Cover Letter Blues

Reading all the resumes was depressing.  We're hiring a new manager and I was going through a stack of them with the human resources consultant.  The resumes looked remarkably similar and there wasn't a decent cover letter in the pile.  "We should have required applicants to have good communication skills," I joked to the consultant.  "We did," he replied.

Here's the way I see it.  My resume is all about me.  Me me me.  My cover letter needs to be about the employer.  You you you.  Here's my advice to anyone applying for a job:

  1. Go through the ad in detail.  Take all the requirements seriously.  Think about how your background fits with the job.  
  2. If this job is important to you, do some more digging.  Look for the challenges faced by the employer.  Look for things that aren't in the job ad.  Is the industry cyclical or in decline?  Are they threatened by foreign competitors?  Are they having to deal with explosive growth?  Check out the company's web site as well as any news articles that mentioned them.
  3. Pick the top three challenges and do a SHORT paragraph for each.  The opening sentence should start like this:  "You are looking for someone with solid industry experience who can lead the team."  You can then tie their requirement to the skills and experience outlined in your resume.  By the way, if the evidence you want to use is not in your resume, then update it.  There is no rule that says you have to use the same resume at each company.
  4. That is the meat of your letter.  Next you need an opening.  The opening is important because it needs to grab the attention of the reader.  Show them that's it's worth their time to read the rest of the letter.  Since so few people seem to do this, I would use the opening to show that I understand the challenges this company faces.
  5. Finally, your closing should be a call to action and a polite ending of the letter.

Remember, if you are applying for a management position, communications is part of the job, even if it isn't in the job ad. You need to show that you can analyze a situation, convey your thoughts briefly and clearly, make a persuasive case and be sensitive to the needs of others.

Oh, and please spell the name of the company correctly!

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by Bill Kennedy, CA.IT, PMP - With over 25 years of accounting experience, Bill has a varied background in accounting management and accounting systems implementation, with a focus on the charitable sector. He is also an experienced volunteer board member and fundraiser.

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