Cover Letter Techniques

5 Cover Letter Techniques = Spellbound Hiring Managers

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The bottom-line is, the purpose of a cover letter is to lure the reader to, well, read your resume and call you for an interview.

Now, you may be dying to ask me, “Then, why can’t I only submit my resume?” My answer is, you can—but how do you know your competition didn’t submit a persuasive cover letter that just about nudged you off the top spot?

Hmm?

Worst-case scenario, they can set your cover letter aside, but it’s available if they need more convincing.

So, how do you create cover letter that is not tossed? I’m glad you asked…

Cover Letter Techniques That Work

Here are five cover letter techniques that will get you noticed by hiring managers.

1. Break A Leg With Your Opening Act

Don’t begin cover letters with an ordinary and boring statement. You really want to “have them at hello.” (Sorry. Couldn’t help it.) Really, captivate with the very first sentence. Exude sincerity, offer specific value, spin it, and make sure it’s employer-oriented. Here is one of my favorite openings:

Dear Mr. Bradley,

Offering to drive pharmaceutical sales growth by generating qualified leads, penetrating territories, and closing the toughest sales, consistently!

Please allow me to introduce myself…

2. Make A Personal Connection

You can tell a personal story that further positions you as the best candidate. You can provide statistical insight, reinforcing your industry knowledge. You may opt to walk your employer through your process. In other words, you can communicate more personally than you would on your resume and leverage that “ace in your pocket.”

See an example I used in a cover letter:

I am an avid golfer (with a pretty good handicap) and golf at least twice per week—I have closed many sales on the golf course over a weekend. Clients consider me a trusted friend and have even helped me form golf teams for charity events, which is an excellent way to network and gain new business…

Do you think I would have been able to add this golf example in the resume for my client – no.

Now, let’s say candidate #1 is a stellar sales person and candidate #2 (my client) is also an outstanding revenue producer – this example is helping my client promote an added value. This “sign-on benefit” clues the hiring manager my client initiates and develops fruitful relationships through personal networking strategies that will be advantageous to the company.

Besides, it’s memorable. In a pile of hundreds of resumes and cover letters, memorable is a winner!

3. Become A Tease

Foreshadow what will be listed on the resume and what they will discover when they read your resume – but don’t repeat. Piqué interest! Save some fresh content for your cover letter. This is a strategic career marketing plan. Example:

Please refer to my resume, which summarizes more than 15 years of experience increasing revenue for top corporations such as IBM. I have aggressively launched unique sales strategies that have produced up to $8M annually. You will find a full account of my projected sales plans and exceeded goals by percentage per year.

Now, we have asked the hiring manager to review the resume and we have provided a bit of information to spark interest. It is important to add quantifiable information and be specific, as you don’t want to seem vague. However, there is no need to provide all the details in the cover letter, especially if it will be on the resume. While I urge you to tease – the teasing must be done with actual facts and specific references not generalities that mean nothing.

4. Mesmerize Them

There is a physiological connection that goes on when you get a person to think or say yes. So, when you craft your cover letter try to envision the reader nodding their head in agreement with your statements. In order to do this, you must validate their needs. You can cast this spell through reinforcing statements or questions.

Take it easy on the questions, though—you don’t want to come across too sales-driven.

(The art of career marketing is a delicate balance.)

5. Ask For The Interview

In sales, they always direct you to ask for the sale. Well, ask for the interview. Just ask for it!

The point here is that your cover letter is a supporting influencing tool. It must be unique, inviting, compelling – a prelude to a well crafted resume in order to provoke action. Your cover letter is part of a marketing package and so merely writing it as you would any other communication letter is not going to generate the interviews you seek.

True story: I had a client tell me that, when he was interviewed, he was told the cover letter clinched the interview and the resume was used as a guide for an interesting interview. Here is a beginning part of that cover letter:

Music and entertainment is my passion. I am lucky to have realized so early what I was born to do! I have known I wanted to work in the entertainment industry since I was 11 years old. At age four, I already had an affinity for music and entertainment… I loved to perform, watch all the award shows on TV, memorize the choreography to music videos, and I always wanted to know how it all worked behind the scenes.

