Don’t Skip the Cover Letter
If you make the hiring manager figure out where you fit in, you may not.
by Shane Christopher
Do you discard junk mail before fully reading it? Do you keep the TV remote in-hand, switching channels within seconds of the next bad commercial? Do you skip over boring magazine ads? There’s a pretty simple and logical reason for this: most marketing is bad marketing!
Good Marketing, Bad Marketing
Good marketers know precise targeting of a message is paramount to convincing consumers to respond. Said another way, a bad marketing message will tout the attributes of the product or service. Example: Yummy cereal contains Vitamin E. A good marketing message will translate how those attributes benefit you. Example: Eating Yummy cereal helps eliminate cancer-causing free radicals.
News flash: You’re looking for a job after the military, you’re a marketer and your cover letter is your marketing message!
Your résumé is not your marketing message. Go back to my previous comment about bad marketing messages. Sound familiar?
It should sound like your résumé. It touts the attributes of you. The cover letter is what translates those attributes into benefits for your potential employer.
An Effective Cover Letter Requires a Little Research
Provided you possess the basic qualifications for the position and fit the basic profile the company is looking for, your cover letter becomes very handy. It should articulate how your experience, education, and skills translate into a great fit for the position being offered. This will require some work on your part.
Search the company’s website for ways to tie-in your strengths to the company’s needs. For instance, if you’re applying for a sales position, talk about how your service in Iraq was sales-oriented. Perhaps you had to negotiate cooperation between Sunnis and Shiites in an Iraqi town. Or if you’re applying for a cable installer position, explain how your job as a Navy torpedoman was very electronics-oriented.
Most of all, the cover letter should enable the employer to visualize you working for his company in the position available!
Don’t make your employer figure it out on his or her own.
In most of the previous 20-something columns, I’ve reiterated how busy hiring managers are and how many résumés they pour over to find the best job candidate. So don’t make them work harder. Make them understand how you are a fit for the position. The cover letter is the most effective way to do this.
In the end, a great résumé without a cover letter is like cake without icing or a star-studded baseball team without a closer.
OK, you get my point. The résumé is 95 percent of the work, but the cover letter makes 95 percent of the impact – don’t skip it.