Don't Send a Cover Letter

  • Article by: KEVIN DONLIN , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: July 23, 2007 - 9:34 AM

Here's a recent success story that will help you stop sending cover letters, and start sending sales letters that get job interviews.

Kevin Donlin

Photo: Jamie Hutt, StarTribune.com

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As a rule, I hate reading cover letters. Nearly all 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 altogether.

That's right. Don't send a cover letter. Send a sales letter instead.

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

With that in mind, here's a recent 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, MN 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."

So, Paul batted 1.000 with the two cover letters he sent out. Better yet, he e-mailed me his cover letter, which 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. Because bored readers will skim over the document, then rush off to 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 expo 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 gets attention and causes the reader 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.

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Kevin Donlin