To write an effective cover letter or email, I recommend that you play a game of pretend first.
Pretend that you are the RECIPIENT of the cover letter (or email) that you are about to write. You are probably in HR, or an Executive Asssistant. You get an average of 87 emails a day, and 23 voice mails. Approximately 17 concerned individuals will knock on your door today, most without appointments. The problems will range in scope from the CEO's need to understand the training provided to Employee #1654 in regard to some obscure Federal law (and their current lawsuit) to the on-going problem in the first floor woman’s restroom, and the direction of the toilet paper (over/under). YOU get to keep everyone happy and productive. YOU are the public representative of the company for all potential job seekers.
The above is why studies indicate that of all resumes received, 17 seconds is the average time allowed to read them. Read, comprehend, and make a judgment. 17 seconds for someone to decide your life. No pressure on anyone.
It is in your best interest to make things a little easier on that imaginary HR person. You can do THAT by kissing up a little bit. Everyone likes to hear nice things about themselves or the company for which they slave away. Do a little research. Assuming that you know nothing about the recipient of the email, find what their COMPANY values.
Then, kiss their butt. Suck up. Obviously and blatantly flatter them. That buys you a few seconds of their time. Immediately thereafter, present yourself as the solution to their problems. Then ask for the job (or at least a next step in the hiring process).
This is not about you...”I am dependable and hard working...” This is about THEM and their needs. THEY already hear about people who “want to succeed” or who “Are dependable...”. To get another 17 seconds, fill their need.
So, let's take the electronics retailer Best Buy. My analysis of what they need says:
- Good verbal communication skills.
- Neat appearance.
- Understands and follows directions.
- Available nights and weekends-Dependable.
- Customer service skills. Able to solve problems.
- Able to overcome objections and close the sale.
- Works independently.
- Solid computer skill
- Goal oriented.
If you are pretending to be the HR Person of Hiring Manager there, you match your strengths with their needs.
The cover letter becomes:
Dear HR Person (name if known):
I am writing to you today because Best Buy is the leading electronics retailer in America. I know that you do things the right way. I want to be a part of that.
That is the kind of company that I want to (work, learn from, grow with). For my part, I offer (pick three bullet points above that are true). For my part, I offer a belief in customer service-I have learned to treat each customer right, and they will come back. I am goal oriented, and exceeded a lofty goal at XYZ Electronics. I also have great verbal communication, and I listen as much as I speak. This helps me serve my customers and help them to find what they want and need.
I hope that you are as interested in me as I am in Best Buy. If so, please call me at 123-456-7890 or email @ fakeemail.fake.com.
That will get you the attention of the HR person or Hiring Manager at the local Best Buy. YOU have to research and modify the message to fit your strengths for each company. Yes, it will require work, and you can learn this skill in a short time. Are you willing to do the work?
Links to my work, “Beyond a Career Crisis”: