You Are Your Cover Letter

By Jim Hipskind, CPC

Cover letters have long been the avenue most people use to send their resume to a prospective employer.  Crafting an effective letter for some is easy – but for most, it is a daunting task.  There are some key elements that go into an effective letter which we will discuss.  However, before getting started, I believe putting things in perspective seems to help.  I like to draw analogies between things we do on a daily basis that could potentially help us accomplish those tasks that come up on an irregular basis.  These generally will give us a better understanding of what we are trying to do.

Cover letters – what are we trying to accomplish and what do we do every day that is similar. The purpose of the cover letter is to get an employer to read your resume and “get in touch with you.”  We leave messages every day with people – the purpose it to get them to respond to your message.  How do we do that?  The key to effective message leaving is to give that person a “reason” to contact you back.  Same holds true with the cover letter.  So how do we give that employer a good reason?

There are two things to consider when it comes to making an effective cover letter, presentation and execution.

Presentation

There is an old saying, “you can never get a second chance to make a first impression.” You imprint yourself upon the hiring manager with your cover letter. Presentation draws the reader and keeps their attention. Presentation spurs an emotion/instinct on, whether it is to call the candidate and schedule an immediate interview or to throw it in the nearest dust bin.

The presentation is why your cover letter has to be of the highest standards you can muster. Here is how you get the presentation to scream “hire me this instant”:

  • Use Appropriate Material

You want to present yourself in the best way possible. You should have a personalized letterhead and use a professional font to show that you mean business. It would also be wise to stay away from abbreviations. Lastly, make sure you have all your contact information on this page.

  • No Errors

I cannot stress how important it is to ensure that the text is error-free. No misspelled words or grammatical errors, please! Even one mistake could cost you your desired job.  Use but do not rely on “spell & grammar” check.  Once done, proof your letter.  Then have someone else proof it.

Execution

The key to effective execution is knowledge. Where are you sending your letter/resume and who is going to receive it?  What are you sending your resume in for – i.e. position title and qualifications?  Will your cover letter prompt the person reading it to contact you for an interview? Will your letter ignite the reaction you desire? These tips will help you get that call-back:

  • Do your homework

It is not effective to send out many resumes in the hope that something will stick.  Be judicious and exacting.  Flooding the market in a shot gun approach can be disconcerting when you do not get any response.

  • Address An Actual Person

Steer clear from “To Whom It May Concern.” A little detective work will help you discover the name and title of the company’s decision maker. You can use social media, like LinkedIn, to find the decision maker in the company. This information may also be visible on the company’s website.  Also, steer clear of responding to blind ads.  First you could be responding to your current employer, and second, you rarely get enough information to write an effective letter.

  • Make It Pop

Making it pop is critical and frequently overlooked.  A bit of sleuthing will lead you to the company’s website and social media pages. Customize your cover letter in a way that will let them know that you have done your research.

  • Tailor Yourself

Depending on your background – you may have a variety of marketable skills.  After doing your research, you will know something about the company and the position you want. Highlight those skills you have as they relate to the skills (qualifications) the company desires.  Include a couple of accomplishments that also related to the position for which you are applying.  Moreover, remember – whatever you mention in your cover letter – make sure it also appears in your resume.

  • The Rules of Engagement

Be concise.  Your cover letter should have three parts.

  1. Explain the reason for the contact. Example: I am applying for, OR I am responding to…
  2. Cite the reasons you believe you are qualified – relevant experience and accomplishments.
  3. End with a positive and upbeat statement such as: Looking forward to hearing from you OR I will follow up…

Your Letter’s Impact

With proper presentation and execution, you can maximize the impact of your cover letter. By neglecting one of these two areas, there is a higher chance of inadvertently sabotaging all the efforts you have put in. Highlight the appropriate skills and accomplishments as they relate to their qualifications.  Make the person you are contacting want to know more about you.

If you have any questions or want more tips, please send me an email at jim@consearch.com. If you are currently searching for a job or are looking to advance in your current industry, send me your resume. I would be happy to discuss your goals with you and help you achieve them. Please note that any information you provide will be kept confident and handled in a discreet manner.

JIM HIPSKIND, CPC • Senior Recruiter

Your Cover Letter

Celebrating 30 years as a Recruiter!

Jim Hipskind, a Certified Personnel Consultant, brings his 31 years of recruiting experience in processing, manufacturing, food and agriculture to the Continental Search team. One of his many strengths includes developing long lasting and trusting relationships with his clients, many of whom he has been consistently serving for more than 21 years, helping them maximize their staffing investment. Jim combines the art of working collaboratively with clients and his ability to creatively define their business needs and job requirements to identify top prospective candidates.

Jim has been published in the Fordyce Letter, the recruiting industry’s top newsletter. He has also been a trainer/presenter at multiple Top Echelon regional and national conventions. Jim’s membership in the National Association of Personnel Services keeps him abreast of industry best practices allowing him to utilize state-of-the-art techniques and the finest industry ethics when working with clients.

Jim leads the firm’s engineering and production searches.

Jim can be reached directly at (800) 799-4520 or jim@consearch.com.