Thursday, January 8, 2009

Writing Speculative Cover Letters

Robert, who blogs about his quest for a publishing job in the UK here, just asked a good question in the comments of an earlier post:

I was just wondering what you 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" ?

My gut response was that you're going to have better luck if you can tailor your letter to a specific opportunity. If none are posted, you should work your network to try and find those "hidden" jobs. But if all else fails and you just want to get your name in front of a company and let them know you are interested in them (and maybe to get yourself into the company's resume database), the authors of Cover Letter Magic have some advice for doing that:

You might choose to write cold-call letters to companies to express your interest in employment opportunities, without knowledge of specific advertisements or opportunities. Your challenge in writing this type of cover letter is to give your reader a broad introduction to your skills, qualifications, employment experience, achievements, credentials, and other notable traits that you anticipate will trigger their interest in you and make them offer you the opportunity for an interview.

However, the authors are pretty clear that you need to have some idea of your job objective and communicate that:

When writing this type of letter, it is critical that you clearly identify who you are. Are you a sales professional, an accountant, a retail manager, a production operations manager, or a chemical engineer? A Java programmer, a health-care administrator, a management executive, an advertising director, or a graphic designer? Who are you and how do you want to be perceived?

Just as important, you must communicate what type of position you are seeking. No one is going to take the time to figure this out. Do you want to continue to work as a purchasing agent, or is your objective a purchasing management position? If you're a technology project leader, are you looking to make a lateral move, or are you interested in an IT management position, perhaps as CIO or CTO?

When writing a cold-call letter, it is critical to quickly identify who you are, what value you bring to the company, and what type of positions you are interested in. No one is going to take the time to read between the lines and make assumptions. Spell it out!

So, they advise against the approach of just saying "Hey, here I am. I love your company. Where do I fit?" You need to be able to show them what you want to do and how you can fill a need for them.

Hope that helps! :)

1 comment:

publishingcareer said...

Lori that was very helpful, thanks.