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Don’t Send a Cover Letter

As a rule, I hate reading cover letters. Nearly all are what I call, 3B: Bland, Boring and Banal.

In fact, most cover letters are such formulaic exercises in boredom that I suggest you stop sending them altogether.

That’s right. Don’t send a cover letter. Send a sales letter instead.

After all, your goal in writing to employers is to “sell” them on hiring you, right?

With that in mind, here’s a recent success story that will help you stop sending cover letters, and start sending sales letters that get job interviews.

Paul D. from White Bear Lake, MN writes: “I met you at the Star Tribune job expo and I wanted to comment on your tip to write a sales letter rather than a cover letter. I took your advice and, after sending the new cover letter to apply for two jobs online, I had one call the same day for an interview! The other call came the day after.”

So, Paul batted 1.000 with the two cover letters he sent out. Better yet, he emailed me his cover letter, which offers three lessons that can get you hired ...

  1. Get Attention by Asking a Question

    You must get employers’ attention at the start of your letter and compel them to read. Otherwise, your letter won’t have any effect. Because bored readers will skim over the document, then rush off to your résumé.

    An easy way to get attention is to ask a question. Why? Questions are hard to ignore -- they engage and involve readers.

    This is what I suggested at the job search expo Paul attended. He took my advice and wrote a new cover letter that began like this:

    Dear Mr. Peterson:

    Are you looking for a professional marketing person who has demonstrated analytical and problem-solving ability, practical project management skills and excellent written and verbal communication skills?

    Paul’s question gets attention and causes the reader to answer, Yes. And if you can get employers to nod in agreement while reading your “sales letter,” you’ve taken a giant leap toward getting hired.

  2. Emphasize Specific Results

    Which of the following statements is more interesting?

    A. I’m a hard worker, honest and reliable, with excellent attention to detail.

    B. I saved my last employer more than $1,000.

    It’s B, of course. B makes a specific claim, while A is a list of generalities. All things being equal, the candidate who sprinkles results throughout his/her “sales letter” is more likely to get hired. Because, employers think, if you’ve delivered the goods before, you’ll likely do so again.

    That’s what Paul did in his letter -- he included specific results like these:

    My attention to detail saved my company more than one thousand dollars in incorrect registration forms over six months.

    Now, that isn’t perfect. I would use numerals (not words), put the numbers first, and include a dollar sign, all of which makes the results more obvious. Like this:

    I saved more than $1,000 for my company in 6 months, by finding and correcting registration forms.

  3. End with a Provocative P.S.

    Here’s where Paul hit it out of the park.

    Remember, you want to send a sales letter, not a cover letter. And what do all sales letters have? A P.S. at the end. (Go read your junk mail right now to verify that I’m right. I’ll wait….)

    Good sales letters have a P.S. because good copywriters know the P.S. always gets read. Why? That’s not important now.

    What is important is for you to include a P.S. in your “sales letter” that’s so intriguing, employers will have no choice but to call you to learn more.

    That’s what Paul did. Here’s the P.S. he wrote, following my advice:

    P. S. – Please call me if you would like to learn how I produced over $70,000 in grant money for the Minnesota Trucking Association last year.

    This is simple and brilliant. Just as the opening question of Paul’s letter forced readers to nod and answer Yes, the P.S. forces them to say, Huh? Then, pick up the phone and call.

    In Paul’s case, he got two calls in two days, from two “sales letters.” And one new job. Here’s the rest of his letter to me:

    “I finished the second interview yesterday and was offered the job the same day! Best of all, I was able to negotiate a raise and I am convinced that if I had not rewritten my cover letter it would have never happened. Thank you!”

So, if your job search is sputtering, stop sending cover letters and start sending sales letters. Follow these three tips: open with a question, emphasize specific results, and include a P.S.

Now, go out and make your own luck!

- Kevin Donlin

Kevin Donlin is President of Guaranteed Resumes and creator of GetHiredNow.TV. Since 1996, he has provided job search assistance to more than 10,000 people. Author of "51 Ways to Find a Job Fast -- Guaranteed," Kevin has been interviewed by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, CBS Radio and others. His latest product, The Instant Job Search System, is available at www.gresumes.com