Client landed a job with Universal Music Distribution.

There you have it. Market yourself as the ideal candidate via a purposefully created cover letter.

The cover letter techniques above will help augment the resume, convincing the employer you’ve got what they need… in a very special way.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Rosa Elizabeth Vargas

Rosa Elizabeth Vargas is the owner of Career Steering, an executive resume writing service. She's an Elite Master Resume Writer, Certified Expert Resume Writer, Nationally Certified Resume Writer, and Academy Certified Resume Writer.

17 comments

  1. I would never hire the person who wrote “Music and entertainment is my passion”. S/he may be the greatest person ever in sales, but I can’t hire a person who can’t write a proper sentence.
    And I agree with Yuriy – the writers of these Careerealism articles seem to post and run, never to return and respond to comments. Their feedback could be helpful.

  2. Wow! I am constantly amazed at the amount of bitter criticism launched at those who post helpful information on this site.
    Use your head people, this is not a one on one session, it is the provision of helpful hints to the masses to try and generate some creativity and thought on your part.
    The examples noted above are meant to stimulate thought BY YOU, FOR YOURSELF to develop content WHICH IS RELATIVE AND SUITABLE TO YOUR OWN SITUATION and are not meant to be copied verbatim because they are not applicable to everyone or all situations.
    Creating a cover letter and suitable resume is HARD WORK that requires a lot of THOUGHT and EFFORT which you have to DO FOR YOURSELF. Stop expecting others to do the work for you!

  3. I have to agree with Erica and Yuriy. Although such a cover letter would likely stand out from the vast majority of other letters, it may actually stand out in a negative, rather than a positive, way. For instance, “Offering to drive pharmaceutical sales growth by generating qualified leads, penetrating territories, and closing the toughest sales, consistently!” would totally turn me off and none of these examples would make me want to read further. I suppose they might impress some people and are definitely ‘outside the box’, but I believe that most employers want to know what a job applicant can do for them rather than being ‘assaulted’ with how tremendous an applicant thinks he/she is. For instance, I’d rather see, “I’ve consistently driven sales growth by generating qualified leads, penetrating territories, and closing the toughest sales.” It may not ‘stand out’ the way the example provided in this article does, but, to me, it says the same thing with more finesse.

  4. Hi Rosa!
    Nice Article!
    From this, what I perceived is to “THINK OUT OF THE BOX”.
    Write something interesting rather unique which could possibly grab reader’s attention and keep you remember out of hundreds of candidates.
    (Guess what ? I just wrote one for myself )
    Thanks for sharing and making us realize the true myth of Cover Letter.
    Cheers!
    Aamir

  5. Human Resources is my passion. I am lucky to have realized so early what I was born to do! I have known I wanted to work in the Human Resources field since I was 11 years old. At age four, I already had an affinity for hiring the right candidate, asking just the right questions… I loved to people, watch all them at gatherings at the mall, memorize their every word and mannerisms, and I always wanted to help people do the best job they could at their workplace.

  6. In answer to those who complain about the sales orientation of this article…

    Do you want designs swiftly and smoothly launched into products in full production? Do you want costs to be avoided because the designs are analyzed with DFMA before physical parts are made? Do you want an engineer who applies his experiences in production and cost-reduction, his Master’s research in DFMA, and project management skills to shepherd your new product from ideation to profitable and stable production?

  7. Thanks for the great tips – actually got me excited about putting together my cover letter. I’m not in sales, but can definately see how to put these concepts to work!

  8. Some really powerful covering letter techniques. Since the launch of automate job boards the covering letter has been neglected with candidates simply using the default message when a good covering letter can really help you stand out.

