While many employment ads provide only the barest information, some are quite explicit. Jobs posted on job bulletin boards or on the Internet are usually fairly detailed. To create a top quality cover letter in response to a detailed description, first analyze the ad by listing all of the key requirements, and then list your experience, knowledge, and the results that qualify you for each point.
If you have little knowledge or experience in any given area, do not let that stop you from applying. The ad has indicated the background of the ideal candidate and that person may simply not be available. The standard wisdom is that if you meet more than half the requirements, and know you could do an excellent job, take the time to create a cover letter that is tailored for that position.
the matCh game
All of the cover letters you have just read sell the candidates, but there is another type of cover letter format that can be very effective. It is a cover letter that lists the key requirements from the ad and then demonstrates how the applicant more than meets the requirements.
To use this approach you should meet or exceed each point you select to respond to. Respond to only those points you have strength in. Be careful not to skip over too many as it will appear obvious you are holding back for a reason―such as having nothing to say! If you cannot provide decent responses to the majority of requirements, reconsider applying. If, however, despite knowing your odds are poor, you really want the job and believe you could be successful at it, go for it. This strategy is designed mainly to get you past the initial screening, which is by and large weighted on minimum qualifications. The screener will almost assuredly not be an expert in your field and will be working off a checklist. If the items on the list are not obvious in the resume and cover letter, expect to be eliminated.
The following example demonstrates why you want to do everything possible to avoid being eliminated by a screener. Sandra, a mechanical engineer with two years’ experience, applied for a position that she was excited about and felt she was perfectly suited for. Two weeks after sending her resume in response to an ad, she got a rejection letter. Rather than meekly accepting the rejection, she called the company and spoke to the hiring manager. She sold herself to him and intentionally made no mention of the rejection letter. Obviously impressed by what he was hearing, he asked her to stay on the line for a moment. While away from the phone he reviewed her resume and learned that a rejection letter had been sent out. He came back about three minutes later and told her to ignore the letter that might be arriving any day. He then set up an appointment with her. She interviewed for the position and got the job.
There are two major lessons to learn from this situation. It demonstrates how important it is for the resume and cover letter to fully sell you. In Sandra’s case, her resume was good but not particularly tailored to the job, and her cover letter was only adequate. The screener simply did not see her qualifications.
It also demonstrates the importance of not giving up. Many people have ultimately been hired because they did things that their competitors did not. Sandra very much wanted the job and knew she would be great at it, so she overcame her natural timidity and made that call. Although her heart was pounding as she rang the manager’s office, once she got him on the phone she comfortably described her experience and accomplishments. He immediately recognized her potential.
Obviously there was no guarantee that Sandra’s actions were going to have such a desirable outcome. It didn’t matter to her, however; she simply wanted a shot at it, and she gave it her best. While Sandra is to be admired for her gumption, a better-written presentation might have prevented its necessity.
For manufacturing and distribution
business. Accounting degree, 4 yrs experience,
strong PC and spreadsheet skills.
Will have GL, AP, AR, and office management
of Real World accounting software and
human resources practices desirable.
Our accountant is responsible for all aspects
of our accounting, works with our
outside CPA firm and reports directly to
the Pres. Send resume to A&B Concrete,
1348 NW Jubilee Road, Plano, TX 75075
analYzing an aD
Let’s see how Jill responded to an ad for an accountant. Her first step was to determine the key points. Then she identified the parts of her background that met the requirements. At this point she was not concerned with quality writing, just the matches. By the time she finished her list, the cover letter practically wrote itself. Notice how she covered every point in her analysis and then produced a very strong cover letter.
This cover letter will sell Travis very effectively. He also has an excellent resume to accompany the cover letter. Obviously a cover letter like this will take a little longer to compose than merely using your standard cover letter. That extra effort, however, can make a big difference in the number of interviews you obtain.
uSing Your own aD analYSiS to builD Your CoVer letter
After analyzing an ad, as demonstrated above, you can basically do two things with the information.
First, you can create a traditional cover letter as Jill did, touching on all or most of the ad’s points, without referring to them directly (e.g. general ledger, office management, accounts receivable, etc.). Or, as Travis did, list each point and respond directly and in detail. Either way you will create an excellent cover letter.
Tip: Performing this analysis will also strengthen your interviewing responses.