your Job Search . . . . . . . . .365 What Are Keywords, and Where Did They Come From? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .366 What Is All This Talk About Keywords and Scanning? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .367

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How Do I Use Keywords in My Cover Letters? . . . . . . .368 Which Keywords Are Right for Me, My Profession, and My Industry? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .370 Appendix B

Action Verbs for Cover Letters

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .387

Appendix C

Recommended Job Search and Career Web Sites . . . . .389 Job Search Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .390 Company Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .397 Dictionaries and Glossaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .398 Interviewing Tips and Techniques . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .399 Salary and Compensation Information . . . . . . . . . . . . .400

Appendix D

Index

Index of Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .401

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .409

Introduction

Introduction The Cover Letter Is How It All Starts Whether you’re selling yourself for a new position or proposing a new book, product, service, or advertising campaign, you begin with a cover letter. You write a letter in an attempt to generate interest, enthusiasm, and action from your reader. That is precisely what we did to interest JIST in publishing this book. And, see, it worked!

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Cover Letter Magic

Your job search is no different. You have a commodity to sell—yourself—and you must approach your search campaign just as you would any other sales or marketing campaign. You begin by identifying the key features and benefits of that product (you!) and then work to develop a resume and cover letter that clearly communicate those specific points. It’s that easy, yet that complex. In this book, we focus almost exclusively on cover letter writing, although we do include a brief, yet solid introduction to resume writing in chapter 16, “Winning Resume Strategies.” Although you might think that writing job search materials is all the same, the difference between writing resumes and writing cover letters is dramatic. They are two entirely different documents, each with its own structure, strategy, and agenda.

Tip

If you have not yet written your resume, are having trouble with one section, are questioning the wording that you used, or are uncertain about its overall effectiveness, we recommend that you pick up Résumé Magic, the companion to this book, by Susan Britton Whitcomb, CCMC, CCM, NCRW, CPRW. Susan’s book is one of the most comprehensive resources we’ve ever seen. It covers virtually every topic imaginable related to resume development, strategy, writing, and production. No matter how obscure your questions are, you will find the answers in Résumé Magic.

Consider the following. When you’re writing your resume, you’re writing a document that you hope to use over and over, for almost every job search opportunity, advertisement, or referral. Of course, at times you might have to modify your resume a bit, and in some situations you might have two or three different versions (depending on your objectives). The bottom line, however, is that you are writing a single document that gives a broad-based overview of your entire career. The cover letter process is entirely different from resume writing. Almost every time you write a cover letter, you are writing a unique letter to a specific person for a particular reason and with a unique message. That process, in and of itself, requires that you tailor your letters to each individual situation.

Introduction

Tip

To optimize the impact of your cover letters and the response that they generate, you must be willing to invest the time and energy to create customized letters that sell you for a specific opportunity. Anything less will reduce your chances of capturing your reader’s attention and being offered the opportunity for an interview.

How This Book Is Organized Cover letter writing is an art that requires you to write a brief, hard-hitting document that catches a reader’s attention. If you’re not an experienced writer or haven’t used your writing skills in years, this can be a daunting task. But have no fear. We’ve made it easy for you with Cover Letter Magic! Here’s how the book is structured. The Introduction offers an exploration of the history of cover letters, how they have evolved, their purpose, and why cover letters are so important to your job search. The Introduction ends with the top 10 strategies for writing winning cover letters. Chapter 1 contains a comprehensive discussion of the 10 different kinds of cover letters. You’ll learn to identify the one that’s right for each particular situation you encounter. In chapter 2, you’ll begin your preparation by developing your cover letter strategy and your key “selling points.” This up-front work will make the actual writing of your cover letters much simpler and faster; you won’t have to plan and write each letter from the ground up. Then it’s time to write. In chapter 3 we’ll coach you in the process of writing a winning cover letter, from the strategy behind the words to the actual words themselves. We’ll teach you how to write the three essential sections of every cover letter and give you a cover letter checklist to guarantee that your letters are appropriate, on target, and designed to produce results.

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Chapter 4 follows with the unique characteristics of electronic cover letters—their similarities to and their differences from the more “traditional” cover letter. Chapter 5 furnishes you with tools of the trade, so that you can improve the visual presentation and impact of your cover letters. Fonts, format, and paper are just a few of the topics we’ll cover. Then we’ll move on to discuss related technology issues such as mail merge, e-mail broadcast campaigns, and other PC-based methods for cover letter reproduction and distribution. Before we begin reviewing actual cover letter samples, chapter 6 rounds out our discussion with answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). Should your letter always fit on one page? When should you discuss salary in a cover letter, and when is this topic best left for the interview? This chapter also includes tips and tricks from the top—insider strategies gleaned from our decades of experience in writing cover letters for every imaginable job search situation. Chapters 7 through 13 are what this book is all about: more than 100 “reallife” cover letters written by members of the Career Masters Institute— professional resume writers, career coaches, career counselors, recruiters, military and government transition specialists, and others in the career and employment industry. These letters were used in actual job search campaigns—successful campaigns with powerful resumes and cover letters as their foundation. Chapter 7 shows the “magic” of before-and-after cover letter transformations. Chapters 8 through 11 include letters for bluecollar/trades positions, new graduates/young professionals, mid-career professionals, and senior managers/executives. Chapter 12 is devoted to technical and scientific professionals; and in chapter 13, you’ll find cover letters for people who are making a significant career change, from one field to another. You can quickly identify the chapter that is most pertinent to your situation and use the examples in that chapter as inspiration for your own cover letters. Chapter 14 is dedicated to writing winning thank-you letters, the strategy behind them, and the style in which to present them. Also included are several outstanding samples that will help you make your thank-you letters work as powerful marketing tools.

