As a networking speaker and networking coach, my clients often ask me to review their cover letter.
Whether YOU are a professional considering your next career step, changing to a new area, in an insular or foreign environment, or you simply want a better LinkedIn profile – your cover letter is one of your most powerful tools to steer your prospective employer’s perception of you.
Writing an effective and compelling cover letter is difficult. The first few words can catch the reader or lose them. So I’ll focus here.
How to best start a cover letter is a sticking point for many people. I personally avoid cold cover letters like the plague because I find them soul-destroying to do.
4 reasons why:
- It puts all your eggs in that basket if that is your only channel in
- There is no one-size-fits all cover letter. Unless you know the reader, often it is “spray and pray”
- It takes forever to write
If you are not great at writing cover letters, you risk sabotaging yourself
There are far more effective tactics than this to get in, in my experience. As we talk about throughout the program, building relationships and then using those to get in is just one tactic that is far superior and effective.
Still, sometimes there seems no other way (if everyone’s on holiday, for example).
Here are 5 quick ideas:
[I will pretend that you are entering a technical or conservative field.]
1. Start with “Like you,…”
The most powerful word when promoting yourself is YOU. Starting the cover letter with “Like you,…” is highly unusual and grabs the reader, especially in technical and conservative fields.
- Like you, as a health tech expert I have seen the word health re-defined recently.
PRO TIP: Add a question after the first sentence:
- Like you, as a health tech expert I have seen the word health re-defined recently. Is it wellness? Number of medical products sold? Or, is there a different story?
2. Label yourself in the first 10 words (ideally the first 5-7 words).
Prospects scan quickly to see if you are RELEVANT. They need to know your expertise upfront and you have 2 seconds to position yourself. Put “_______ expert” in the first 10 words of your bio.
Visualise their conversation with others:
Q. “So, who is Ann?”
A. “Ann is a _________ expert.”
- As a neurotransmitter expert,…
- As a networking speaker and networking coach, my clients often ask me to review their cover letters.
- As an analytical project manager, I excel at extracting data to understand where we should focus in our business.
PRO TIP: Add your accomplishments upfront too.
- As an event coordinator for Company X, I ensure seamless communication and marketing between all involved parties. By implementing new social media marketing tactics in the past year, I have doubled our attendance.
3. Differentiate yourself from the competition
- Unlike many other project managers, I ensure all parties know who is responsible for what, and when each component is due. I do this using my own system that I’ve used for 10+ years, because it works. At any time, I can see the status of all activities. This ensures every event is on time and on budget, plus we clearly see when we’ve succeeded, and what needs to be developed next time.
- Unlike many event organisers, I show you exactly what to do and how to do it, what to say and when to say it. With 10+ years in research, and — importantly — real-life innovation business experience, my view is radically different. I appreciate that…
- “10+” and “—“ catch the eye
- “innovation” is a keyword
- “radically” catches the eye. That alone might get you called to interview.
- “plus” feels like you get more than “and”
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4. Try the word “fusion”
This is a great way to bridge a transition between fields, countries or cultures, or you don’t have much track record for the role you are applying for. It differentiates you, framed to benefit the audience. (Nifty!)
- My fusion of Mediterranean friendliness and structured analysis ensures useful AND memorable events because they are inclusive.
- My fusion of Mediterranean background and analytical thinking connects all parties involved in the event with friendly, clear communication while everyone knows what they need to do and who is responsible for what.
Capitalise and italicise words where you want to draw the eye. Use only once or so.
5. Meet their needs upfront. Keywords!
Mirror the exact phrasing in the ad/email.
- Multi-departmental collaboration for innovation events is what I do best.
- Written and verbal communication are two of my strongest areas of expertise. In my 5+ years of experience in coordinating teams and EU meetings, I have perfected my skills in multidisciplinary relations, collaboration, and leading a team. These skills combined makes me the best candidate for your Senior Coordinator.
To help you even more, I have designed these opening lines so that you can also use them for:
- your LinkedIn Profile (there are at least 4 excellent places to put them)
- personal introductions
- over the phone
This is also a great way to see how people respond “live”. Test them fast, don’t over-think. Test them verbally when you speak to people and answer the question “What do you do?”. You will see quickly what works for you. This is a great way to get back into job searching after a break.
These are just a few options to inspire you now – I help you choose ones that work for you specifically.
Do you have a simple, effective system to track your contacts and job search?
This is the exact system I use to track ALL of my contacts and work-finding with all employers and clients, pharma companies, universities, NGOs.
It is an excellent resource that you still refer to years after the last contact, which gives you a massive competitive advantage.It is very systematic and simple. I have used it for 10+ years with the same structure.
I give it to you for free, because I promise it will help you. Get this simple tracker here.
Would you like to put an end to ineffective LinkedIn profiles, resumes and networking?Please share this post with those who may benefit. They’ll thank you because YOU are useful and informative.
