Tag Archives: Cover letters

Successful Communication Strategy for Job Seekers

From Guest Blogger Jessica Newcomb

When you were a child, what did you say when you met someone you liked? My 6-year-old self probably said something like, “Hi, I’m Jessica. Want to be my friend?” Asking this question was a risk. Certainly, the other kid could walk away or stick her tongue out at me, but more often than not, we went off together to swing or play on the monkey bars.

As an adult, I sometimes get caught up in worrying about a potential negative reaction that I avoid reaching out in the first place. I also forget that at the core of my request, I was offering something because the other person also benefitted by having a friend and playmate.

The same principle holds true for forming professional relationships. Generosity—offering something to the other person—is one of the best ways to gain someone’s attention.

What are you currently saying or writing when you reach out to a contact? As a job seeker, do you lead with your need? Do you lead with asking for a job or internship? Read the example below and think about what the writer is asking.

Hello Mr. Jones,

I am a first year MBA at ABC University and wanted to introduce myself and ask for assistance in the form of an introduction. I would like to meet John Smith who works for XYZ Corporation for career networking and was hopeful you would make the introduction for me.

Thanks for your time and assistance, and I look forward to the upcoming conversation.

The writer is asking someone he has never met or spoken with previously to provide access to his network and make a recommendation. Why would this contact be compelled to meet this request? In a short statement—he wouldn’t be.

Instead, the writer should lead with the attitude, “How can I help you?” There are lots of ways to give as you build and strengthen your network: offer compliments or acknowledge success and accomplishments, connect people with a corresponding need/ability, send relevant articles, or give your time by volunteering.

Even if the contact does not offer you a job, you as the job seeker still benefit by gaining a professional relationship that you can expand, practicing relationship building and communication skills that will be useful over your lifetime, and growing personally and professional by engaging with others in your functional area or industry.

Jessica Newcomb is the Assistant Director, Graduate Business Career Services at Texas A&M University.  Please follow her on Twitter @JessicaNewcomb.

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There is No “I” in Cover Letter

When writing a cover letter, remember the purpose is to focus on the audience or shall we say potential employer at all times. Employers are seeking a solution to a need through hiring, so by keeping the employer as your central focus, you will generate interest in your letter’s content.   A well written cover letter addresses an employer’s need and provides proven examples of your ability to meet that need.  Transform interest in what you have to say into a desire to contact you by highlight relevant experience and accomplishments.

Cover letters that are littered with the word “I” automatically draws the reader’s attention away from the intended audience and back to the writer.  As a job seeker, you are a marketing manager, and every successful marketing campaign targets a customer’s need.  As a job seeker, you want to sell and market the skills that matter most to a potential employer.  A better word or phrase with which to cover the page of a cover letter is the name of the employer and organization rather than “I”. 

As a job seeker, you want the employer to read your letter and resume and be inspired to call you for an interview.  Here are a few tips for writing a cover letter that turns attention to the reader as opposed to “I”:

  1. Begin with a word other than “I”.  Right off the bat you take the attention off of the employer and on to yourself.   
  2. After your first draft, circle the “I”s in red.  During the editing process, reword those phrases so that you decrease your number by at least half.
  3. Focus on what the employer needs rather than what you want.  “I want” or “I am seeking experience” will shift the focus of the message from marketing your ability to pleading for a job. 

 A targeted job search campaign consists of marketing yourself as a solution to business.  A cover letter connects an employer’s needs with your abilities with the emphasis on the employer, not “I”.

7 Deadly Sins of Cover Letter Writing

Nearly every time I receive a cover letter for editing, the job candidate warns me ahead of time that their letter will need a lot of work.  In as much as job seekers do not like to write resumes, they almost always detest having to write a cover letter.  Before you send your next cover letter, make sure you are not committing one of these seven deadly sins with your letter. 

  1. To Whom It May Concern:  This outdated introduction is number one on my list of the 7 Deadly Sins of Cover Letters. To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir screams laziness.  With the Internet, today’s job seekers CAN find the name of the HR professional or hiring manager with just a bit of effort.   
  2. Start the letter with the word “I”:   Yes, YOU are the one looking for a job, but the reader needs help and isn’t all that concerned with your wants and needs.  By starting your letter with the word “I”, you are immediately making your letter about you.  Basic marketing and advertising will teach you to focus your campaign on the customer.   
  3. Groupie without skills:  It is no secret to those who know me that I love Cinderella, but Disney is not going to interview or hire me because I talk about this beloved Disney Princess.  My passion for the organization and its business and customer is important, but I have to first prove I can do the job at hand.  
  4. I feel, I think, I believe:   If you aren’t confident in your ability, then how can you expect a company to be confident in you?  Show your confidence!    Highlight your contributions and the value you have brought to past experience.  
  5. I am seeking experience:  What you want isn’t all that important to the reader.  Have you ever heard the statement that you will only get what you want in life after you give someone else what they want first?  What you want will be the result of giving someone else what they want. Find out what they need…..and be the solution. 
  6. Form letter as opposed to tailored to specific company:  Form cover letters can be spotted a mile away.  Canned letters are boring especially those that only reiterate what is clearly stated on the resume.  Cover letters need to be tailored for each company and position.   
  7. MISTAKES:  I’m not only talking about typographical errors here.  Here are some common yet deadly mistakes in cover letter writing:
    1. a.      Addressing your letter to one company yet targeting another in the body of the letter.
    2. b.      Misspelling the company or contact name
    3. c.       Forgetting your phone number or email

Cover letters focus on the value you can bring to a future employer.  You are the product or service that provides the solution to what business needs.  By avoiding these 7 deadly sins, you will find the message of your cover letters will be more customer focused.  Now, go and sin no more.

Is Your Cover Letter Employer Focused?

I have a standing rule when it comes to cover letters, and I just broke it.  Can you guess what that rule might be?  Never start a cover letter with the word “I”.  A cover letter is not about you or “I” in this case. A cover letter is all about the employer and addressing how you are the best candidate for particular positions and career paths.  

After finishing the first draft of your cover letter, print the letter then take a red pen to circle the number of times you wrote the word “I”.  You will be surprised the number of times that word is written.  For the reader, that word jumps off the page.  I call these the “I” letters as opposed to cover letters.

The purpose of a cover letter is to connect your qualifications to an employer’s needs.  Make the letter be all about the employer and how you are the best candidate to meet their needs.  A cover letter is your marketing pitch to a potential employer.  Address the qualifications an employer requires and/or prefers and prove why you should receive that coveted interview.  

Cover letters that do not focus on the reader will be ignored and tossed aside every time.  Make sure your letter is read and interest the reader.  The letter is about them, not you.