Introduction

In chapter 15, after you’ve read more than 200 pages showing the rules for writing powerful cover letters, we’ll show you cover letters written by recruiters. Many of these letters break all the rules! In chapter 16, we share information on writing winning resumes. Learn the best strategies, formats, and presentations for developing resumes that are powerful and well-positioned and produce the results that you want— interviews and offers! Finally, the Appendix provides valuable career resources to help you plan and manage your winning job search campaign. Throughout the book, “Tips” and “Examples” are highlighted with special symbols. These sections provide quick insights to enhance the section you’ve just read, further explain specific strategies, and share insider strategies we’ve developed in our many years of writing cover letters. And perhaps most importantly, you’ll find numerous “Action Item” lists that give you detailed and specific activities to complete as you go about the task of writing your own cover letters.

A Short History of Cover Letters and Their Evolution Cover letters began to evolve several decades ago. In their original form, they were known as transmittal letters—brief letters indicating that the writer was transmitting a resume. Over the course of time, transmittal letters evolved into cover letters—letters that “covered” the resume and introduced the job seeker. Today, cover letters have again transformed themselves and can be much more accurately described as career marketing letters—letters that are designed to market the job seeker, highlight notable qualifications and career successes, and generate an invitation for a personal interview.

Tip

Throughout this book, we refer to these documents as cover letters, because that is still the most widely used terminology; but what we are really referring to are career marketing letters. The passive approach of “Here’s my resume…give me a job” is out. The active approach of “Here’s my resume…here’s why you should hire me…now, give me a job” is what works!

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Today, a job search is an intensely competitive process. For every position for which you apply, there are countless other unqualified, somewhatqualified, and extremely well-qualified competitors. Compounding this is the fact that the employment market has changed dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years as companies have downsized, rightsized, reengineered, reorganized, streamlined, consolidated, merged, acquired, and reinvented themselves. What’s more, businesses everywhere have globalized. In fact, the world of employment has fundamentally changed. Job security exists only as long as you are providing value to the organization; the old model of joining a company for your entire career is essentially over. This radical shift means that smart workers are always prepared for new opportunities and that there is constant flux in employment. And, in an increasingly competitive global economy, companies are not content to fill open positions with just a warm body. They want the “best and the brightest” to capitalize on the business challenges and market opportunities that are present today. Thus, job search remains intensely competitive. The successful job seeker understands how competitive the employment market is and knows that a job search must be approached as a marketing campaign. One of the most vital components to that marketing campaign is your cover letter. To ensure that you stay current with emerging trends and market conditions, you must remember that you are not writing a transmittal letter, and you are not writing a cover letter. Rather, you are writing a career marketing letter in which you must sell the product you are offering—yourself.

The Purpose and Objectives of a Cover Letter Every time you sit down to write a cover letter, ask yourself the following question: “Why am I writing this letter?” Believe it or not, your answer will always ultimately be the same—“to ask for an interview.” Bottom line, there is no reason to forward your resume and cover letter other than to ask for an interview.

Introduction

Tip

There are exceptions to this “rule.” Consider the letter you write asking someone to pass along your resume to someone they know (to ultimately get an interview with them) or the letter you write when forwarding a copy of your resume to a friend for feedback (so that you can ultimately send it to someone else and get an interview with them). What about the letter you write to an old college professor who is now serving on the board of directors of a Fortune 100 company, asking for contact names and referrals (so that you can ultimately get an interview)? These are not what we traditionally refer to as cover letters; and therefore, the “rule” of asking for the interview does not apply to these situations.

Now, if writing your cover letters were only that easy—just a quick little note asking for an interview! Unfortunately, nothing worthwhile is ever that easy. Before you can ask for the interview, you must accomplish several objectives in your cover letters. These include the following: Introducing yourself and clearly defining “who” you are—a welder, teacher, sales manager, accountant, computer programmer, aerospace engineer, historian, chef, graphic designer, purchasing agent, security manager, or CEO. Highlighting your most notable qualifications, experiences, credentials, skills, and achievements. Identifying the value you can bring to the organization. Capturing your reader’s interest in you, your resume, and your availability. Motivating the reader to call and offer you the opportunity for an interview. What’s more, whenever possible, you want to relate your qualifications, experiences, credentials, skills, and achievements to the specific needs of the company or recruiter to whom you are writing the letter. Sometimes this information is readily available (such as when the job advertisement lists the company’s needs); other times you’ll have to do some research (perhaps by talking to someone who already works at the organization); and on occasion you will not be able to find it. Whenever you are able to obtain company information, use that “market intelligence” to present your qualifications as they relate to that organization’s needs. Position yourself as the best solution to the specific needs, challenges, or issues you have identified. Here are some examples:

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If you know that the company is looking for a production supervisor with extensive SAP experience, tell them about the SAP project team you managed. If you know that the criminal practice firm you’re applying to is in desperate need of an experienced paralegal, be sure to highlight the fact that you have six years of experience as a paralegal for a criminal practice firm. If you know that the hospital you’re applying to has had tremendous problems with retaining its JCAHO certification, write about your years of experience managing relationships with JCAHO accreditation personnel. If you know that an electronics firm wants a candidate with experience selling into both large and small accounts, relate your sales successes with both emerging companies and Fortune 100 accounts. When writing your cover letters, picture this: You’ve taken each career experience, responsibility, and project you’ve ever had and laid them all out on a table. Every time you write a letter, you’re going to look at everything on that table and then choose what to include based specifically on that company’s needs. What if you’ve been unable to learn much about the company and its specific needs? In that case, the best strategy is to make “educated guesses” about needs and concerns you can address for that company. A cover letter that presents you as a solution to business challenges is much more effective than one that simply presents your qualifications.

Tip

One-third of the individuals to whom you write a letter will never read it; one-third will always read it; and one-third might read it if the resume is interesting and catches their immediate attention. When writing your letters, remember that you are always writing to the latter two categories of readers—the ones who are most likely to read your letter and take action (such as extending you the opportunity for a personal interview). Because you do not know which readers fall into which categories, all of your cover letters must be powerful, well written, and well presented.