Dr. Mary-Rose Hoja helps professionals successfully promote and position themselves, especially to take their next career step. More information plus useful and informative tips await you at www.maryrosehoja.com.
Example Cover Letter Opening Lines
Cover letter openers are often pretty generic, but they don’t have to be. "Most cover letters begin with something like, 'In response to your job advertisement, I'm forwarding my resume for your review and consideration,'” says Abby Locke, speaker, writer and president of Washington, DC-based Premier Writing Solutions. “Make a stronger first impression by writing something different -- something that will readily show the value you offer."
You can grab the reader's attention by highlighting accomplishments, your passion for contributing to the employer's mission and your strongest related skills. To get started, Locke suggests writing a list of the top three ways you would add value to an organization. "What core competencies would enable you to excel in the position you're targeting?" Locke asks. "How would the employer benefit from hiring you?"
If the first few lines of your letter are causing your readers' eyes to glaze over, it's time for a makeover. Review these examples for ideas and inspiration.
Your company is truly a leader in healthcare information -- you offer solutions that ultimately enhance the quality of healthcare delivery. I am excited by your mission and would be able to translate this excitement by providing top-notch administrative services to you and your team members.
Find administrative assistant jobs.
ABC Organization's community liaison position is an excellent fit for my qualifications, and I am very interested in speaking with you about the opening. Although my current role as a youth worker is tremendously rewarding, I would like to become more involved in preventing the vicious cycle of hunger, poverty and unfulfilled human potential on a broader, national level. Your opening presents that precise opportunity.
Find community liaison jobs.
Customer Service Representative
Profit-minded and customer-centered, I believe that the path to revenue-goal attainment begins with providing exemplary customer care. Toward that end, I have been successful in solving an assortment of service, billing and order-processing issues to build a loyal client following. My 10 years of customer service experience for diverse industry employers will enable me to provide outstanding service to your customers.
Find customer service representative jobs.
I read with great interest the article in Fortune announcing the upcoming launch of ABC Bank. Congratulations on this new venture and its already impressive $20 million in loans pre-charter! The possibility of contributing to the growth of your bank is exciting, and I would like to explore a potential employment match that I am confident will be a win-win proposition.
Find financial analyst jobs.
Health Program Management
Would you like to reduce medical costs, increase productivity and build a team of happy, healthy employees? If so, you may be interested in adding me to your management team. For my current employer, I have:
- Saved lives through medical screenings, risk-reduction programs and wellness education;
- Decreased medical costs by $180K annually; and
- Reduced employee absenteeism to an all-time low.
Find healthcare program manager jobs.
As an experienced technology manager and business owner, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to remain current with ever-evolving technology without breaking the budget. But whether you are trying to equip your workforce or stock your retail showroom with the latest in next-generation laptops, I promise you will find the solution (and the value) you are looking for by retaining my services as an IT consultant.
Find IT jobs.
Marketing New Graduate
DEF Company's marketing assistant opening is an excellent match to my qualifications. As a recent graduate of ABC University with a major in marketing, I offer solid academic credentials as well as industry experience gained from an internship at GHI Company. If given the chance, I know that my strong business and marketing foundation would benefit your department, customers and bottom line.
Find marketing jobs.
If you are seeking to augment your legal team with a results-proven, technically skilled and solidly credentialed paralegal, my enclosed resume will be of interest. Characterized by my current supervisor as a "shining star in the department" with an "exceptional knowledge and skill base," my expertise in corporate law will enable me to hit the ground running as a paralegal with your firm.
Find paralegal jobs.
Real Estate Agent
In my previous position, I sold dirt...for millions of dollars. But if you asked my real estate clients what they had purchased, they would describe their soon-to-be-built, luxury high-rise condominium homes. It's that kind of pre-sales success that I offer your firm, and I am very interested in joining your team.
Find real estate agent jobs.
If you are seeking to augment your business-development team with a top-producing sales professional, my enclosed resume will be of interest. In my strong interest in joining ABC Company, you will find a history of No. 1-ranked sales performance combined with a six-year track record of outperforming quotas by as much as 150%.
A few things not to do
Don't use your cover letter as a way to regurgitate the information that's on your resume. For example, don't say, "My name is Jane Doe, and I graduated from USA College in 2015 with a degree in marketing, and I'm looking for a job in a relevant field."
Don't forget to double-check that you took out the name of the previous company and position you applied to. That's a big no-no. Pay attention to detail—every single employer wants to see that you're on your game.
Don't sell yourself short. One way to turn off a hiring manager is by appearing less-than-enthusiastic about the job. "I know you've probably seen much more qualified candidates..." or "I hope I'm not taking up too much of your time..." rank among the weakest opening lines in cover-letter history. Get out in front by expressing your passion for the job and company, and just how awesome of a hire you would be.
Find sales representative jobs.
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