If you're tired of submitting dozens — or hundreds — of cover letters without getting a response, it may be time to change your approach. One person attempted a strategy that focused on industry- and company-specific problems and her ability to solve them, and she achieved fantastic results. See what you think of her methods.
While job hunting in New York City, writer Lisa Siva decided enough was enough after sending out 103 applications that attracted zero responses. Siva increased her acceptance rate to 55 percent when she changed her strategy for writing cover letters.
1. Identify an Employer's Problem
Recognize an employer's problem in the introductory sentence of your cover letter, Siva suggests. For example, you might say, "As a 15-year veteran of Acme Brick, I understand how the ups and downs of the construction business work." You instantly show your experience within an industry while identifying a key problem. Instability among construction projects does present a cash flow problem for companies that provide construction materials. You, as a 15-year veteran with provable sales experience and numbers, represent a solution to the problem you outline with your simple sentence.
If you aren't sure as to what kind of problem to include in your cover letter, seek out someone who understands what's happening. This is where great networking skills come into play. Get to know colleagues within your industry, and reach out to people who work for a prospective employer. Add any relevant, succinct information to your correspondence so the hiring manager readily sees your top-level skills, talents and experience — not to mention your ability to identify and solve problems.
2. Emphasize the Issue
Remind the hiring manager just how painful the problem is within the industry. "You need someone who has experience within the construction industry, and I can deliver results that increase sales by 5 percent within 90 days." Note that you have concrete numbers that back up your claim. Saying you can add sales revenue only attracts more attention. Make sure you have proof that shows you did this at some time in the past.
3. Solve the Problem
Finally, you must relate how you'd provide a solution to the problem you presented a few sentences earlier. Siva explained her familiarity with a specific content management system, but the approach works for any industry. To continue the construction example: "I have dozens of contacts who work for builders, remodelers and contractors who need bricks. I worked for a contractor at one time, so I know various sides of how and why companies need construction materials. I can hit the ground running with my network and sales experience."
Again, you have solid numbers to back up the claims you make. Because your correspondence must be short and brief, fit as much relevant information into your lines as possible. Close out the letter with confidence by saying how much you would love to discuss how you can help at the hiring manager's earliest convenience.
Cover letters, whether required or not, get more interviews when you write them using strategic, company-specific scenarios. Rather than stuffing keywords into 10 to 12 sentences, solve a problem as you introduce your resume to an employer. If you follow Siva's advice, your acceptance rate may go through the roof.
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