Cover Letter Writing: Exploiting the Power

By Donna Andreacchi with input from Laura DeCarlo

Cover letters have changed dramatically over time. In the past they were mundane at best, with the purpose of a cover letter being to provide a polite, formal introduction to the resume—a tradition that remained unchallenged and, subsequently, unchanged for years. To put this in perspective: what was okay then is no longer. The cover letter revolution is upon us! The new challenge is to free ourselves from tradition and find ways to exploit its power.

A well-written cover letter is a powerful marketing tool that works in concert with the resume. Together, they form a strong sales package. However, the distinction between the two documents has not always been clear. As the cover letter evolved, it commonly contained information copied directly from the resume. Today, each document has its own role. Simply stated, it is this: the resume describes the product; the cover letter provides the sales pitch.

Before proceeding, you may be both surprised and disappointed to learn that writing a good cover letter can easily take as much time as writing a good resume. You will need to research the company’s mission, management, policies, and goals to communicate a credible understanding of their needs and, more importantly, show by example how your client is a custom fit for the job. It’s easy to see this can be a time-consuming process, but the payback is great. Aside from your client getting the interview, doing the homework for your client early (or teaching him/her how to do it) will give the jump start needed to prepare for the interview.

Presently, there’s an abundance of well-qualified applicants with strong resumes eager to fill most jobs. Keeping this in mind as you write will help you stay focused by challenging you to show how your client is better than his/her competitors. Equally important is to consider the difficult task employers face in choosing the applicant who will provide the biggest bang for their buck.  Tailoring to the job and the employer makes sure your clients shows he/she is the best fit for the company. If there ever was a golden opportunity to beat the competition, the time has come—you must be prepared to exploit the power of the cover letter for your clients.

If you’re ready to get started, wait just a minute! If you’ve never been in sales, listen up. The goal is to sell a service or product. No matter how you analyze it, in the employer’s eyes, your client is the product for sale. If he decides to buy, he’ll offer an interview as a down payment. It’s really simple if you remember this: the goal of the cover letter is always the same—to land an interview—and the strategy always involves salesmanship. Now you’re ready to position your clients ahead of the competition and make the employer’s job easier by showing him what he’s paying for.

Here are six tips to keep you from straying off course and help you avoid common pitfalls.

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