I don’t like cover letters. Never have. Because I think they are often poorly written and over-played.
A bad combination.
They are, however, a great place to stub your toe on the way in the door. If you are into that kind of thing. Like tripping on the way up to your prom date’s front porch.
Assuming cover letters get read, that is. Many don’t.
Because I think that potential readers see it solely as a selling document. Nothing of value. And that is often the case.
Busy HR managers want to get right to the meat. Your professional resume. A faster and more direct route to determining whether you are worth pursuing.
And as far as the “poorly written” ones go, I have a post you need to read that will help you avoid an obvious issue. Please read the cover letter segmentation study. It outlines the types of cover letters that can only hurt you.
But since I wrote about TruFocus™ – A Professional Resume And CV Template, I’ve had a lot of questions about a companion cover letter template.
So that’s what I am offering today. And as with the professional resume template, I’m sure I will make a lot of you happy.
Finally a cover letter template I can use with confidence!
There will be others, however, who won’t share that enthusiasm. They will criticize both the format and the content I suggest. I appreciate that criticism even more! Because, in the end, we will have an important discussion about communication strategies during job search. And then you can decide for yourself.
I write from my own experience. As a 22 year hiring manager and a former job seeker. And I think this gives me a unique perspective on job search strategy and psychology.
I’ve been there. Struggled through the hiring and job search process on both sides. Trying to make the best decisions I could. Just like you.
So, naturally, I call this my TruFocus™ Cover Letter Template.
But before I share the template, let me remind you that I don’t like cover letters. Did you get that earlier?
But when done well, here’s three things a cover letter can do for you:
1. Tell the HR Manager, Recruiter or Hiring Manager what job you are applying for – sounds simple, doesn’t it? But I wonder how many professional resumes have fallen prey to the “not sure where to put this one” pile. Especially in big companies that get more letters than Santa Clause. And you can also use a cover letter to provide specific answers that were asked in the job listing (salary history, certifications, etc)
2. Introduce you as a candidate – kind of like a handshake and a smile during the first five minutes of an interview, the well-written cover letter quickly communicates your personal brand. What they can expect if/when they meet you. SO if you are a really friendly, outgoing person in real life, don’t come across the opposite because of a bad cover letter. For example, if your name is Bill (your friends call you Billy), don’t introduce yourself as “William James Bancroft III”.
3. Customize your approach to an individual company – we’ve all tried to do a few things on the resume to make it stand out. And to emphasize different aspects of our experience. We may re-order our key strengths or write a slightly different positioning statement. A good cover letter allows the reader to imagine you in the role before even reading about your specific skill and experience. So the template has a few places where you can do just that.
So here goes. Deep breath.
Name and Contact Information
Same as on your resume. For consistency and to ensure that you can be reached if the resume gets separated in transit.
Date and Address Lines
The only thing unique to mention here is that you should have the first name, last name and a title for your target. It can be the hiring manager or the lead HR person. It could also be addressed to the networking contact you found who works at your target company. I would rather you not send your resume to: “Hiring Manager” or “HR Department”. Do your research via Linkedin, the company’s website or your network. Make it personal.
I’m sorry, but “Dear Sir or Madam” is outdated. I prefer using a first name (since you did all the work to figure it out already). Plus, there is a confidence in using the first name. Kicks off the relationship with equality vs. immediately placing you below the reader. Read my post about why politeness may be hurting your job search. Now, there are exceptions. If you live in a country or work in an industry/culture where use of a first name is inappropriate, go ahead and use what is culturally OK.
Here you need to be real clear about the position. So that the reader knows that you are applying for the “territory sales manager position based in Toronto”. Not the one in New Jersey or Hong Kong. Big companies often have lots of open positions. Be specific.
As mentioned above, one of the benefits of sending a cover letter is to introduce yourself. Look to your elevator pitch for key points about yourself. Like a verbal handshake and a smile. Keep it light – not serious or aggressive.
Your work philosophy comes off your one page networking bio and is intended to explain in just a few sentences, how you approach your work. How you are different from hundreds of others that do your same job somewhere in the world. Again, keep it conversational and interesting. Have friends read it to see how it feels in the head of others.
The goal here is to give your reader a quick place to go on your cover letter if they are just scanning. People scan when they are on your way into your resume or are looking for things to remove you from contention (e.g. no degree). So write these as if it is the only thing someone will see. Adapt this section for each job you apply for to make sure that your skills/accomplishments are viewed as relevant.
A quick summary is all that I’m looking for here. It is also your moment to ask for an opportunity to interview for the position. Again, this is not a place to be heavy-handed. But be direct and confident.
I’m not a fan of huge thank you’s before or after an interview. I do appreciate the opportunity to interview. After all, someone needs a job and someone has one available. So it’s hard to know when to say thank you in job search. Because if I am a good candidate for them, this is a win/win situation. I will be solving a problem for them. We should be thanking each other, right? For your signature (which should be hand-signed whenever possible), I use my first name. This is not an application or legal document so I stay consistent with my approach above. First names. And then I finish with my full name and my positioning statement. To reinforce everything above and link to my resume. Where that statement is the first thing they’ll likely see.
Now it is your turn. What do you think?
If you are sold, you can download the template on the tools for job seekers page.
Hint: if you are reading this in a LinkedIn group and would like a copy of my sample, please comment below with your e-mail address instead of publicizing it unnecessarily online. It keeps your information private (only I can see it) and it is easier for me to stay organized.
Another hint: Because this post is longer than average, consider printing it out. But only do it if you will use it. We want to be earth-friendly too.
Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
Tags: business | cover letter | cover letter templates | CV | cv templates | employment | good cover letter | Job Search | professional cover letter | professional cover letters | professional resume | professional resume template | recruitment | template | templates
Categories: Cover Letters And Resumes