We have all seen the TV spots, the newspaper articles and the blog posts about how difficult it is to find a job in the current economic
climate where the supply of suitable candidates far outpaces the demand filling
What is a job seeker to do? Pack it in? Hibernate until the
next boom? Move to a remote island and
farm the land? (Maybe I am onto
something with that last suggestion.
) What you need to do is take
action! Be creative! Specifically, start networking
with a bio,
create a brag
book and send out your networking
The topic of this post is not any of the above. Instead, it revolves around the long lost art of writing an attention grabbing cover letter AND finding a way to get your
target audience to read it. What’s the
point of creating a compelling cover letter and having it disappear into the
black hole? I’ve been in corporate human
resources for over 15 years and I can
tell you firsthand that cover letters submitted through conventional means
(company website, for example) may only be read if your resume is a dead ringer
for the opening.
A Compelling Cover Letter
Your cover letter should normally be no more than one page in length and addressed to a real person whenever possible. It should include:
. An opening paragraph – with your reason for writing, referral or source and a clear link if there is a specific opportunity
. A middle paragraph – your strongest section where you clearly demonstrate your fit with the opportunity at hand including how your qualifications meet or exceed those listed in the job specification
. A closing paragraph with a “call to action” spelling out the steps you plan to take and how you can best be reached
Consider also including:
. Performance highlights – usually in bulleted format, calling out your key accomplishments, competencies and strengths as they related to what is called for in the job posting
. Third party quotes – from awards, performance appraisals and recommendations which you should already have on hand if you created that
brag book referenced above. Remember,
what others say about you is generally held in much higher regard than what you
say about yourself.
Standing Out From the Crowd
Now that you have written a masterpiece of a letter, how do you get someone to actually read it?
Apply online? You have to do that
to be considered because companies need to comply with internal and external
compliance regulations but it is not likely to be read. Mail a
hard copy? More than likely it will be
opened by administrative staff and whisked off to Human Resources or scanned
into the resume data base.
How about an old school approach of dressing for success and dropping off your cover letter at the front desk of your target company? In my opinion, that happens rather
infrequently that you might stand out a bit.
But then there is a strong likelihood that your resume will be channeled
the same way if you mailed it in.
Inside the Box
Here’s where you can take your creativity to a whole new level as Mike Bishop
(pictured above) has done. If you have
read my other blog posts, you know I believe in the power of networking. I met Mike via this process. Mike is a Business Development professional
who thinks creatively to win new business.
He has applied these same instincts to his job search.
Specifically, Mike draws up a compelling cover letter, binds it to foam core (available at any office supply store) and mounts this on a
slightly larger piece of poster board to give the cover letter a three
dimensional framed look. Under this he
tucks his resume. Then he places this piece
of art in a white gift box with a clear cover.
The final product is then wrapped with a thin blue ribbon (pictured
above). Hence, the idea of thinking
“inside the box!”
Mike then drops this off at the front desk of his target company (or overnights the package if the company is out of state). Like clockwork, he will follow up with the addressee as he mentioned he would in the letter.
When he calls what do you think the hiring manager or recruiter says? Yup. “Hello, Mike, you’re the guy with the cover
letter in the box!” And Mike is no
longer just another of the three hundred candidates that applied for the job. He is off and running and ready to capitalize
now that he has made the connection.
The Extra Mile
Mike has even gone the extra, extra step of including something else. Like at World Series
time when he actually signed a baseball and said, “When you are ready to go to
the bullpen, I will be ready to pitch.” Granted, this approach may not work in
all settings but remember Mike is in Business Development and what a better way
for him to convey his sales techniques than to his own job search?
So what does the finished document actually look like? In order to provide you with a template and some ideas, I’ve uploaded a sample into my LinkedIn profile. Comments, questions, suggestions and success
stories are always welcome. In the
meantime, get out there and differentiate yourself with your own “inside the
box” cover letter!
About the author:
Matthew Levy is a well-rounded HR professional with fifteen years of broad experience in both specialist (e.g., recruiting) and generalist
(e.g., HR business partner) roles at blue-chip companies, including Merck,
Amgen and Johnson & Johnson.
You can see Matt’s bio by visiting his LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewflevy. He blogs at http://mlevy2222.wordpress.com/ and
can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mlevy7
. Matt would love to answer your
career-related questions. You can reach
him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.