The Santa Fe New Mexican
March 27, 1995, Monday
HEADLINE: COVER LETTER IS KEY
TO GETTING RESUME READ
BYLINE: Jeremy Solomons
In a city that prides itself on
being “different,” it is hardly surprising that many of Santa Fe’s job
seekers have far from conventional backgrounds and resumes.
This is why a skillfully crafted
cover letter - and a well-constructed resume – can be such a vital
component of the exploration phase of a successful job search campaign.
While a resume can show what you
are doing and what you have done in the past, the cover letter can
interpret this experience and explain how and why it can be of use to a
This last phrase “how and why it
can be of use to a potential employer” is a key point to remember in
forming a cover letter, because all too often we express what we want to
do rather than building rapport with a potential employer by trying to
respond to his specific needs.
As a quick check of how well you
have done this up until now, try to unearth a previous cover letter that
you have written and count how many times you used the words “I,” “me,”
“my,” etc., and how many times you used the words “you,” “your,”
“yourself,” etc. One recent client’s tally was 22 to 2.
If you have ever felt frustrated
or switched off completely when “talking” to a self-centered chatterbox,
that’s how many a personnel manager might feel when confronted with a
cover letter full of “I’s,” “me’s” and “my’s.” As a rule of thumb, try
to include at least one “you” for every “I.”
On the other hand, what most
potential employers will be happy to see are the answers to the
following three questions:
Why are you writing to me?
Why should I be interested in hiring you rather than someone
Who are you and how can I get in touch with you?
The first question can be
answered in a simple, opening paragraph: “I am writing to you in
response to your company’s advertisement for a regional sales manager”
or “I am writing to you upon the suggestion (or recommendation) of
Jackie Montoya, who said you may be interested in expanding your pool of
The third question can also be
dealt with fairly easily by featuring your given and family name plus
your personal address, telephone (and fax or Internet) number(s) at the
top of the letter, preferably in the same style as your resume.
It is the second question that
is the most difficult to address, especially if the advertisement is not
very specific, the application is a speculative one or if you are
seeking a foreign position.
Basically, the job applicant has
the unenviable task of trying to match his talents and experience to the
stated or anticipated needs of the potential employer in an honest and
Unfortunately, there are no
magic formulas for doing this, as every potential employer, employee and
position are different.
You can try lifting cute phrases
from any one of a plethora of cover letter writing books that are
available in bookstores and libraries.
But as with a $5,000 prepared
resume, if the words are not your own and do not really represent who
you are, the only person you may be fooling is yourself.
One good way to check whether
your cover letter truly reflects who you are as a person and a
professional is to read the letter out loud to yourself and any other
trusted friend or family member who has time to listen to you.
If the words sound like a
stilted college lecture or a slick TV commercial, chances are that it
will not go over too well with someone who does not know you and has
little incentive to do so.
An effective cover letter is one
that grabs the reader’s attention and makes him really want to get to
know the person behind it. Ideally, you want a potential employer to
echo the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Who you are speaks so loudly, I
cannot hear what you are saying.”