It’s imperative to stack the deck when you’re reaching out to prospective employers. In addition to your cover letter and resume, create a customized marketing letter to send first to every prospect. Never send out generic form letters. Do enough research about each potential employer so that you can easily tailor the letter to the specific position you’ve targeted.
While you will customize each letter, you can build a basic template that captures the core of what you need to say. It should be brief but loaded with your past accomplishments. Think of it as the tool that puts you front and center before you can walk into the hiring manager’s office. If you send it without your resume, the secretary who intercepts it will be thrown a bit off balance. He or she will be reluctant to just send it off to personnel without the boss seeing it. That’s more of an attention-getter. Whether you are responding to an ad or cold contacting local employers or university alums, it’s a different way to get the decision-maker’s attention.
Marketing letters are most successful for an experienced person who can emphasize a number of past achievements or for strong performers whose qualifications don’t quite fit the job.
- Opener: State your most significant, quantifiable job success immediately. Example: “As a senior account executive, I consistently averaged annual 16% growth on active accounts, 20% on new business.” For a graduate, say: "I graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky with a 4.0 grade point average in economics."
- Second paragraph: State what you want. Example: “If your company seeks a seasoned account executive, you will want to review my other successes.” A new graduate could use instead: “You will want to review my background.” The next step is to list up to five achievements that will motivate the employer to want these things for his company. Graduates or job seekers changing careers will want to list course or volunteer work or related experience.
- Follow with one or two paragraphs describing your educational background and work history. Always pull from your strengths and omit less impressive or irrelevant qualifications to the specific job. If your professional experience is more impressive than your education, put the job-related material first. Try to summarize your professional experience succinctly. Example: “I provide 22 years of experience as a sales manager and have supervised up to 80 account executives and multiple regions throughout the U.S.”
- Always close with the statement that you are available to meet at the employer’s convenience to provide more background details. If you aren’t pursuing a specific job but are trying to find an opening in a targeted company, indicate that you are excited to meet in person to discuss available opportunities.
Keep in mind that, as a routine practice, you can send a marketing letter before sending a cover letter and a resume. It gives you a chance to present yourself differently than others might.
Carol McKibben has 20 years experience as a C-Level Executive in the publishing and technology industries. She addresses human resources from a hiring manager’s perspective.