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Learn how to write and design an amazing cover letter with Jimmy Sweeney's Cover Letter book.

Junk Cover Letters Kills Good Resumes

Too many unprofessional, unfocused, and canned cover letters are floating around the job-seeking population.  So are you surprised when I tell you that a fair number of hiring managers don’t bother reading them?

Although I’ve seen no official survey on cover-letter readership, it’s rumored that approximately 40% of cover letters aren’t read. A number of reasons could be to blame; and frankly, who wants to spend valuable time reading a cover letter that sounds like it was written for the company next door too?  Stock cover letters can kill your job-search efforts, making the task of finding a new position nothing but a treacherous expedition.

Adding to the anxiety for jobseekers comes the question: who’s reading them and who is not? You could take the chance of not sending one, but then you’ll “diss” those who are expecting a cover letter. The only option is to send one every time to ensure that your resume is always properly represented.

Writing a great letter takes time.  Time that jobseekers oftentimes don’t want to allocate after spending hours tooling their resumes to perfection. Much like the resume, however, your cover letter must “sing” to the receiver. If it doesn’t, you’re soliciting employment on deaf ears. The best way to avoid sending a junk cover letter is to ask yourself a series of thought provoking questions:

Does Your Cover Letter Use a Personable Approach?
Since you were an infant, hearing your name encouraged some reaction from you. Everyone loves to hear their name from time to time, so don’t be afraid of intertwining the contact’s name into the content in one or two key areas.

Does Your Cover Letter Include Specifics?

How often do you incorporate company-specific details, such as a problem the company’s facing that you intend to resolve, or maybe to congratulate them on a newly received contract or recent merger?  Keep an eye on target companies by reading daily, weekly, and monthly newspaper publications available in your area. In order to maintain the pulse of your industry, read everything about the industry that you can get your hands on. Think of it as private investigating. Make notations of specific details you want to mention in your next piece of job-search correspondence.

Does Your Cover Letter use layman’s terms?
Write your cover letter using conversational tone: a writing technique that utilizes sentences similar to those spoken.  Have you ever noticed that we sometimes write with a very structured tone and utilize words that we would rarely use in everyday conversation?  With a conversational tone, the content should attract readers because it’s immediately different from the dozens, hundreds, or thousands that the company has previously received.

Much as you designed the resume, weave select keywords and key phrases pertinent to the position into your letter as well.  The sole purpose of the cover letter is to reflect that you are a ringer for the position.  The hiring company is looking for a good marriage between the open position and potential candidate, so pulling out key points from the resume and placing them prominently in the letter can help introduce the broader skill set contained in the resume.

If fifty cover letters are what you’ll need to get the job done, then the magic number is fifty.  Focus your energies on the company’s wants and needs, not on your own.  With a less than favorable job market, we’re definitely in a company market versus a jobseeker’s market from the 90’s.  Hunted down and offered high salaries, IT professionals reaped great positions with limited or no working experience. Sometimes it didn’t seem to matter if their resume was written in crayon.  The days of jobseekers being in high demand (I’m not referring to all industries, of course) are no longer the case because employers can now sit back and “cherry pick” candidates of their choosing, while placing the need for great cover letters in higher demand.

Don’t be intimidated by the depth of work involved in designing a great cover letter. Think about your job search in terms of quality not quantity.  Sending countless cover letters and resumes is a very time-consuming process that has proven repeatedly to be a waste of valuable time and money.  Jobseekers could find employment quicker if they took a consolidated and thorough approach to their search rather than blanketing their efforts with diluted methods (i.e. mass emailing).

Jobseekers sometimes become desperate when jobs seem scarce, and they resort to quick and ineffective techniques to securing a job.  Writing cover letters that you would want to receive, if you were on the other end of the spectrum, is a good rule of thumb to follow.  Outline all the core elements that are pertinent to each specific company, using language and specifics that speak directly to the reader and ensuring it displays you as a perfect match for the opening.  With these select techniques, you’re destined to secure more interviews and more job opportunities.

Written by Teena Rose, a columnist, public speaker, and top resume professional who provides professional executive resume writing services through Resume to Referral. She’s authored several books, including "20-Minute Cover Letter Fixer" and "Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales."







The 20-Minute Cover Letter Fixer

Cracking the Code
to Pharmaceutical Sales ... includes sample resumes

How to Design, Write, and
Compile a Quality Brag Book ... includes sample brag book


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