Introduction

The Importance of Cover Letters in Your Winning Job Search Campaign You might be wondering whether you need to use a cover letter at all. The answer to that question is simple and straightforward: Every job seeker must have a cover letter. There are virtually no exceptions to this rule, unless a particular company or recruiter has instructed you to forward just a resume, without a cover letter. (This rarely happens.) There is no doubt that a great cover letter can make the difference in whether you get noticed or passed over. A great cover letter can be a powerful marketing tool that does all of the following: Positions you above the competition. Sells your qualifications and your successes. Demonstrates your knowledge, experience, and expertise. Creates excitement, enthusiasm, and action (and thus, an interview). What is it about your cover letter that can do all of this? Is it the words that you write? Is it the style or the tone of your cover letter? Is it the visual presentation? Is it the color of paper that you choose and the type style that you use? Is it the specific achievements that you highlight? The years of experience you have? Your educational credentials? Yes—to all of the above! As we will show you hundreds of times in this book, your cover letters can have a tremendous impact on the quality and success of your search campaign. To best demonstrate this concept, let’s look at a typical job search situation in which you are contacting a company to express your interest in employment opportunities. You don’t know of any specific job openings at the company. And you might not even know a specific person to address the letter to. This kind of letter is sometimes referred to as a “cold-call” letter. Now, what are you going to send to that company? First, you will include your resume, full of factual information about your experience, educational credentials, and more. Your resume, in and of itself, is a powerful tool to sell your qualifications and highlight your achievements. However, the typical scenario is that you will prepare just one resume and use it for every

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employment contact you make—including cold calls, newspaper ad responses, online posting responses, networking communications, and more. Your cover letter serves a different purpose. It is designed as a personal introduction to who you are, custom-made for that specific opportunity, and allowing you the chance to communicate a great deal of information about yourself—both the personal you and the professional you. In theory, you’re taking excerpts from your resume—the most important excerpts as they relate to a specific position—and rewording them to communicate the same concepts, qualifications, experiences, and accomplishments, just in different words. It is not a good idea, however, to type word-for-word the exact language that you’ve already used in your resume.

Tip

Your cover letter should complement your resume, not repeat it verbatim!

The Rules: There Aren’t Any! Cover letters can be fun to write, although you might not think so. In fact, there may be little that you find fun at this point in your job search. But with the right perspective and a positive attitude, you will find that writing cover letters affords you great flexibility. There is no one set format in which they must be written. There is no one style in which they must be presented. There are virtually no rules to writing cover letters, other than a few basics, which we cover in “The Top 10 Strategies for Writing Winning Cover Letters,” which follows. Because they are so flexible, cover letters allow you to positively present just those skills, qualifications, achievements, and credentials that you want to bring to a specific reader’s immediate attention.

Tip

Cover letters allow you the opportunity to “paint the picture you want someone to see while remaining in the realm of reality.”You can pick and choose the skills and qualifications you want to highlight in each letter based on the requirements of a particular position. Cover letters give you the platform to create a vision of who you are that relates directly to the company’s or recruiter’s hiring criteria, while remaining 100-percent accurate and honest.

Introduction

One of the other advantages of cover letters is that you can be creative in both content and presentation. There is no one standard format that you must follow. In the chapters that contain sample cover letters (chapters 7 through 13), you will have the opportunity to review more than 100 actual cover letters that are unique in their wording and style, striking in their visual presentation, and successful in generating interest and interviews.

The Top 10 Strategies for Writing Winning Cover Letters 1. Make it easy for someone to understand “who” you are. Are you a sales representative, actuary, nurse, college professor, chemical engineer, restaurant manager, customer service agent, or architect? Be sure to clearly communicate that information at the beginning of your cover letter. Don’t make someone read three paragraphs to find this critical information. No one is going to take the time and energy to figure it out! 2. Use a unique and professional format when writing and typing your cover letters. Don’t fall into the trap of using cover letter formats that have been used for years and now appear worn out. Make your letters visually attractive and distinctive—not the overused “standard” formats. Take a look at all the samples in this book to see how creative yet professional you can be in writing the text and designing the presentation. 3. Highlight your most relevant qualifications. Use your cover letters to highlight your skills, experiences, qualifications, honors, awards, and credentials that are directly relevant to the company’s needs and the type of position and/or career path you are pursuing. 4. Shine a spotlight on your most relevant achievements. Be certain to highlight your career successes, results, and accomplishments that will be most meaningful to the letter’s intended audience. 5. Include information that you know about the company or the position for which you are applying. If you know any particulars about the company to which you are writing (for example, core issues, challenges, market opportunities, products, services, staffing changes, or management changes), be sure to address those items in your cover letter. What’s more, relate specifically how your experience can meet the company’s needs and provide solutions to its challenges.

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Cover Letter Magic

6. Explain why you want to work for this company in particular. Do you want to work for the company because of its reputation, financial standing, products, services, personnel, location, or market potential? Why this company? Everyone likes a good “pat on the back” for a job well done. Companies are no different. Tell them what they’re doing right that caught your attention. 7. Be sure that your cover letters are neat, clean, and well presented. Remember, cover letters are business documents, not advertising materials. They should be attractive and relatively conservative, not “over-designed.” 8. Double-check, triple-check, and then have someone else check your letter to be sure that it is error-free! Remember, people don’t meet you; they meet a piece of paper. And that piece of paper—your cover letter—reflects the quality and caliber of the work you will do on their behalf. Even the smallest of errors is unacceptable. 9. Keep your cover letters short! Cover letters are not essays. We recommend a one-page letter in nearly all circumstances. 10. Always remind yourself why you are writing each cover letter and be sure to ask for the interview! Remember, securing an interview is your number-one objective for each cover letter that you write. In the following cover letter, we show how each of these top-10 tips is employed to create a letter that captures the reader’s attention and “sells” the candidate for the Business Development position he is pursuing. The notated numbers (1–10) illustrate where each of the 10 tips is used in the cover letter.

xix

Introduction



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Part

I

Creating and Distributing Your Cover Letters Chapter 1:

Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

Chapter 2:

Preparing to Write

Chapter 3:

Writing Your Cover Letters

Chapter 4:

The Anatomy of a Winning Electronic Cover Letter (Plus Electronic Resume Tips)

