How to Write a Cover Letter
Most job candidates have no clue how to write a cover letter. As of today, in the last ten years I have reviewed more than 27,484 resumes for various positions. Less than half included any cover letter at all. Less than 5% or 917 of those resumes came with adequate cover letters (more than just a note stating they were interested in the position and here is a resume.) Even less, 181 had followed any AIDA or included a sense of urgency.
I did see the sentence “I am sending a resume because I am interested in the position,” or to that effect 3,089 times. What a complete waste of time, space, and energy! Obviously the person is interested in the position if they are sending a resume. You are wasting your time writing an inadequate note and you are wasting the employer’s time that has to read it.
What if every advertisement on the web, radio, TV, and in magazines began with: “We are placing this ad because we are interested in selling you are product.” Who would care? Get the point? Make no mistake your cover letter is an ad. Your letter has to perform like the best of the ads if you want to get an interview.
Your cover letter is often more important than your resume and must do the work for your resume. Most of the time, you are judged by your cover letter before your resume. Most job hunters spend little time preparing one and do not know how to write a cover letter. If your words do not capture an employer’s attention, generate enough interest to look at your resume, and cause the employer to contract you, you are not going to get an interview.
Newsflash: Employers do not read resumes (they scan them.) Employers do read cover letters.
Personally, when cover letters do not capture my attention, I do not review the resumes. So what can you do to captivate an employer and get them to scramble for the phone to call you faster than 911? You can order my OneClick Cover Letter Creator that is loaded with letters that will do just that. But before I pitch that software to you I am going to let you in on some secrets on how you can write to get results.
Your cover letter has one major purpose: To get the employer to contact you.
In that case the following note with no resume attached will work:
Dear Joe Employer,
It’s imperative you contact me as soon as possible.
Now if you send that letter you had better be fully prepared to make your case for an interview when the employer calls. This can be intimidating to many people who are not in professional sales. (I have actually sent that cover letter with no resume and scheduled interviews when the employer called, and when the letter is addressed to an individual, most of the time, they will call.) Let’s presume that you are not a high end professional sales person and would rather the employer know why they are calling you! So you probably want the employer to contact you for the purpose of scheduling an interview. This is much less work on the phone, but will take quite a bit more writing than that one sentence.
Most job candidates spend 90% of their writing time on their resumes and less than 10% creating cover letters. They lean on their resumes to do the work. This is backwards. Most of the time your cover letter does 90% of the work! Most job hunters lean on their qualifications.
There are some secrets to getting an employer to call you, and they have nothing to do with your qualifications. While qualifications are important to qualify you, qualifications alone rarely cause an employer to contact you. Most of the time, you’ll get an interview if the person reviewing your cover letter is interested or intrigued about what you have to say.
So what can you do to have a cover letter that performs? You must make a connection with the employer and have a “cause to action.” Not one paragraph, not one sentence, not one word should be without purpose. There are some great secrets we can steal for writing that will get employers to call you. These are the secrets of the master advertising copywriters.
How to Write a Cover Letter Using the Secrets of Master Ad Copywriters
Cover letters must make a connection with the employer and have a “cause to action.”
Not one paragraph, not one sentence, not one word should be without purpose.
First there is the age old principle of the Master Ad Copywriters. The principle is AIDA which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Advertising must get the reader’s Attention, make him or her Interested enough to read the advertisement, and create a Desire strong enough to make the person take Action. That is what your writing must do also. (See how to write cover letter for complete details on AIDA.)
Advertisers spend billions of dollars to get the attention of consumers. This is where you are ahead. You do not need to spend even one penny. When you send a cover letter to an employer, you have their attention!
Now’s your chance. You have their attention. What will you say that will make the employer scramble to find their phone to call you for an interview? If you have addressed the person by name you will have a good start on getting their interest. Then you need a lead in sentence or two that so stuns the employer that cannot help but read the rest of your cover letter. I’m serious. You have to be extraordinary right from the start. Remember the boring lazy sentence with which most cover letters begin:
“I am sending a resume because I am interested in the position.”
How about this instead:
“My investigation has led me to you.”
Or this one:
“Your job posting for the accounting position so shocked me I had to write you immediately.”
“Please tell me you had the same dream as I did.”
Yes you can start your cover letter with just such a sentence if you know how to follow with the next sentence to create interest to stimulate the employer. And there is a fine line between stimulate and irritate. You will need to follow with a sentence that keeps the interest and creates desire. Remember you want an interview not just a cover letter that gets pinned on the HR bulletin board. OneClick Cover Letters uses some of these very openings that will get you interviews.
Your next sentence is a transition sentence. This sentence must take your reader from surprise and interest to purpose. You must connect with the employer.
“My investigation has led me to you. After extensively researching numerous companies, your business took first place as a potential employer for my skills.”
That is a great transitional sentence. Now you can briefly state the skills you possess that the employer is seeking. Make them want you. You can do this in a bullet list of three to five items and no more. See how to write a job resume for finding the relevant skill words. You can also review the resume skills list for any additional attributes or talents you possess.
The close is your “call to action” or as I have renamed the phrase your: “cause for action.” Your cover letter must cause the employer to contact you. Leaving this one to fate will make you wait. Wait for what? Why waiting longer for a job of course!
Again refer to sales copy. How many ads do you see that say “sale ends” “limited time” “limited supply” or “until sold out?” These statements create a sense of urgency. You must have a cause to action and a sense of urgency.
You might not be about to expire or on sale, but you are a one of a kind limited supply. Make sure employers know you are not just sitting on the unemployment shelf waiting around for a job. Limit your availability. I once told an employer in my cover letter I had only ten days and would need an interview immediately. The employer contacted me two days later for an interview. I did not state why I only had ten days (the fact is my rent was due in three weeks and I was broke!)
The point is a sense of urgency can work. OneClick Cover Letters create sense of urgency scenarios for you.
How to Write a Cover Letter Postscript
A PS or postscript is a powerful opportunity for cover letters. A PS or Post Script at the end of your letter is a great place for a cause to action or sense of urgency.
P.S. I am available for you next Tuesday at 10 AM or next Thursday at 3 PM. Please let me know which of those times will work better for you.
P.S. I would like a preliminary five minute meeting with you and will be there on Monday at 3:00 PM unless I hear from you.
Now there is a great way to either meet the employer or get a response. If they do not want you there, you will hear from them. Otherwise, you just scheduled your own interview!
Please at least check out my OneClick Cover Letter Creator. I poured by blood, sweat, and tears into that program (along with my years of extensive behind the scenes hiring knowledge, marketing and ad copy writing experience, and cover letter te4sting results) so that job hunters like you could get a better job and sooner.
See more about how to write an effective cover letter call to action. Whether you use email or paper, you should follow the same techniques. Always include your contact information at the end of your letter.
By Phil Baker
Copyright 2010 Resume Dictionary
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