By Don Goodman
Let’s start by saying that you must have a cover letter.
It’s just the professional thing to do. Now let’s look at what you need to have in yours.
Statistically, cover letters are glanced at for less than 10 seconds, so you should start with a short opening paragraph and then have bullets to make it easy for your points to get across. This also makes it simple for you to change as you can just replace your bulleted sentences.
A pet peeve of hiring managers is when your all-important first paragraph is wasted with "I am writing to you about your recent posting for the XYZ job". Instead place before your salutation:
RE: Project Manager posting on Dice.com (posting job title plus source of posting)
Now you can have a compelling opening paragraph that grabs their attention.
It is best if you have the name of the person which you may be able to get on LinkedIn.
If you don’t then To Whom It May Concern, or Dear Hiring Manager will suffice.
This is where you grab their attention. It should NOT be about you, but rather your value to them. For example:
I am excited about applying for your position as it is a perfect match for my skill sets.
I have over 10 years of success leading high-profile projects for such firms as GE, Merck and Ford Motor.
I am the Executive and Corporate Troubleshooter regularly assigned to turn around failing initiatives and develop improved processes that reduce TCO and increase the ROI on technology investments.
Continuing that theme, you would have no more than 1-2 additional sentences to support your value proposition.
As a Certified Project Manager Professional (PMP) leveraging PMI, Six Sigma, Agile and other methodologies, I have earned a solid track record for delivering quality solutions on time.
For example, at EDS, I saved over $600M in delivery costs for a $3.7B project portfolio.
Companies love it when you demonstrate that you know something about them so add a short 1-2 line paragraph that proves this is not a form letter. For example:
I noticed that XYZ just completed an acquisition of ABC which probably means you need help in migrating and consolidating applications. This is just one of the responsibilities I had at Merck.
Follow your last paragraph with,
Highlights of my background include:
Have up to 5 bullets here; a long story is not necessary. Keep your bullet statements short, and remember, the only purpose of the cover letter is to get them to want to read the resume. Whet their appetite and get them to want more information. Do not go into long details here.
Don’t forget to stress "soft skills." The #1 trait that hiring managers look for in a candidate is still good communication skills.
I would want to know more, wouldn’t you?
Keep it simple.
The best way to contact me is on my cell phone at 222.555.5438 or by email. I look forward to speaking with you.
That’s it. Simple, easy to change, and compelling enough to get them to read your resume. Use these tips and you will have a greater response to your resume distribution.
Don Goodman is a triple-certified nationally recognized career professional (Expert Resume Writer, Certified Career Coach, and Job Search Strategist) with over 20 years of experience helping thousands of people quickly land their next job. Don graduated from the Wharton School of Business and Stanford University’s Executive Program.