Lindsay Olson

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Write an Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter

Me & My Mac

I'm not a huge fan of cover letters. The "Is a Cover Letter Necessary?" topic is a highly debatable topic between recruiters. Most will tell you cover letters are absolutely necessary, but there are some of us out there who will openly admit that we always look at your resume first. It's true. A cover letter is secondary. If the resume fits the job specs and you didn't send me a cover letter, I could care less. I'll still interview you.

Before you get too excited, I'm not recommending a complete omission of the cover letter. Some companies put a lot weight on deciding who comes in for an interview on the letter itself, so it's better to have one ready. I'm just sayin'.

The type of cover letters I prefer are more like introductory letters embedded in the email. I'm not talking about that cover letter everyone learned about in college. You know the one: traditional, long, full-page 5 paragraph monster filled with boring adjectives that everyone uses to describe themselves. Blah! This introductory email is brief, direct, and cuts to the chase. It tells me everything I need to know to decide if I should open the attachment before moving on to my other emails.

A good introduction includes:

  1. A brief description about why you are contacting the person and how you found him or her.
  2. The position you are interested in exploring (a link is helpful if you found it online somewhere).
  3. Top three reasons you fit the position. Be specific. Add a previous accomplishment that addresses the possible challenges in the position.
  4. A bit of personality.
  5. A closing statement and contact information.

Four Christmases ipod

Scarface movie

Here is a basic introduction letter outline of someone I would be inclined to call.

Hi Lindsay,

I began following you on ____ and I recently came across your current search for a (position title) in (city). (Add link here if you have it).

If the position is still open, I'd like to put my hat in the ring. Even though (industry) is a new field for me, I'm a fit for the position's background criteria.

* 10+ years in corporate communications (in-house at (company) and two agencies: (company) and (company).
* Built out the PR function and brand from the ground up for a major (industry of company).
* Reported directly to the (title of person reported to)

I was the (insert your title here) at (company). But don't let the title fool you: I built the PR program from scratch starting in (year) as the company's first departmental hire. By the time I left in (year), (I accomplished this which meant $$, %, or something significant). I left (company) to (reason for leaving) and ....

I've attached my resume and would like to learn more about the position. Please let me know if you're interested in speaking further. I can be reached at _____.

Best regards,

The accomplishment and the three bullet points should be address some of the requirements or challenges you might face in the position.

Customization and personalization are the keys to writing effective cover letters. While your cover letter may include some of the same material, it needs to be changed for each individual position. If you are an accountant in New York and you're moving to Canada, you'd naturally want to highlight the fact that you're familiar with a Canadian professional tax software package since there are obviously going to be differences in systems from country to country. A job search is a job in itself and requires some extra effort for each position for which you apply. Blanket cover letters reek of laziness and do little to set you apart from your competition, so don't go there with your intro.

Do you think cover letters are always necessary?

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