So…Your Cover Letter Kind Of Sucks

May 18, 2016

If I read 1 more blasted cover letter that starts off with, “I am writing regarding the XYZ position you currently have available.”15977023_951367974995804_61667856607768275_n…News flash #1: we know you are writing, because this is called a L-E-T-T-E-R. And news flash #2: that opening sentence is 1001.01% B-O-R-I-N-G!

Here’s what I want you to do instead: say who you are, what you do, and the value you bring. And you know when you’re going to say it? Immediately! In the 1st sentence!

Now, hold on a second, because before you even write that 1st sentence, I want you to do something super wild and crazy, like…I don’t know…hmmm, let’s see…find out what your audience wants, and actually give it to them.

Who’s your audience? The people who wrote the ad. What do they want? They wrote it in the ad.

So there’s a little exercise you need to do before jumping into the cover letter. It goes a little something like this: you know how your computer has Windows in it? Make 1 window display the ad. Make another window right next to it display a blank Word document where you’re about to write your letter.

Read the ad. While reading, make note in your Word document the important points and keywords from the ad. The important points very likely have to do with what the job entails, as well as what the qualifications are. {small point of note: EVERY ad says you need excellent written and verbal communication skills – SKIP that. Don’t write that down.}
The points you’re going to write down will be things like these: let’s say the ad is for a Vice President, Marketing, and the job description says:

►Develop marketing plans and programs for each product & service
►Direct strategic and tactical promotional support
►Offer information and commentary pertinent to considerations
►Maintain relations with partners by organizing community-relations programs
►Define company presence at conventions, annual meetings and seminars
►Run short- and long-term market forecasts and reports
►Influence products by evaluating current market trends and future needs
►Lead marketing staff by recruiting, selecting, and orienting employees
►Oversee maintenance of brand visual design and direct aesthetics of the company
►Progress marketing staff by continuing educational and skill-building opportunities

You need to write down 5-7 of those points. Here’s what you can write down in your Word doc:

►Develop marketing plans and programs
►Maintain relations with partners by organizing community-relations programs
►Define company presence at conventions, annual meetings and seminars
►Run short- and long-term market forecasts and reports
►Evaluating current market trends and future needs
►Lead marketing staff
►Oversee maintenance of brand visual design and direct aesthetics of the company

In the same ad, the qualifications say:

☑ 10+ years of experience in marketing focused on B2B offerings
☑ Experience leading a marketing team including hiring and mentoring
☑ Proven ability to drive business initiatives
☑ Experience building strategic plans, branding, and creative visualization
☑ Exceptional analytics, leadership, organizational, and problem solving skills
☑ Effective written, oral, and presentation communication skills

You need to write down:

☑ 10+ years of experience in marketing focused on B2B offerings
☑ Experience leading a marketing team including hiring and mentoring
☑ Proven ability to drive business initiatives
☑ Experience building strategic plans, branding, and creative visualization

Let’s start to put this all together. Instead of that snoozer of an opening line: “I am writing regarding the XYZ position you currently have available.” You write an opener that tells who you are, what you do, and the value you bring. And your opening lines actually give the audience what they specifically said they wanted. Use the language from the ad, but not 100% verbatim. {I’ll put the parts from the ad in quotes here; you will not put them in quotes in your letter.}

“I am a marketing professional with “12 years of experience in B2B marketing,” who has a record of success “defining innovative marketing plans and programs” and “recruiting and leading marketing teams.”

As your letter continues, position your history, specific successes, and hard-core accomplishments as concrete examples of how you’ve done exactly what’s in the ad.
The cover letter that tells your audience what they want to hear is the cover letter that gets read!

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