As with resumes, there is no such thing as a one-size fits all cover letter, especially if you are using a template. A templated cover letter is immediately noticeable to the trained eye of a recruiter and diminishes your chances of getting an interview. It shows you were not motivated enough or talented enough to sprinkle in your research and/or pull all the pieces of your background together for the reader. That makes your letter a missed opportunity. I would rather see you use no cover letter than a cover letter that misses the opportunity to strengthen your case. OK, so template cover letters are out. So, how you do write a cover letter that can really help your case?

 

Step One- Determine from the job description, networking, Google searches, and the company website what skills and experience the company seeks most.

Step two- Summarize the most relevant skills and experience you have, not in general, but specifically for the role you are applying to in the first sentence of your letter- before attention wanders.

 

An Example:

Let’s say the company you are applying to sells biotechnology products and services to pharmaceutical companies. Easy enough to find this out. The job description states the company seek a Sales Executive who has managed a Northeast U.S territory that has sold biotechnology products to the pharmaceutical and academic research verticals.

As you begin to write, remember the goal is to capture the reader’s attention as fast as possible by stating you have what the company seeks in the first sentence of the letter.

Paragraph One- My extensive background selling biotechnology products and services to the pharmaceutical and academic verticals in the Northeast U.S. should be of interest to your search for a “Territorial Sales Rep.”

If I am the recruiter, I am certainly going to continue to read because the above sentence made it easy for me to see you are a candidate that has “the goods.”

Paragraph Two- Over the last 6 years, I have been selling laboratory and biotechnology products to small and medium sized pharmaceutical companies, as well as academic institutions. My territory is the Northeast and encompasses New York, Ct., Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Vermont. In the last three years alone, I have opened over 100 new accounts and generated over $4 million in sales. I am focused on new account development but also responsible for account retention and an overall excellent customer experience. Last year I received the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.

To be clear most of the information you just read was in the resume but if the recruiter read the cover letter, he appreciated the way you consolidated the most salient points of your candidacy right away and is already interested in reading the resume.

One caveat. Often, when sending cover letters, you do not have the perfect skills and experience the above candidate possesses. However, your cover letter would still sound similar and be structured the same way. For example, you may never have had a territory in the Northeast or sold biotechnology products. Perhaps you sold diagnostic equipment used by pharma companies in the Southwest. As you read the paragraph below, note the tone is the same and as much relevant info as possible is still packed into the first sentence.

My extensive background selling products and services to the life sciences community including the biopharmaceutical vertical should be of interest to your search for a “Territorial Sales Rep.”

Over the last 6 years, I have opened over 100 new accounts in a previously non-performing territory and generated over $4 million in sales. I am focused on new account development but also responsible for account retention and an overall excellent customer experience. Last year I received the President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement.

As the recruiter, I am still very interested in this candidate. Cover letters that are created specifically for one position that make a compelling case and pull all the reasons an employer should interview you together are still powerful. Don’t miss an opportunity to make your case a second time. Cover Letters Still Count.