Thursday, October 2, 2008

Cover Letter Magic

On the final day of the NRWA conference, JIST author Louise Kursmark gave an outstanding presentation on the fundamentals of writing cover letters that get results. I'll share some of her copious tips here, seeing as how cover letters are such an important piece of the puzzle and I rarely mention them here.
For starters, she said the preferred method of transmitting a resume and cover letter via e-mail is to attach a Word document of your resume and put your cover letter in the body of the e-mail. If you're submitting your resume in a Web form on a resume bank or company database, look for a box in which to copy and paste your cover letter text.
A cover letter must be to-the-point and easily skimmable. It needs to include distinguished information about your career (without parroting your resume) and address the specific needs of the position for which you are applying. Hiring managers always want to see "what's in it for them" if they hire you.
Start with an opening paragraph that establishes who you are and why you are writing. Capture the reader's attention and make them want to read more by indicating your value.
Use the body of the cover letter to emphasize your greatest accomplishments, perhaps in just three bullet points, and drawing themes and trends from your resume. Incorporate keywords from the job posting and be sure to "write tight."
Close with other important information the reader needs to know, such as why you are considering this company and any other relevant personal information. Avoid cliches and an overly aggressive or passive call to action--stike a balance between "I'll be calling you Tuesday at 2pm to talk about this opportunity, so be ready" and "I look forward to hearing from you."
As icing on the cake, Louise suggests getting creative by adding visual interest (charts, graphs, tables) or an endorsement quote.
Do all these things and you will be well on your way to creating your own Cover Letter Magic!


publishingcareer said...

Hi Lori, Happy New Year.

I'm still plugging away at find a job in are you?

I was just wondering what think the best way to go about writing speculative cover letters is.

I am wrestling with a general approach and saying I am organised, can cope well with pressure etc, and here's why...(where I would give examples) versus "I want to be a Rights Administrator (for the sake of argument)" and giving examples of my skills that fit this role.

I have chosen to focus on five publishing companies I would really really like to work for so that the letters can be tailored and genuinely come across as enthusiastic as opposed to generic.

However this is a new approach for me as I've always written cover letters with specific roles in mind, which have been met with a certain degree of success in terms of securing an interview.

Do you think it would be enough to say: "I really love your company and what you do. I am available for any entry-level job you have going" ?

Lori Cates Hand said...

Hi Robert,

This is a good question and I dug an answer out of the Cover Letter Magic book for you. I'll do a new post on the subject, so see the front page of the blog for the answer.


publishingcareer said...

Hi Lori

Thanks I really appreciate that.


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