  9. I’m amazed at the comments that seem to dismiss the advice because the examples don’t appeal to them personally. Have some imagination, people, and figure out how you can create an equally appealing hook appropriate for you and your prospective employer! And to the person who doesn’t understand the concept of a golf handicap — if you don’t know the sport, don’t comment. Low handicap = good golfer clients enjoy playing with. That’s all.

  10. The advice is free. Use your own filter, apply what is useful to you, discard what is not. If the entire article doesn’t help you, move on to another article that may be a better fit for you.

    The cover letter examples here are not one-size fits all; they are also just a portion of the entire cover letter. These cover letters worked for my clients and so I am happy to share if it can help another job seeker in need.

    Additionally, every circumstance is different. I write in the voice that best represents my client’s personality, conveys their brand, includes jargon familiar in that industry, and connects with that job search market. For example, a cover letter for a nurse would be completely different and less aggressive in tone. Still, I would find a way to ‘spellbound’ employers by avoiding the mundane cover letters we are accustomed to reading.

    The idea behind this article is that you should not settle for an ordinary cover letter. Even a ‘cheesy’ cover letter that wins interviews is better than a safe cover letter that yields no interview calls.

    Happy Holidays and a successful job search!

  11. I would have to agree this may be one of the weaker examples I have read when it comes to cover letter advice. Although I can see why these items were suggested (they made the client stand out), they only stand out for the one person in the example that met a hiring manager that enjoyed the cover letter. A typical employer, I would say, would not be interested that you are, “lucky enough to know what you have wanted to do since age four,” for example. These suggestions are very “me, me, me-focused” instead of offering up solid examples of what they could do for a prospective employer based on their skills and experience.

    • You are not picking up on the fact that this sales rep is extremely good at his job because he is a strong relationship builder. This is the number one skill required of sales people because if people don’t like you, they won’t do business with you.

      By stating that many deals have been made on the golf course indicates the following:
      - The sales rep spends more than the required 9-5 on developing strong relationships with his clients. If he is willing to spend his personal time (weekends) with clients he is dedicated to getting the deal done no matter how long it takes.
      - If his clients are golfing with him on a Saturday, he is well liked and has strong relationships with his clients. People will spend money with a company where they like and have confidence in their sales rep’s abilities.
      - The sales rep has an ability to build strong relationships with customers as people, not just as a potential sales target. People like doing business with people they like and are more likely to keep doing business with a company they like even when issues arise because they trust their sales rep to correct the issue and move on.

  12. This article seems to focus on one career: sales. Why? I do would not want to read any further on any of these openings because each one is so corny and screams the applicant is #1. Maybe he/she should give impression they are #1 but citing the 8M in sales at IBM (example 3) just says you take credit for all the work and are not ashamed to do it. We all know almost every project is accomplished by a team effort, no matter how small a team may be. So reading a cover letter where someone gloats about increasing sales makes me wonder if the person takes all the credit and is being selfish.

    Example 2 just says the person plays golf well and did business on a golf outing, but so what? Why should I care? And why is there a handicap? Better to say: I don’t need a handicap! I play to win and don’t need to artificially inflate my score because I am a mortal person and not an athlete. Now that would definately differenciate this applicant. In addition, as employer I expect you to use golf to network so telling me that is useless.

    I wish CAREEREALISM would ask the authors of these articles to respond to comments such as mine. Otherwise these resume, cover letter and career experts who get paid to give an opinion may feel that their advice is one size fits all. Posting their spiel on this website is great but what is the point if there is no feedback from readers? Then it is just another writing sample they (authors) can put on their resume. But with some response, there is a chance to continue the discussion and for them to see that there is someone who does not agree with their seemingly perfect advice.

    • Very good points,I get confused as to what is the “proper” format for these resumes. Simple, powerful, appropiate and yet to the point. I spend more time researching and reading these articles than applying for jobs that I like respond within the time frame.

      That it takes me back to Purdue Owl. I will have to chance it since there is so many formats.

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