Improved Your Resume? Great. Not enough!
No Matter How Much You Have Improved Your Resume it does Not Stand a Chance if Your Cover Letter is Not a Killer. Learn How to Make one
I’m in sales and marketing. In the company I work for we offer high technology products on a B2B basis. The capital investment in any product is on the higher side of $500,000. Our products are offered worldwide.
What has this got to do with jobs, careers and cover letters? Well – in our marketing and sales process we have product specification sheets of course. We also have brochures, business guides, business development tools, economic ROI calculators, business marketing planning guides, consulting programs etc. Almost never do we talk about specifications. These are given.
In my world, a resume or a CV is a specification sheet. It’s a listing of features and capabilities spiced with experience. When these lists are hardly never used as they are perceived a given, how will a job seeker catch the attention of a recruiter, head hunter or hiring manager? The answer lies in the cover letter which all of a sudden becomes the single most important document in the attention getting process. The cover letter is your ONLY option to stand-out, be noticed, move on – within a time span of 7 seconds which is the defacto time a recruiter spends on a job application when first scanning it. With this in mind, your cover letter must be spot on, laser targeted and very very compelling.
Far too often will job seekers pay 99% attention to creating a perfect resume and 1% on the cover letter which ends up being a simple letter sometimes just stating “here is my job application”.
Inspiration can be found in following.
1. Look at a cover letter as the most important document of your job application process. This is the very first document the reader will see! He/she must be compelled to move on to page 2 – which then is your resume.
2. A cover letter should be no more than 1 page in length.
3. It should be split in 3 main sections
- Intro part – why are you submitting your application?
- What makes you exactly the one and only person that the hiring manager is looking for?
- What are the unique qualities you can bring to the table that no-one – or only few – can?
A) is a given and I shall not reflect on this here but
B) is where you have the ability to catch first attention. Obviously you fulfil all or most of the basic criteria set for the function you seek. But what more value can you bring, e.g. in terms of experience, successes from past and similar functions? Remember, hiring managers don’t just want to know what you have done. They want to know what you have achieved (this should also be the basic notion in your resume). State e.g. “managed to increase market share by 20 pp in a very depressed market moving my company from 4th to 2nd position in 18 months” – just to give one example.
C) is a real favourite. In marketing it is common to focus on elements of needs, more specifically the
- Obvious needs
- Stated needs
- Unstated needs
Let me draw an example. A consumer has decided he/she wants a car. That decision satisfy an obvious need for transportation. He/she may have decided that it must be a Sedan and of the Toyota make. That would then be a stated need. When he/she visits Toyota, the dealership has the opportunity to focus on unstated needs, which e.g. may sway the consumer to make his/her investment decision and may as well lead to up-selling. The dealership could e.g. say “are you aware of our latest Hybrid model?” etc.
Apply the needs approach to your cover letter to make a real difference. The first two elements of needs will be covered in A. and B. whereas C. is where you focus on the unstated needs. Example. You found out that one strategic objective of the company “Fantastic Products Inc.” where you apply for a position in sales, is set to take the company global and focus on China. If you mention in your cover letter that you have international experience and are conversant in Mandarin, that will trigger the provision of an unstated needs, if such is not stated in the job ad.
And a final practical note. Spend time on your cover letter in terms of design. Be neutral, business like and do avoid fancy fonts, excessive highlighting, bolding, underlining etc. And for Pete’s sake do spell, grammar and syntax checking minimum three times. Don’t rely on your word processing application which never ever can distinguish “advise/advice” or “their/there”.
Finally: in terms of process. When you have made your cover letter, print it out, sign it and scan it with your signature. Then upload it and send it. The absence of a signature makes it too computer like, i.e. impersonal and THAT is EXACTLY what you want to avoid.
For more inspiration take a look at this post for advice and guidance on how to make a killer cover letter.
Have a frightfully great day and best of success making compelling cover letters that sell to make sure that your resume is improved as much as possible.