The Second Most Important Bullet In Your GunPosted: January 25, 2014
Even in this technology laden world, job search is still all about the documents. You’ve got to have a good resume, a target list (see my earlier post), a reference list and a salary history. All of these should be formatted similarly so that they’ll help to support your personal brand. Clearly your resume is the most important but what is the second most important document? I contend that it is the often neglected cover letter.
To continue the gun analogy (perfect for a Friday evening) a resume is like a shotgun blast. It covers your entire employment history and range of skills. While you should modify it for every job you apply for, it is still intended to tell everything a recruiter needs to know.
The cover letter, on the other hand, is a rifle shot. A well written cover letter gives you the chance to focus the energy of your resume on the specific requirements of the job you are applying for. It is your one, and often only, chance to show the recruiter why you are the perfect candidate for this job.
Cover letters need to be concise and direct. They need to point specifically to what the company needs and how you are uniquely qualified to meet those needs. I suggest you avoid fluff and a lot of jargon. Don’t talk about what you are looking for – the recruiter could care less. Talk about what you can do for the company and support those assertions with proof from your experience. (What if you don’t have that experience? That’s for a future post but one key lesson is don’t lie. Dishonesty is not the answer.)
As to format and style there are two main considerations. First, this is a business document and should appear as such. It should be well laid out, typed of course, with no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors and, very importantly, if you are addressing an individual you must spell their name and the name of the company correctly. On the flip side, like your resume, your cover letter is a personal document. It needs to reflect your style and help you to reinforce your brand.
Be original but don’t get too clever. I once had an applicant send me their resume and cover letter folded into a paper airplane with the tag line “if you want your sales to soar, then hire me.” I didn’t – but I did remember the resume. I also had one resume arrive with a Staples Easy Button. The pitch was “That was easy – just hire me.” Personally these approaches are too “cute” for me, but clearly they were memorable. You need to find out the best way to professionally distinguish yourself from the crowd.
So the moral of the story – don’t neglect the cover letter. Always include one or you may find yourself holding a Starter’s Pistol and firing blanks.