ABC’s of Hiring #11: Cover Letters

Cover letters today are primarily in the body of an email and not a word document sent as an attachment. Seldom, if ever, is anyone using the US Postal Service as well. The email should be a maximum of 400 words. Always, follow the employer’s instructions exactly on how to submit your cover letter and resume.


This is your one opportunity to make a good first impression. The sole purpose is to motivate the reader to read your resume. Do whatever it takes to find out who will be reading your cover letter and address the email directly to them. Perform sufficient research to obtain their name and title and correct spelling.


At the top of your cover letter, use an attention getting headline that is unique to you and is demonstrative of the key attributes the employer is seeking in the position. This is a concise statement that tells them that your background and experience match what they are looking for.


Tell them why you are writing to them. Whether it is in response to an ad, a posting or a referral, it is important to be specific to create the right reference point for the employer.


Select the most unique or valuable accomplishment from your resume to show what makes you a terrific candidate for them. Address how your background matches the job description. Show how you can solve their problem and be the solution that they are looking for. Find their “pain” and tell them how you can make it go away. Use 2 to 4 bullet points and quantify these highlights with the appropriate metrics. This effort is to provide them with good reason to read your resume and want to like you.


Ask for the interview. Thank them for their consideration and let them know that you will follow-up. Provide the best contact information for getting in touch with you.


Templates are not effective for cover letters. Make sure this email is written as well as any other written correspondence that you send. Be different, be unique, be direct and be self-confident. Make sure there are no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Proofread, proofread and proofread some more. If after a week, you do not get a response, resend your email with some new information. This will separate you from the rest of the candidates in the stack. Like any sales process, multiple touches can make all the difference.


The cover letter is a key component of the hiring process and deserves your very best effort.


Bob Harrington Associates has been in the executive search business for 20 years and can help you find the best people for your business.

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