May 25, 2018

Jobseekers: Sign In | Sign Up Recruiters

Career Advice

Share this article:
Bookmark and Share

The So, What? Cover Letter Test

More of you write with questions about cover letters than any other topic. This week, I'd like to offer tips based on the book I wrote on this subject: "Resume and Cover Letter Secrets Revealed."

When you write a cover letter, does it hook employers and leave them no choice but to call you for a job interview?

If the answer is "No," you're not alone.

To succeed, every sentence in your cover letter must be compelling and must prove that you -- and nobody else -- are right for the job.

How do you achieve this?

Take the "So, what?" test. It can actually force you to write better cover letters than ever before.

It works like this. After reading every sentence in your next cover letter, ask yourself: "So, what?" Is that last sentence compelling, or fluff? Necessary? TRUE? If not, rewrite or remove it. Then ask yourself "So, what?" again.

Here are some real-world examples taken from cover letters I've seen this week.

BEFORE "I am currently employed with Oxydyne Systems in Detroit in the Production Logistic Equipment Assembly Division as a Technical Support Manager. (SO, WHAT?) I am willing to take up any engineering post." SO, WHAT?

AFTER "I am applying for a position where my eight years of engineering and end-user training experience will add value to logistical operations for your clients."

In the AFTER example, the writer clearly states the type of job he's seeking, while promising to add value for the employer's clients. Much more powerful.

BEFORE "The message you are now reading is not a typical cover letter with an attached resume. Please, do not be afraid to continue reading because this evolving communique describes what I can do for Stanley Publishing (SP), if I am chosen as its new Marketing Manager." SO WHAT?

Stop! Don't take forever to appeal to an employer's self interest. Often, you can find better opening paragraphs halfway down the page, as in this AFTER example:

AFTER "I am energized by the opportunity to achieve significant things for your firm. Here's what I can give to Stanley Publishing:

* Five years of publication and marketing experience for Fortune 500 clientele, resulting in repeat business, 210% revenue growth and three industry awards."

This AFTER example came from the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the cover letter, but works much better as an opening.

If every sentence passes the "So, what?" test, your cover letters will be concise, hard-hitting and irresistible to employers. So there!

-Kevin Donlin

-copyright (c) by Kevin Donlin

For more information, click here: Resume and Cover Letter Secrets Revealed

Kevin Donlin is President of Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1996, he and his team have provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients in all 50 states and 23 countries. Kevin has been interviewed by USA Today, CBS MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal's National Business Employment Weekly, CBS Radio, and many others.

Top of Page