I have heard some HR
people tell me that they don’t even read the cover letter. Oddly
enough, these are the same companies on my “I won’t work for these
companies” list. For most companies, cover letters are important.
Send a different cover letter for each job for which you apply.
Keep it short. Keep it simple. Keep it to the point.
The 5-paragraph cover
- Opening paragraph.
Tell them what position you are applying for and where you found
the posting. Include a job number if one is given in the ad.
A short accomplishments
list – bulleted if necessary.
relevant to the job (in my case this is usually Microsoft
In my case, I have a web page, and I want them to go to it.
I have never gotten a call based on my web page, but those who
interview me, generally have gone to the web page before talking
to me. Variations on this theme are
- If you can drop
a name, here’s the place to do it. “So-and-so suggested I
send you my resume.”
- I will call you next Thursday
to discuss this position (in the rare event that you actually
have contact information).
- You can get additional information
by calling me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
- You could say, “I look forward
to hearing from you.” but that sounds weak. I prefer to
challenge them to take the next step rather than sit back
and wait for them to take it.
Here’s a sample:
I am applying for the Project Manager (AF1234) posted on Monster.com.
I am an IT professional
with 15 years’ experience1 in software application
development serving as project manager, quality assurance manager,
product delivery manger, software development team manager2,
and the associated hands-on positions.
My most relevant
work to this position was with XYZ Company where I cut customer
complaint rates by 90%, turn around time by 67% and was credited
with two customer “saves.”
I am fully competent
in Microsoft Office especially: Project, Word, Excel, PowerPoint
and Visio2. I have used these tools in conjunction
with web publishing software to manage projects and post reports
over an intranet.
You can get additional
information on my web page, http://www.danflak.com
or by calling me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
- I actually have
more like 30 years experience, but I don’t tell them that. They
can do the math and figure out that I am ancient.
- I juggle the position of these items depending upon the job
for which I am applying.
Notice that the letter
is short with short sentences, short paragraphs and a lot of white
space. I want them to be able to read it at a glace. Ideally they
should be able to read it between the time they let go of it and
it falls completely into the trash can.
Having said that you
need to send a new cover letter for each position for which you
apply, you can see that it doesn’t have to be totally new. There
are a lot of reusable components.
Other touchy issues:
What do I use as a
you have a name use it. Unless there is a reason to use a
title (such as “Dr.” or “The Honorable” etc.), don’t use one.
- Don’t assume gender.
“Dear Robin Smith” will work if the person’s name is Robin Smith
no matter which rest room Robin uses.
- If you don’t have a name,
use a title. “Dear Hiring Manager” works very well.
How do I skirt the
- Ignore it if you
can. If they really want you, they will call.
- I use the following “formula”.
In 1996 I was making $X1. My last position paid $X2 with a bonus
of $X3. I have held positions that have paid as high as $X4.
Where I fit in your organization depends on what the entire
employment package looks like.
- It so happens that X2 is about
50% bigger than X1 (which indicates that I am “promotable”)
and X4 is somewhat more than X2 indicating that I am willing
to take a step backwards.