Don’t Send a Cover Letter

by Donlin, Kevin Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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As a rule, most employers hate reading cover letters. Because nearly all of them are what I call, 3B: bland, boring and banal.

In fact, most cover letters are such formulaic exercises in boredom that I suggest you stop sending them to employers.

That’s right. Don’t send a cover letter.

Instead, send a sales letter.

After all, your goal in writing to employers is to “sell” them on hiring you, right?

With that in mind, here’s a success story that will help you stop sending cover letters, and start sending sales letters that get job interviews.

Paul D. from White Bear Lake, Minn. writes: “I met you at the Star Tribune job expo and I wanted to comment on your tip to write a sales letter rather than a cover letter. I took your advice and, after sending the new cover letter to apply for two jobs online, I had one call the same day for an interview! The other call came the day after.”

Paul batted 1.000 with the two cover letters he sent out. Not bad. And his story offers three lessons that can get you hired …


1) Get Attention by Asking a Question
You must get employers’ attention at the start of your letter and compel them to read. Otherwise, your letter won’t have any effect - bored readers will skim it, then rush to read your résumé.

An easy way to get attention is to ask a question. Why? Questions are hard to ignore - they engage and involve readers.

This is what I suggested at the job search seminar Paul attended. He took my advice and wrote a new cover letter that began like this:

Dear Mr. Peterson:

Are you looking for a professional marketing person who has demonstrated analytical and problem-solving ability, practical project management skills and excellent written and verbal communication skills?


Paul’s question practically forces readers to answer, Yes! And if you can get employers to nod in agreement while reading your “sales letter,” you’ve taken a giant leap toward getting hired.


2) Emphasize Specific Results
Which of the following statements is more interesting?

A) I’m a hard worker, honest and reliable, with excellent attention to detail.

B) I saved my last employer more than $1,000.

It’s B, of course. B makes a specific claim, while A is a list of generalities. All things being equal, the candidate who sprinkles results throughout his/her “sales letter” is more likely to get hired. Because that’s what ever person is hired to do at every employer - produce results.

That’s what Paul emphasized in his letter - specific results like these:

My attention to detail saved my company more than one thousand dollars in incorrect registration forms over six months.

Now, that isn’t perfect. I would use numerals (not words), put them first, and include a dollar sign, all of which makes the results more obvious. Like this:

I saved more than $1,000 for my company in 6 months, by finding and correcting registration forms.



3) End with a Provocative P.S.
Here’s where Paul hit it out of the park.

Remember, you want to send a sales letter, not a cover letter. And what do all sales letters have? A P.S. at the end. (Read your junk mail after you finish this article to verify this is true.)

Good sales letters have a P.S. because good copywriters know the P.S. always gets read. Why? That’s not important now.

What is important is for you to include a P.S. in your “sales letter” that is so intriguing, employers have no choice but to call you to learn more.

That’s what Paul did. Here’s the P.S. he wrote, following my advice:

P.S. – Please call me if you would like to learn how I produced over $70,000 in grant money for the Minnesota Trucking Association last year.

This is simple and brilliant. Just as the opening question of Paul’s letter forced readers to nod and answer Yes, the P.S. forces them to say, Huh? Then, pick up the phone and call.

In Paul’s case, he got two calls in two days, from two “sales letters.” And one new job. Here’s the rest of his letter to me:

“I finished the second interview yesterday and was offered the job the same day! Best of all, I was able to negotiate a raise and I am convinced that if I had not rewritten my cover letter it would have never happened. Thank you!”

Today, more than ever, you need to stop sending boring cover letters and start sending sizzling sales letters. To do so, follow these three tips: open with a question, emphasize specific results, and include a P.S.

Now, go out and make your own luck!