Chapter 5:

Cover Letter Presentation

Chapter 6:

Answers to Common Cover Letter Questions—and Tips to Help You Beat the Odds

Chapter

1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation Writing cover letters can be one of the most difficult tasks in your job search. Although it might have taken you a while to prepare your resume, and it certainly required a great deal of effort, once it’s done, it’s done. Although there are exceptions, generally a job seeker will use just one resume throughout a job search. Cover letters, on the other hand, must be individually written to have the most impact and generate the most response. This means that you will have to create a new letter each time you send a resume. Why? Cover letters are “situation-dependent.” Are you writing in response to an advertisement, reaching out to a network contact, following up on a past letter and resume you submitted, or just sending a general letter of inquiry? What if you’re writing the letter in response to a specific referral from one of your colleagues? What if you’re writing to recruiters who specialize in your industry or your profession? The situation dictates the strategy behind the cover letter and the specific information you will include. You need to communicate different information to different people in your cover letter. Suppose you’re a customer service representative in the credit-card industry and you’re interested in a similar position in the telecommunications industry. The focus in your letter should be on (1) your years of experience in customer service, and not your industry background. However, if you’re seeking to transition into a 3

4

Cover Letter Magic

human resources position in telecommunications, your letter should focus on (1) your years of experience in the industry and (2) the skills and qualifications you have that are transferable to human resources (for example, employee hiring, training, scheduling, and salary administration). Remember, paint the picture you want the reader to see while remaining in the realm of reality! You must be creative in presenting your qualifications in your cover letter. Cover letters should complement your resume, not repeat it. Do not copy text, word for word, straight out of your resume. This means that you will have to decide how to communicate similar information in different words. Here’s a quick example: If you’re a sales representative and have highlighted specific sales achievements under each position in your resume, you do not want to repeat that same information in your letter. However, you still want to communicate that you’ve been successful. Instead of listing your individual sales achievements, you might want to summarize them to span your entire career or categorize them by type (for example, revenue growth, new account development, and new product introduction). Cover letters need to convey information that is meaningful in the particular situation. For instance, if you’re responding to an advertisement, your letter should address all (or most) of the hiring requirements as stated in the ad. Demonstrate that you are the number-one candidate. More information on this point follows later in this chapter. Some employers might require that you provide specific information in your cover letter. If you are writing in response to an advertisement, the ad might tell you that you must submit requested information such as salary history (what you have earned in the past and in your current position), salary requirements (what your current salary expectations are), verification of U.S. nationality or residency, or other specific data. To make cover letter writing easier, faster, and more efficient, we’ve classified cover letters into 10 categories that apply to every situation you will encounter in your job search. Each letter you write will fit into one of these categories. Our list is an instant reference guide and map for you to use in developing your own cover letters. Here’s how to use the list. Simply determine why you are writing a specific letter and to whom. Then review “The 10 Types of Cover Letters” to

Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

determine which category your letter fits into. Read the section and follow the key points and recommendations. Then combine the recommendations with the writing suggestions in chapters 2 and 3, and you’ll be well on your way to creating cover letters that are appropriate, on target, and powerful. But before we get into the “10 Types of Cover Letters,” we need to look at the different formats that cover letters can follow.

Tip

One of your most valuable tools for writing cover letters is the “copy and paste” function in your word-processing program. Although we talk repeatedly throughout this book about how critical it is that you write letters individually to a specific company, individual, recruiter, venture capitalist, or other contact, you do not have to reinvent the wheel. If you’ve written a sentence, a paragraph, or a list of bullet points that will work well in various letters, copy it in. Letters must be customized, but you can easily copy them and edit them for another use. Make it easy on yourself!

Cover Letter Formats As we’ve stated, cover letters are business documents, and in most cases they should follow a fairly conservative, professional format. Only in rare circumstances is a wildly original cover letter appropriate. Unless you’re in a creative or highly competitive field, we don’t recommend unusual cover letter formats such as poetry, “wanted” posters, cover letters used as wrapping paper, advertisements, press releases, treasure hunts, or other innovative, nontraditional ideas. We do recommend a businesslike yet up-to-date and polished format. Within this general guideline, there are three specific formatting styles you can use in the body of your letters: Paragraph style Comparison-list style (directly comparing your qualifications to the position requirements) Bullet style (with introductory and closing paragraphs surrounding bullet-point statements)

5

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Cover Letter Magic

Which style you should select depends on the following: Who you are writing to. Why you are writing to them. The type and amount of information you want to include. The tone of the letter. The writing style of the letter. As you review the sample letters in this book, you’ll see examples of all three of these formats, with the largest percentage falling into style #3— bullet style. This is often the preferred strategy. It allows you to “talk” to a prospective employer, using the paragraphs to introduce who you are and give some insight into your personality and your professional characteristics. You can then use easily skimmed bullet points to highlight credentials, experiences, special projects, honors, awards, and accomplishments that directly relate to the position for which you are applying.

Tip No one style of cover letter is right for every situation. You must closely evaluate why you are writing a specific letter, determine what information is essential to include, and then determine which style works best with the information at hand.

Paragraph Style Paragraph-style letters enable you to communicate information in the context of a “story” of what has happened, who you are, and what value you bring to an organization. Your paragraph-style cover letter should be well written, position you as a qualified candidate, and energize your reader to action—an offer for a personal interview.

Comparison-List Style Comparison-list-style letters—also known as “T”-style letters—allow you to quickly and assertively respond to the specific requirements of a job as stated in an advertisement. If the advertisement is asking for five specific qualifications, this type of letter enables you to directly compare your specific experiences and accomplishments to those qualifications, demonstrating how they match the company’s stated needs. Your comparison-list-style cover letter should be brief, aggressive, and on target.

Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

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Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

Less positively, however, this kind of letter, as its name implies, offers a direct comparison of your qualifications with the stated needs. Do not attempt to use this format unless you meet or exceed every qualification listed in the ad; otherwise, you will merely highlight where you are deficient. Further, this letter style does not allow you to “sell” any of your qualities other than through a direct point-by-point comparison. Although this letter style is quite popular among some outplacement firms, in our opinion, it’s the least effective of the three. We feel its use will continue to decline, primarily because of its limitations.

