WRITING COVER LETTERS THAT GET RESULTS
Many job seekers struggle when it comes to writing an effective cover letter. This article takes you step-by-step through the process.
My cover letter writing technique follows the same steps as the A.I.D.A. formula, which is used for writing sale letters. A.I.D.A. stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.
Getting Their Attention
Start your cover letter with a powerful opening that demands attention. Too many cover letters begin with “I am submitting my resume for consideration… blah, blah,…” There are two problems with this opening:
1) Since everyone begins their cover letter this way, the reader has no way of differentiating you from your competition.
2) It does not give the reader a reason to keep reading by showing her that you can solve her business problems (which is – after all – the only thing she cares about!)
By starting your cover letter with a lively sentence that directly addresses the reader’s concerns, you will give her a reason to keep reading.
Let’s say you want to apply for a sales position. The job posting says the company needs someone to “develop and manage relationships with strategic partners, channels, end users, agencies, industry influencers, and large customers.” You can see that developing business is the company’s core concern, so you should start your letter by immediately addressing that core need.
- “Do you need someone to develop lucrative, long-term business relationships?
- “Is your company looking to develop alliances and partnerships?
The answer, of course, is YES! And you already have a head start over the candidate who begins his letter: “I am enclosing my resume in response to your advertisement for a senior sales executive.” (Yawn!)
You’ve hooked them with your opening sentence and now it’s time to deepen their interest. How?
By writing a second paragraph introducing you as the solution to their needs/challenge/concerns.
My former CEO said: 'Jerry built more business relationships for my company in 12 months, than I had created in the previous ten years'.
When my last boss needed an assistant to organize his chaotic office and help him gain control of his life, he hired me. Within 3 months, he was leaving the office earlier and spending weekends with his family for the first time in years.
In my last position, I drove revenue gains of over 50%, and significantly increased market share without increasing spending. How? By building strategic alliances and informal partnerships across the United States.
Follow this opening statement with key facts about your experience which directly relate the company’s needs.
For example, a marketing manager may want to outline areas of expertise (such as advertising, PR, media relations, brand management), budgets managed, whether he or she held P&L responsibility and the size of the teams she has led.
Keep this section brief (2 to 3 sentences) and make sure you keep the focus on the needs of the company.
Now you have them hooked, so it’s time to add further proof that you can help their business.
Write 3 or 4 bullet points that best describe your ability to make a difference by showing how you have done it in the past. Here are some examples:
- Reduced fixed costs by 34% while improving efficiency and customer service, by restructuring the sales organization.
- Organized chaotic office environment, eliminating 40+ cardboard boxes of files and paperwork within only 3 weeks.
- Increased website traffic 200% by rewriting content for search engines and acquiring hundreds of new incoming links.
Close your letter with an expression of interest, a reiteration of your value and an invitation to action. Let the reader know what he or she needs to do to meet with you and – even better – offer to take the next step:
As you can see, I have developed an extremely successful approach to business development and I see a great deal of opportunity for XYZ corporation. I would be delighted to discuss my ideas in detail and will call your office within the next few days to see if we can find a convenient time to meet.
I am excited about this opportunity as there is such a close fit between your need to improve your website and my track record of success in this area. I will call your office on Tuesday afternoon to follow-up and answer any questions. Alternatively, please feel free to contact me at your convenience at (212) 555-5555.”Note: If you end your letter with a promise to contact the company, make a note of your commitment and be sure to follow through.
In Summary - A.I.D.A. works!
By following this structure for each letter, you will create letters that directly address the employers’ needs, clearly showcase your value and effectively differentiate you from the competition.
To get more tips like these, and learn how to completely transform your resume, sign up for my free resume writing course. We promise never to send sales spam.
Louise Fletcher is the President of Blue Sky Resumes, and Managing Editor and Co-founder of the preeminent careers blog, Career Hub. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and many of her resumes have been published in the JIST "Expert Resumes" series. She has contributed to many online publications including About.com, Monster.com, The Ladders, and Net Temps.