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Cover Letters: How To Get Yours Read

by Lorraine Rise M.S., CPRW

I am often asked by clients if cover letters are even necessary anymore. Do a quick internet search and you are sure to find articles telling you that the cover letter is dead. While I don't believe that cover letters are as widely read as they used to be, many employers still consider them. Particularly, if the application asks for it, then you should send it.

The key is to write a cover letter that adds value to your résumé and application. As with your résumé and LinkedIn profile, it's all about addressing the employer's problems. In fact, the cover letter has become known to some in the career coaching world as a "pain" letter because you are addressing the pains, or problems, of the employer to get their attention.

Many job seekers make the fatal mistake of writing a cover letter that is all about them. Take a look at your current cover letter and count how many times you use the word "I". Is the overall tone of the letter about you and what you want and need, or the employer? Your opening paragraph should address something of relevance to them.

Here's an example of an "applicant-based" opening paragraph:
I am very interested in your position for a Business Development Manager on I possess the right skills and experiences for this position. Enclosed is my résumé that highlights additional details about my professional experience.

Here's an example of an "employer-based" opening paragraph:
In response to your need for a Business Development Manager, I would like to present my résumé for your review and consideration. As someone with extensive experience in the software industry, I understand all too well the competitiveness and ever-changing nature of the IT market today, and the challenges that companies like yours face in expanding their market share.

Can you tell the difference? The first one is very basic and does not add any value. The second one seeks to understand and relate to the employer, not just state the candidate's interest in the position. Go beyond the obvious and seek to reach employers on a deeper level. This will take a bit of research, as well customization in your writing, but the payoff will be worth it.

Bonus Tip: Are you sending your résumé and cover letter directly to someone by email? Add your résumé as an attachment but your cover letter dialogue in the body of the email, not another attachment. This method has proven to increase the chances of the cover letter being read.