There's a fine line between smart marketing and sales gimmicks when it comes to writing cover letters. I've heard some talk about making your resume cover letter punchy with a few "new" techniques. So, of course, I have to put my two cents into the conversation.
Resume Cover Letter Advice: Agree or Disagree?
Not all of these points are new, but they're worth discussing because job seekers (you may be one of them) wonder if they should follow this cover letter advice. Here's what I think...
1. Write your letter to a specific person in the company.
Absolutely, if it's at all possible to get the right person's name. You might even call the company and ask the receptionist for the name of the manager of the department where you want to work. I think that's good detective work.
2. Reference someone at the start of the letter.
Well, maybe. It all depends on how you know that person, and how well-regarded your referrer is in the eyes of the person you're writing to. For example, if you start your cover letter by referencing the receptionist it could be a mistake if you don't really know her. She could be a temp or about to be fired, in which case you could be throwing your money on a losing race horse.
Even if you get the manager's name from someone at a higher level, it's good to know more about the relationship between the referrer and the manager. Let's say you meet someone from ABC Company who tells you the name of the manager in the department where you'd like to work. Ask a few questions about how these two people know each other, what projects they've had... dig a little to see if there's a hint of good will or animosity. While it could be your winning ticket to be referred by a potential boss's friend, it won't help a bit to be recommended by his enemy.
3. Make your cover letter a sales letter.
Yes and no. You resume cover letter is a sales letter in the sense that it pitches you to the recruiter or hiring manager. It should also paint a picture of you at the job interview by showing that you know what the company does, what value you offer, and what you'd like to discuss in person. While saying this, your cover letter should reveal your professional personality so the reader gets a sense of you — the person he'll be sitting with in the interview.
But an over-the-top sales letter is not appropriate for most job objectives. It may work very well for sales, marketing, and promotion jobs where a "salesy" approach is expected and valued. But that same sales letter approach will likely fall like a rock off a cliff for an IT professional, accountant, school teacher, and frankly most occupations not involved with sales. (Check out my sample cover letters to see what I think works for most types of work.)
4. Use blue ink for the signature.
This may be true for hardcopy cover letters; I haven't done any research on that. But these days, most job seekers send their resume cover letters via email — not hardcopy snail mail. I strongly advise that you not use blue type in your cover email or attached cover letter.
5. Write a PS message that reels the reader in. Your PS will be read first after seeing who the resume cover letter is from.
I like this advice — for hardcopy cover letters. I honestly think people do read a PS at the end of a letter before reading its content. I know I do when I'm scanning junk mail. But again, how does this apply to email? If the PS is below the fold (meaning you have to scroll the message to see it), then there's no advantage to having it way down at the bottom of your letter. In fact, it could easily not get read at all.
As for putting something gimmicky in the PS (such as mentioning that you're sending a mysterious gift in a few days), I don't recommend it unless you're going for a position in sales, marketing, or promotions.
Okay, I've given my opinions. What do you think? Can you add to this list of ways to improve a resume cover letter?