Example of Cover Letter Tactics That Give Your Cover Letters an Unfair Advantage

The problem for most job hunters is, not only has the job market changed dramatically, but so have basic job search tools like resume and cover letters. Today, everyone is working off the same examples and templates, and there are just too many competitors. If you’re not optimizing every piece of your application packet, someone else is, and when they interview, they will beat you.

Here is an example of cover letter tactics or two that will add kick to your cover letter and make you the candidate to beat:

1. Don’t talk in generalities. Precision is 7.2 times as persuasive as generalities (see what I mean). When you explain what you can do for the manager, back it up with numbers whenever possible, and make them as specific as information allows. “Hundreds of thousands” is better than lots. “More than 630,000” is better yet. And 649,261 is best (if the data backs it up).

Precision suggests that you’ve done the math. And you know what you’re saying. And precise numbers are typically more believable than SWAG’s. Get records if you can. If not, take the time to estimate from memory and do the math to figure out by number what you’ve achieved.

If you must guess, use the best guesses you can and remember how you put the numbers together in case someone asks. Finally, if you’re guessing, you may as well end your numbers in 7. It’s the most persuasive number for reasons that surpass understanding. And you’ll be implementing and additional example of cover letter tactics that your competition isn’t aware of.

2. If your application packet is going to be different on the inside, mark it as different on the outside as well. There are a variety of ways you can do this. If you want to use a regular first class envelope, mark it on the outside. You can write a note on it or use a red ink stamp. “First class mail” might be enough though you can be more creative. Try “The Information you requested is enclosed”. 

You can even use a different kind of envelope, manilla, 9X13 so you can mail your cover letter flat, or even special delivery if the employer is important enough to you. Just remember, all this will raise attention, its like tapping the recruiter on the shoulder in the middle of a conversation. Just make sure what you deliver on the inside merits the interruption.

That’s an example of cover letter tactics going outside the envelope. Just be certain that the job application you include inside lives up to the impression of the special mailer you create.

Three Simple Tips for Writing Effective Cover Letters!

Dear Mr Smith,

It is with great excitement that I am writing to you to submit my application for your advertised vacancy.

As you will see from my attached CV, I have 20 years experience working as an accountant and am a qualified CPA. I have worked in the past with a variety of clients from a wide range of industries and I look forward to being able to bring this experience into your firm.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my application and I look forward to being able to meet with you in person for an interview.

Yours Sincerely,

Fred Bloggs. CPA

OK, so that is obviously not a real cover letter, however you might be surprised to know that if it were, it would not be even close to the shortest or most generic I have received as a recruitment consultant or as a hiring manager. There is not anything that is particularly wrong with the example cover letter above, but there isn’t really anything great about it either. It does nothing more than introduce your CV. In my opinion that is an absolute missed opportunity!

In preparing this post, I thought about running through a cover letter paragraph by paragraph. In the end though, I thought it might be more constructive write a short and sharp post that covers what are three very simple (but very useful) tips that I hope will help you land more interviews!

Tip 1 – How do you meet the advertisers requirements?

I see so many letters that talk generally about what skills, experience & knowledge that an applicant has. However, a lot of what the applicant has included does not actually address any specific requirements mentioned in the job ad. Don’t get me wrong, it is always important to showcase and to be proud of your experience & achievements. That said, if you want your application to really stand out, try to specifically address how your skills, knowledge and experience suit the position based on your understanding of the vacant role (from the ad, job description, etc.).

Tip 2 – Show you have done some homework!

If the advertisement you are responding to has been advertised directly by the employer (as opposed to a recruiter), try to learn about the company. Look at their website, talk to anyone you know that works or has worked there, Google search, etc. You can then use what you have learned in your cover letter. For example:

“Before writing this letter, I wanted to learn more about Xyz Pty Ltd and from my research was incredibly impressed with the number of positive customer reviews I found online as well as with the business being recently certified as carbon neutral.”

This can be a great way to show that you have a genuine interest in the role and the business as opposed to just sitting on a job site sending out applications to everything you see.

Tip 3 – If you are using a template letter make sure you update it!

