What’s the goal of a cover letter? A cover letter, like the résumé, is a sales and marketing document that’s designed to make people want to call you! It is NOT along dissertation on why you’re looking for a new job, nor is it a repeat of the content on your résumé. The cover letter is a prime opportunity to set yourself apart; if you take the time to craft an interesting, compelling letter, you will greatly increase your response rate!
The Requirements of a Reinvention Cover Letter
From a career reinvention perspective, your cover letter must explain how your background is relevant to your target career. Do NOT leave this for your prospective employer to figure out! If you cannot explain how what you have done applies to their situation, they certainly won’t be able to understand. This is a quick way to end up in the “no thanks” pile.
You must analyze job postings (or network with your contacts) to determine what skills, talents and results your target market wants in your desired role. Your reinvention cover letter should then clearly describe how your skills and talents will be useful in helping prospective employers achieve their goals.
For this, you must learn to describe your background in a different way. List the job functions you’ve performed that are directly relevant to what they’re seeking, and include your accomplishments using the PAR framework.
More tips for writing an effective reinvention cover letter:
- Keep it short.
- No more than one page, maximum!
- “Close” the deal!
- This means asking for the interview and, if it’s not a blind posting, telling the prospect you’ll follow up with them.
- Stay away from opinions.
- Do not make statements about your work that are basically a matter of opinion. For example, do not say “Wrote witty and hilarious copy for 10 websites.” “Witty and hilarious” is a matter of opinion; “Wrote copy for 10 websites” is a statement of fact.
- Use the language of the industry.
- As with the résumé, include terms that are commonly used in your target industry or, if you’re responding to an advertised position, include some of the language from the listing. Do NOT, however, just copy every phrase from the posting in your letter—this will make you look unimaginative. Take a few key phrases (look for their ‘hot buttons’) and weave them into your letter.
- Make your letter about them, not you.
- This is a subtle problem. Because you’re pitching them, you cannot avoid talking about yourself. But be careful that you don’t fall into the “I” trap where your whole letter is focused on what you want. Danger phrases include: ‘I’m looking for a change’, ‘I would love to work for your company’, ‘This position sounds like a great opportunity for me”. These types of sentences are big red flags to hiring managers; they indicate that the candidate is more concerned about getting their needs met than helping the company achieve its goals. To avoid this trap, change your phrasing to statements such as: “I’d like to discuss how my skills and talents can help you,” “I’m confident that I can add value to your team,” or “I’d like to make a contribution to your mission.”