Bullet Style Bullet-style letters enable you to take advantage of the best features of the other two styles. You can begin with an introductory paragraph that communicates who you are and then follow up with a bulleted listing of the top achievements of your career as they relate to a particular company, position, or industry. Then you can go back to the paragraph style for your closing, communicating your interest in the position, detailing any specific information that you feel is appropriate, and asking for the interview. Bullet-style cover letters can often be the most powerful and most compelling style, enticing your reader to closely review your resume and call you to schedule an interview.

The 10 Types of Cover Letters Now let’s look at the 10 types of cover letters. Remember, these categories are situation-specific —your reason for writing a specific letter will dictate the type of letter you choose. Simply skim through the following list for the situation that applies to your present circumstance, and then use that type of letter. To illustrate each concept, we’ve included sample letters for each of the 10 types, and we’ve recommended the most appropriate of the three styles (paragraph, comparison-list, or bullet) for each type of letter.

1. Ad-Response Letter to a Company Recommended formats: Comparison-list style; bullet style Writing letters in response to specific job advertisements will most likely be an ongoing part of your job search campaign. When you see an advertisement or job posting seeking a candidate with your qualifications, you’ll want to respond quickly with a resume and cover letter. The only problem

9

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Cover Letter Magic

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Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

is that these letters are best written individually so that you can highlight how your experience and qualifications match the specific requirements for the job. So, instead of just printing a standard cover letter from your PC, you’re faced with having to write a separate letter each time. Now, all of a sudden, getting out that quick resume and cover letter is not so quick. Don’t panic! There are ways to get around this and to make the process much easier. We recommend using a comparison-list or bullet style for adresponse letters. The items that you highlight in the bullets or columns— experience, positions, achievements, educational credentials, and so on— should directly match the hiring company’s needs. This type of cover letter is easier to write than a paragraph-style letter, because you’re writing bulleted, stand-alone items and not a document in which each sentence must flow with the next. What’s more, these letters are easy to edit, so you can change an item or two and quickly create multiple versions of your letter within minutes.

Tip Compile a comprehensive list of bullet-point statements about your career, employment history, positions, achievements, educational credentials, leadership performance, and so on as ammunition for your cover letters. Then all you’ll need to do is select the bullets from the list that match the requirements for each position for which you are applying. See “Step 1: Identify Your Key Selling Points” in chapter 2 for a detailed discussion of preparing these bullet points. Be sure to reference the position title or number when writing an adresponse letter. You can do this best in one of three ways: Include a “position reference line” at the beginning of your cover letter. Type this between the inside address and the salutation. For example: Mr. Harry Jones President ABC Manufacturing Company 123 Main Street Elm, WI 39393 RE: Purchasing Manager Position—Posting #34837-12 Dear Mr. Jones:

11

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Cover Letter Magic

Reference the position in the last paragraph of your cover letter with text such as “I would welcome the opportunity to interview for the position of Purchasing Manager (#34837-12) and look forward to speaking with you.” With this approach, however, you run the risk of not capturing the reader’s attention immediately by appealing to the advertised need. Reference the position in the first sentence of your cover letter with a sentence such as “I am writing in response to your advertisement for a Purchasing Manager (#34837-12).” This is our least-favorite way of referencing the position, however, because we prefer that cover letters start with a more dynamic and positive introduction.

Characteristics Company ad-response letters are characterized by the following: Targeted nature. Because these letters are written directly in response to known hiring criteria and requirements, they closely target a specific position. Bullet style. Your objective when writing in response to an advertisement is to quickly and easily bring your qualifications to the forefront as they directly relate to the position requirements. Using bullet points is the easiest and “cleanest” way to accomplish this. Comparison-list style. You might choose to use the direct-comparison style in responding to ads; however, remember that this is effective only if you meet or exceed every single one of the stated requirements.

Sample Ad-Response Letter to a Company The company ad-response letter that follows was written in response to an advertisement for a Cinematic Artist. Through a combination of paragraphs and bullet points, it addresses both the specific requirements (Master’s degree, experience with StudioMax software, and project management abilities) and the less-tangible skills (creativity, teamwork, and work ethic) listed in the advertisement.

Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation



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Cover Letter Magic

2. Ad-Response Letter to a Recruiter Recommended formats: Comparison-list style; bullet style Writing to recruiters in response to advertisements for specific positions requires exactly the same process as developing company ad-response letters, as detailed in section 1. You already know that These letters are best written individually so that you can highlight your experience in direct relation to the requirements of the position as outlined in the advertisement. Bullet-style letters are usually the most effective for this situation and are the easiest to edit for use from one position to the next. If you choose the comparison-list style, be absolutely certain that your qualifications are a perfect match for the position requirements. It is important to reference the position title and number in your letter. There are two principal differences between letters you write to recruiters and those you write to companies. First, rather than refer to “you” or “your company,” you should refer to “your client” or “your client’s organization.” This demonstrates that you understand that the recruiter acts as an agent for the hiring company. Second, it is common practice to include salary information, location preferences, and other inclinations that you would not mention in a letter directed to a company. In chapter 3 we elaborate on the additional information that you should include in recruiter letters and also give you suggested wordings.

Characteristics Recruiter ad-response letters are characterized by the following: Straightforwardness. Don’t mess around with recruiters! They know their craft and they know their business—to find a candidate who matches a company’s hiring criteria to a “T” and nothing less. Bullet style. Generally speaking, you have even less time to catch arecruiter’s attention than you do a company’s. The bullet-style cover letter becomes even more important when you are writing to recruiters. Be honest, and be “quick.”

Sample Ad-Response Letter to a Recruiter The recruiter ad-response letter that follows was written in response to an advertisement for a Manufacturing Manager. The bullet points correspond

Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

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to the specific requirements of the position; the paragraphs highlight additional “selling points” this candidate has to offer.