If you are following the first two steps, the process of using the same letter each time may prove more difficult as you will be constantly changing larger parts of the letter to specifically address the role you are applying to. However, the structure of your letter and the opening and closing for example should be much the same. Try and always save a copy (Save As) rather than just overwriting your current template, and give the letter a unique file name. Something I have seen quite a lot of over my career is people sending in cover letters that might be addressed to other recruitment agencies or people and for completely unrelated roles. It is unfortunate when this happens (and I assure you, it happens more than you may think!) because the applicants have in many cases destroyed any hope of getting an interview for that specific role. So ‘Save As’, then ‘Save’ often!

I really hope you find these three tips useful when writing cover letters. If you have any questions about the process of writing letters or have some other tips you might like to share, please feel free to post a comment below.

Cover Letters and the Sense of Urgency Myth

You can learn and take advantage of the same principle businesses spend billions of dollars to broadcast. Many job hunters are working from a position of weakness and are therefore hesitant to create a sense of urgency in their resume cover letters. They believe they must be available at all times for a potential employer and that will somehow demonstrate their determination and motivation. These job hunters often close their cover letters with “I am available any time for an interview” or something to that effect.

These same job seekers surmise that if they limit themselves in any way the employer will somehow see them as a nuisance or less valuable. This is the myth. The opposite is true. Limitation in itself creates value. That is supply and demand. And no matter what the employment environment or job market is, you can put supply and demand on your side every time. How? You are a unique asset! There is only one of you. Limit your availability and create a sense of urgency.

Perception is the same even in a buyers’ or employers’ market. When an employer receives 200 resumes and cover letters for the same position that all are available anytime, and one comes in with limited availability, that one job hunter suddenly stands out and is perceived as having more value.

Professional marketers and successful business owners know a sense of urgency drives people to buy. That’s why every sale is for a limited time and why coupons expire. Car dealers take full advantage of the sense of urgency in their advertising. Here is an excerpt from a radio commercial I heard recently for a local auto dealership:

Today we are offering possibly the greatest deals on new cars in history with our inventory reduction blowout. Hurry in now because this sale offer is for this weekend only and our stock is running out and will be gone soon.

Wow! Those two lines pack a punch. Sounds like I could miss out on a once in a lifetime sale and there is a double sense of urgency; this weekend only and if I don’t hurry the cars could be gone before I get there. Car dealerships use these ads again and again because they work. People respond to a sense of urgency. You can use the same principle in your resume cover letters:

Today I am offering possibly the greatest employer deal in history with an inventory reduction sale. Hurry and call me now because my skills are running out and will be gone soon.

OK this needs some tweaking! Sending out writing that sounds like car dealership advertising might make some HR personnel laugh but will probably not produce the results you are seeking. Obviously you don’t want to state your skills will be running out soon, but you can create urgency and limit your availability. Create urgency in cover letters by letting the employer know you will only be in their city until a certain date, or that you are contemplating another project and will no longer be available after a certain date.

If the date passes and you are not contacted by the employer you can still approach them again later. Look for real scenarios that create urgency and do not fabricate here. You can also simply state that after a certain date you expect to no longer be available: period. You can limit your availability by offering employers two or three interview times on different days. You can also do this by stating window of opportunity period such as a week that you will be in their city or town.

I Have a Confession

My personal system for screening resumes and making interview decisions for hiring at my office is unparalleled. I utilize automated contact software synchronized with my calendar. My smart phone tells me who I need to contact and when at any given moment wherever I am. All that is backed up by a live assistant.

Yet despite all my technology and cracker jack assistant, here is what often happens: While reading cover letters and resumes already screened by HR I find a candidate I want to interview and mark them with a yes; contact. Then before we reach that job hunter or before we interview him or her, a better cover letter arrives that has incorporated marketing tactics such as a sense of urgency. The urgency in the cover letter appeals to and hooks me. I waste no time and call or email the person immediately. (Notice I said a better cover letter; not necessarily a better resume.)

This candidate now has a head start over the rest of the job hunters and if we make contact and get together fairly quickly, and the person lives up to his or her qualifications, the position is filled before an interview is ever conducted with the first or earlier candidate.

Marketing Tactics for Cover Letters 101: Create a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency causes people to act now. Your cover or connect letter must cause employers to contact you. Your words must work to make that happen immediately, while they are reading your letter. You must create a sense of urgency.