“Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, And that had made all the difference.” The letter went on, “My career has not been one of just circumstances, but what has been right. And that has led me to …”
Zuckerman, president of PacTeam Group in Paramus, N.J., says he can’t remember more because he didn’t finish the letter.
But he remembers what he was thinking as he read it.
“What’s your point? Who are you? Can we get to the meat here? I love Robert Frost, but what are you doing? You have my attention for 30 seconds. You’re going to waste it while I read a poem?”
His advice: Make that glance count.
Another cover letter he received one fall started off like this: “It’s that time of year we are thankful and to enjoy some quality time with friends and family.” The next sentence said, “I have six years experience.” It had nothing do with anything, he points out.
What would he like to see in a cover letter — and quickly?
A letter that in so many well-chosen words covers these three points:
1. Hello, I was excited to see that your company does such and such.
2. I noticed in your job posting that you need these particular skills and experiences.
3. I’ve been doing that exact thing, and here is how I can help you.
Instead, a lot of people feel compelled to write something “creative” that makes them stand out. But getting attention for the sake of creativity is missing the point.
The point is to write a rousing cover letter that enhances your chances of getting to the next step — a follow-up phone call, e-mail or interview.
Throw your prospective employer a bone: Find out about the growth plans for the doggie day care where you want to work and tell how your expertise can make that possible. (Photo: Getty Images)
Instead of getting attention, think of your cover letter as setting the tone, as an entryway into the mind of a potential employer. Remember, this is an employer’s first impression and based on that, this person is deciding very quickly whether to go further.
Another awful way to make your first connection is to be too casual.
“Hey! How are you?” wastes precious time.
This is a business letter. Write it like one.
It doesn’t have to be stilted and uninspiring, but you’re not talking to your buddy either.
And don’t ever start with this: “I have a degree in mathematics and am presently looking for an opportunity.” Telling an employer what you want and the degree you possess does nothing to address what’s on her mind: “What will you do for me?”
Enter the employer’s world. If you were that person, what does a job applicant need to say to show an understanding of your business and what you need?
How about something like this: “I read about your new facility and goal to open offices in Indiana and Michigan.” Then explain how your skills and background can help her achieve those goals.
Make it impossible for her to not want to learn more.
Or how about: “When I heard you speak at the Bring Fido dog convention in Wisconsin, I was intrigued with your goal to build doggie day cares in four urban areas by April.”
Share details about why you, with your in-depth expertise in operations and passion for taking care of animals, can help do this. Show your excitement about what the employer is trying to achieve and how you’re the person needed.
And to make that glance pay off, impart that message in the very first sentence then keep on going until the very last word.