3. Electronic (E-Mail) Letter Recommended formats: Comparison-list style; bullet style; paragraph style When you write an electronic letter, you are generally writing in response to a specific advertisement on the Internet or in a print publication, in which you’ve been instructed to respond via e-mail. Just as with other ad-response letters, you should present your experience as it pertains to each and every one of the requirements outlined in the advertisement. The strategy behind these letters is actually identical to that behind adresponse letters (aimed at either companies or recruiters). However, several things differentiate these letters and make them unique, which is why we have put them in their own classification. First of all, e-mail cover letters are more brief than traditional printed letters. No one wants to read a lengthy e-mail message, so keep your letters short and on target. Your challenge is to write a letter that meets all of the criteria—defining who you are, highlighting your achievements and qualifications, clearly communicating your value, identifying the type of position you are seeking, and asking for an interview. The only issue is that you need to accomplish this in less space and with fewer words than you would use if you were printing and mailing your letter. In their visual presentation, e-mail letters are “plain Jane.” When you’re preparing a letter that will be mailed on paper, you focus your attention on both the content and the look of the document. With electronic letters, there are no considerations regarding appearance. You simply type them as e-mail messages in the normal default font of your e-mail program. Although you can get fancy and include different types of highlighting, we recommend that you keep these letters as simple and straightforward as possible. Your reader is reviewing an e-mail message, not evaluating the quality and feel of a visually distinctive paper document. But do be certain to spell-check and proofread your e-mail letter, just as you would a traditional cover letter. Typos and misspellings are no more acceptable online than they are on paper.

Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

Tip Although it might seem logical to include your nicely formatted resume as an attachment to your e-mail cover letter, this might not be the best method. In chapter 4, we’ve included a section on “Electronic Resume Hints” that will help you choose the best way to transmit your resume.

Characteristics Electronic letters are characterized by the following: Brevity. E-mail cover letters are short and succinct, but long enough to include the top two or three most significant “selling” points of your career, experience, qualifications, and credentials. Although you want to keep these letters brief, you do not want to totally eliminate all substance. Ease of readability. Because you will type these letters as e-mail messages (usually with your resume as an attachment or as part of that same message), their presentation is plain, easy to read, and quick to review. Meaningful subject line. Use the subject line of your cover letter to communicate why you are writing and a key point or two about your background (see the following example). Feel free to use abbreviations so that you can fit more into this brief space. Never send an e-mail cover letter with a blank subject line or a generic “resume” subject. Let your readers know why you’re writing so that they’ll be motivated to open your e-mail.

Sample Electronic Letter The e-mail cover letter that follows was written in response to an Internet job posting for a Territory Manager. Note the informative subject line. Within the letter, see how the “who you are” information is highlighted in capital letters. All caps is the only font enhancement available for use in an electronic letter. Even if your e-mail program lets you use bold and italic formatting, there is no guarantee that every recipient will be able to see the formatting.

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Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

4. Cold-Call Letter to a Company Recommended formats: Paragraph style; bullet style You might choose to write cold-call letters to companies to express your interest in employment opportunities, without knowledge of specific advertisements or opportunities. Your challenge in writing this type of cover letter is to give your reader a broad introduction to your skills, qualifications, employment experience, achievements, credentials, and other notable traits that you anticipate will trigger their interest in you and make them offer you the opportunity for an interview. When writing this type of letter, it is critical that you clearly identify who you are. Are you a sales professional, an accountant, a retail manager, a production operations manager, or a chemical engineer? A Java programmer, a health-care administrator, a management executive, an advertising director, or a graphic designer? Who are you, and how do you want to be perceived? Just as important, you must communicate what type of position you are seeking. No one is going to take the time to figure this out. Do you want to continue to work as a purchasing agent, or is your objective a purchasing management position? If you’re a technology project leader, are you looking to make a lateral move, or are you interested in an IT management position, perhaps as CIO or CTO?

Tip When writing a cold-call letter, it is critical to quickly identify who you are, what value you bring to the company, and what type of positions you are interested in. No one is going to take the time to read between the lines and make assumptions. Spell it out!

Characteristics Cold-call letters to companies are characterized by the following: Clarity. Focus on creating a clear picture of yourself and your most notable attributes, skills, experiences, and qualifications. It is essential to quickly communicate this information, particularly when the company has not advertised for the type of position you are seeking. Impact. Again, because these letters are not in response to a specific opportunity, it is critical that they immediately and powerfully

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connect with the reader and move him to action to pick up the phone and call you. An effective way to motivate a response is to identify yourself as the solution to the company’s problems or needs.

Sample Cold-Call Letter to a Company The company cold-call letter that follows was used by a technical writer to approach software companies. She identifies with the company needs, clearly states her expertise, and highlights her key selling points: her successful projects for other software producers.

5. Cold-Call Letter to a Recruiter Recommended formats: Paragraph style; bullet style Cold-call letters to recruiters are strategically identical to cold-call letters to companies. In essence, you are writing to the recruiting firm to introduce yourself (the who and the value) and explore your potential fit for current search assignments (the type of position). Two features distinguish recruiter cold-call letters from company cold-call letters. First and foremost, it is important to disclose information about your job preferences—specifically, your preferences for type of position, type of company, and geographic location. If you are willing to consider only management opportunities, share that information with the recruiter. If you are interested in opportunities with only high-growth technology companies or medical device R&D firms, state that in your letter. If you know that you are not willing to relocate, say so. Or, if you are willing to relocate but only in the Southeastern U.S., communicate that. Be as specific as you can, and don’t waste anybody’s time—yours or the recruiter’s. The other unique feature of a recruiter cold-call letter is the straightforwardness with which you present information about your salary and compensation objectives. We recommend that you provide some information to give the recruiter an idea of the level of salary or type of compensation you are seeking. You can do this in several different ways, generally in the last paragraph of your cover letter. The most common strategies for disclosing this information without giving away too much information include the following: “Most recently, my salary has averaged $50,000 annually.” This is the best strategy if your salary has varied over the years.

Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

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“My current salary objectives are in the $100,000 to $150,000 range.” This clearly defines the range without stating a specific figure. If you state a specific number, it can potentially work to your disadvantage— either by taking you out of consideration because your expectations are too high, or short-changing you with a salary that is lower than the company had expected to pay. And don’t assume that a low figure will make you an attractive candidate. Both the recruiter and the company might assume that you lack the level of experience they’re seeking. “My salary requirements are negotiable and can be discussed at the time of an interview.” This is our least-favorite alternative because you have not disclosed any information. Use this type of response only when, for whatever reason, you do not want to provide any details. “My salary history can be discussed at the time of an interview.” Again, our least-favorite for the same reasons as above. Note that you can use these same types of statements when writing in response to a company or recruiter advertisement that asks for your salary history or current salary requirements. Mentioning salary in cover letters is a controversial topic. In fact, discussing compensation at this point in the job search process with any recruiter or company is an issue of constant debate. For a much more comprehensive discussion of this topic, refer to “Step 5: Write the Closing,” in chapter 3.

Characteristics Cold-call letters to recruiters are uniquely characterized by the following: Disclosure of job, company, and geographic preferences. Lay your cards on the table, and be specific about your job preferences. Disclosure of salary and compensation information. Unlike cold-call letters to companies, where you should never discuss compensation, it is a good policy to at least “define the ballpark” when writing to a recruiter.

Sample Cold-Call Letter to a Recruiter The recruiter cold-call letter that follows was written for a senior executive looking for a new top-level opportunity. Pay close attention to both section 1 (the opening paragraphs and first set of bullet points, which highlight his

Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

JOSEPH R. GRANNSON 13876 Wilson Park South #1403 Memphis, TN 38134

[email protected]

Phone: (901) 555-3726 Fax: (901) 555-3683

August 20, 2003 Don Pardo Managing Partner SES Search, Inc. 8888 N. 154th Street, Suite 1212 New York, NY 10024 Dear Mr. Pardo: Building corporate value is my expertise. Whether challenged to launch a start-up venture, orchestrate a turnaround, or accelerate growth within an established corporation, I have consistently delivered strong financial results. Now I’m looking for a new executive opportunity with a company poised for solid growth and performance. The value I bring to an organization can best be summarized as follows: x x x x

More than 10 years of direct P&L responsibility across diverse industries and market sectors. Strong, decisive, and profitable leadership of global sales and marketing organizations. Keen financial, negotiating, and strategic planning performance. Consistent and measurable gains in operations, quality, efficiency, and productivity.

To each organization, my teams and I have delivered strong and sustainable operating, market, and financial advantages critical to long-term growth, profitability, and competitive performance. Most notably, I x x x x

Increased sales 19.6%, reduced staff 32%, shortened lead times 50%, and improved quality performance 300%. Orchestrated successful turnaround and return to profitability of a $54 million corporation. Cost reductions surpassed $2 million, account base increased 15%, and annualized cash flow improved $1.2 million. Accelerated growth of a well-established market leader in a highly competitive and volatile industry, increasing revenues 45% and delivering equally significant reductions in operating costs and corporate debt. Advanced rapidly during tenure with the Raffert Corporation, becoming the youngest corporate executive in the 52-year history of the company.

My goal is a top-level management position with an organization seeking to achieve market dominance as well as aggressive revenue and profit projections. I am open to relocate nationwide and would anticipate an annual compensation package of $200,000+. I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you regarding any current search assignments appropriate for a candidate with my qualifications. Sincerely, Joseph R. Grannson Enclosure

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general management competencies) and section 2 (the second set of bullet points, which highlight his most significant career achievements). By demonstrating strong experience across a broad range of functions and combining that with tangible achievements, this letter positions Joseph for a variety of senior-level opportunities.

6. Referral Letter Recommended formats: Paragraph style; bullet style When you are writing a referral letter, you are writing to a particular individual at a company or recruiting firm at the recommendation of someone else. These letters can be very similar in style and strategy to cold-call letters. You’re not sure whether the company has a specific need for someone with your talents. You don’t necessarily know the company’s situation. Is it on a growth track? Is it downsizing? Does it have new products to introduce? Is it making money? Is it losing money? So, just as with the cold-call letter discussed earlier, these letters are often more “general” in his or her presentation and not necessarily focused on a particular position. As mentioned previously, you want to give your reader a broad-based introduction to who you are, what expertise and qualifications you have, and why you would be valuable to the organization. Although referral letters are very similar in style to cold-call letters, the one major exception is the introduction, in which you immediately reference the individual who referred you to that person, company, or recruiter. It is critical that you mention that person’s name and, if appropriate, his or her company or professional affiliation, as the very first item in your cover letter, to ensure that the recipient will read on.

Tip For a referral letter to be effective, the person who referred you must be immediately recognizable to the reader because of name, company affiliation, or status within the business community or industry. There are no exceptions! If not, the impact of your letter is negated, and its value is nonexistent. Referral letters can work for individuals at all levels. For the senior executive, a referral letter can highlight contributions to revenue and profit growth, strategic leadership, organizational development, turnaround, and other senior-level functions. For the college graduate, a referral letter can

Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

focus on academic performance, internships, leadership, enthusiasm, and interest in the organization. The message might change, but the strategy remains the same: “Sell” who you are in a broad-brush fashion in the hope that something within the breadth of your experience will capture your reader’s attention.

Characteristics Referral letters are characterized by the following: Introduction. All referral letters begin with an immediate reference to the person who referred you to that organization. This is the single distinguishing qualification of referral letters. General in composition. Because you do not know whether the company is hiring, or for what types of positions, it is best to sell as much about yourself, your experience, and your career as possible in an attempt to find “common ground” with the company.

Sample Referral Letter The referral letter that follows was written by a CFO looking for a similar type of position. He referenced the name of the president of his current company to capture the reader’s immediate attention, and then followed with a brief yet hard-hitting summary of his expertise. This letter positioned him as an incredibly qualified candidate.

