UPDATE: Click here to learn how to find your next job instead of waiting for it to find you.
This is the first of a three-part series offering concrete, actionable ideas for how to separate yourself from the pack in today’s feverishly-competitive job market using marketing and sales, instead of job hunting, techniques.
Part I: Your resume won’t get you a job. Not by itself, anyway. And probably not the version you’re using now. Still thousands of experienced professionals carpet-bomb the few openings available today with a resume and a 2-line cover letter.
A Sales Cover Letter with your resume can get you a job. More on this tool in a minute.
Look at a job search from the perspective of a search professional or committee, or hiring manager. Each is working with a thoughtfully-prepared Position Description that elucidates the typical responsibilities and candidate requirements for the position. Once advertised, the next step is to sort through 100 to 1,500 applications that consist mostly of 1-to-4 page resumes (all in different formats and with candidate data presented from the candidate’s perspective) and cover letters that often are not much more than two lines that say “check out my resume and you’ll see I’m a perfect fit.”
So who ends up doing the work to figure out if you’re a good fit and whether your resume should be moved to the top of the pile? The search professional/hiring manager? If you knew about the same position and met the hiring manager on the street, would you use that opportunity to hand over your resume, tell him/her to read it to see that you’re a perfect fit, and walk away? See where the mass mailing approach breaks down?
Look at it even another way…if you were doing your marketing, sales or business development job for your employer and met a potential customer on the street, would you just hand the prospect a brochure, tell them to read it to see that your product or service was perfect for them, and walk away? Probably not.
The Sales Cover Letter is your spokesperson on the hiring manager/search professional’s desk. It does the work of matching your skills, experience and accomplishments to each and every Position Requirement. It does so from the hiring manager’s perspective, but in your own voice. And in an ocean of two-line cover letters, your Sales Cover Letter will leap off the pile and speak directly to the hiring manager about your fit.
The basic construct of the Sales Cover Letter I’m suggesting looks like this:
Opening Paragraph: State the position for which you are applying.
Benefit Statement: State what the benefit to the employer will be if they hire you. If you don’t know, stop. You’re not ready to apply yet. Do your homework until you do know.
Why You Care: Explain your inspiration for seeking the position. If you can’t think of anything more thoughtful than “I want a job at your company” then don’t apply until you can. If you can’t express why you care, why should they.
Point-by-Point: This is the key section. Copy-and-paste the Position Description into your letter and break it down sentence by sentence or by each discernable criteria. Sometimes a Position Description will repeat criteria and it is OK to group them together. Under each criteria, take as much room as you need to make your case, but use clear, crisp, well-written sentences. Use bullet points as needed to make it an easy read. Only state verifiable facts. Emphasize results, not action. Quality versus quantity.
Call to Action: Invite the followup call, then stop writing. You’re done.
Q: Shouldn’t a cover letter be no longer than 150 words.
A: If your resume is littered with experience at Fortune 500 companies or category leaders (e.g. Google and Intel for tech; Procter & Gamble for CPG; etc.) and your career plan is to stay in the same industry, then 150 word cover letter might be enough. For most, this simply doesn’t work. Moreover, I have yet to see a Position Description that is only 150 words.
Q: How can I use the Sales Cover Letter when online job boards only provide for attaching a PDF of a resume and separately including a cover letter of 750 words or less in a text window?
A: Create a personalized Sales Cover Letter according to the construct above and bundle your resume as the last pages so you produce a PDF that is all one document. Use the space provided by the online job board to explain how the employer will benefit from hiring you, and invite them to read further in the attached PDF Sales Cover Letter/Resume.
Q: What if I use the Sales Cover Letter format, but I don’t have skills or experience to list against every criteria?
A: Then you’re probably not qualified for the position and you shouldn’t apply. Sorry. The Sales Cover Letter also can serve as a filter to keep you from wasting your time and the hiring manager’s time.
Final Tip. If you use the Sales Cover Letter to its fullest potential, you are going to apply to 1/10th the number of openings you did previously, but you are going to make a 10x better application for each. It can take up to a week to write each Letter. I’m reminded of an old business joke…”we’re going to lose money on each unit, but we’ll make it up in volume…” The same is true here. If you’re not compelling in a single letter, sending out hundreds of half-hearted efforts isn’t going to improve your chances.
Tuesday: Part II: The Interview Binder
Wednesday: Part III: The Closing eBrochure