7. Networking Letter Recommended format: Paragraph style Networking letters are written to your personal and professional network of contacts and are one of the single most vital components of your search campaign. No matter who you are, what you do for a living, or where you do it, you have developed a network of contacts over time, whether deliberately or not. Networking is a natural process that you almost can’t avoid. Now, you can use those network contacts to your advantage in identifying employment opportunities, getting interviews, and shortening your job search cycle. Who are your networking contacts? They can be divided into several categories: Professional network. This network includes coworkers, colleagues, supervisors, and managers from both past and current employers. If

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you are a senior executive, this network might also include bankers, investors, business partners, vendors, and others within your professional community. Community network. Business professionals from your local community—bankers, lawyers, real estate brokers, and others you have some personal relationship with—can be an important part of your network. College/university network. College alumni, professors, and administrators can be a priceless source of leads and contacts for your campaign. Association network. Professional and community associations to which you belong are an extremely valuable networking source. Personal network. This network includes friends, neighbors, and relatives. Networking letters can often be the most creative missives you write. Because you are writing to individuals whom you know—either personally or professionally—you can “let your hair down” and develop a letter that is a bit more informal than you would write to a stranger. In turn, you can be more creative in your presentation, tone, language, and style. The message you want to communicate in your networking letter is, “I need your help.” You’re writing to these individuals for their assistance, guidance, referrals, and recommendations—not for a job. (If they happen to have a job opening themselves, however, they’ll probably mention it as a natural response to reading your letter.) If you approach your contacts in this manner, you’re very likely to receive a positive response. The key to successful networking is to ask only for what your contact can give you. Everyone can give advice, and most people enjoy helping friends and associates. But if you ask for a job, and it’s not in your contact’s power to give one to you, you’ll create a “dead end” with that networking contact.

Tip You want at least one of three things from each of your network contacts: (1) a recommendation or referral for a specific employment opportunity; (2) information about specific companies; or (3) additional contacts you can add to your network. The whole trick to networking is to expand your contact base by getting new names from your existing network. Leverage their contacts to your advantage.

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Just as with cold-call letters, your networking letter should give a strong summary of your skills, experiences, achievements, and credentials. You have no idea what opportunities a particular contact might know about, so you want to be sure to highlight a broad range of qualifications. This letter is easier to write than most in that you can often use the same letter for all of your network contacts. In some instances you will want to change it a bit, particularly at the beginning, where you might want to start with something a bit more personal; for example: It’s been a while since you and I have seen each other. In fact, I think the last time was at the AMA meeting several months ago in Chicago. I’ve been meaning to catch up with you since then, but we’ve been immersed in a new company acquisition, plus Jenny just had our second child. I can hardly keep up with it all!

Characteristics Networking letters are characterized by the following: Familiar tone. Because you are writing to individuals whom you know, your letters should be hard-hitting, powerful, and results-oriented, yet written in a less formal manner than you would write to a stranger. Request for help and contact information. Remember, the two most valuable results of your networking efforts are (1) specific leads that you will receive from the network and (2) contact information for people and companies you can then add to your network.

Sample Networking Letter The networking letter that follows was written for a financial executive looking to make a transition from the restaurant industry. It uses a conversational yet not-too-informal tone. Note the request for an in-person meeting.

8. Follow-Up Letter Recommended formats: Paragraph style; bullet style Follow-up letters are just that—letters that you write to follow up on previous correspondence (your resume and cover letter) that you sent but from which you have had no response. When writing follow-up letters, you have three primary objectives:

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Chapter 1 Cover Letter Formats and Types for Every Situation

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Cover Letter Magic

Cover Letter Magic Second Edition Trade Secrets of Professional Resume Writers Wendy S. Enelow and Louise M. Kursma...

Author: Wendy S. Enelow | Louise Kursmark


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Good template/example of a speculative job application

edited about 4 seconds later
Hi guys,

Has anyone got a good example (or can point me in the direction of a good template) of a cover letter/email for applying for academic jobs on a speculative basis? (aka the email begging for work).

Thanks!
Yes. We'll start the bidding at 10 pounds.
edited about 18 seconds later
Why do so many people expect templates/past examples? I think employers would want someone who can compose an email on their own.
edited about 21 seconds later
======= Date Modified 06 Dec 2009 23:49:44 =======
Quote From verypoor:


Why do so many people expect templates/past examples? I think employers would want someone who can compose an email on their own.


I've somewhat phrased my post wrong (long day). I'm after some ideas of what to write in speculative academic job enquiries (in contrast to specific posts).

Eg. Is there a specific etiquette to follow? Do you keep it short? Write something equivalent to a cover letter for a specific job post? An example would help me ascertain answers to these questions.

I have no intention of copying it word for word (that would be bloody stupid) - but thanks for the patronising comment.
Hi Missspacey,

I've done this a few times for teaching work; in fact, it's how I got all my teachng jobs so far (about 6 of them in total!), and this is based on what I do:

1. Target your skills and knowledge to the post you're looking for and to the department in the email message.
2. Highlight anything outstanding about you which is relevant in the email message.
3. Tailor your CV.
4. Be direct and state straight away what you are looking for - indicate it in the email heading.
5. Send it to a few people: the head of department, anyone who looks after teaching, anyone who you think could be your direct manager. These things can sometimes take a while to get to the right person - I heard after a year of my CV being passed around various people for my current job.

I think that's it, I'm really knackered so there could be something missing... Hope it helps.

Good luck!
Eska that was helpful ;-)

I based my cover letter off a sample provided by Fred Winston in the Harvard Bulletin (1998). Should be able to find it on google, although its biology-based.
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Quote From cleverclogs:


I based my cover letter off a sample provided by Fred Winston in the Harvard Bulletin (1998). Should be able to find it on google, although its biology-based.


There ya go... and it didn't cost me ten quid.

Although it is biology-based, it provides a nice structure for most disciplines.
Thank you Eska. :-)

Your point about finding the right contact person seems to be crucial. I was intending to just approach HoDs, but cc'ing to another senior faculty member may prove fruitful.
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