How to start your resume cover letter so it gets read every time

Your goal when sending your resume is to get an interview. Unfortunately, all too many never even get read. Maximize the chances that yours will end up in the right hands, and that interview call will come, with these powerful tips.

You know you’ll never get to the interview if your resume ends up in the round file, instead of on the hiring manager’s desk. One powerful way to do that is with a great cover letter. Unfortunately, many cover letters simply don’t do their job; getting your resume read. Here’s how to start your resume cover letter so that employers can’t wait to read your resume.

Just as with an advertising headline, your cover letter has to take them by their lapels and demand attention, right from the get go. If you wait, most readers will simply scan it, and set it aside, or drop it straight into the filing bin beneath their desk from which things never return.

Your Opening – Just Advertising by Another Name?

Many of the same advertising headline rules apply, but avoid anything too sensational. You want to stand out from the crowd, but still be taken seriously. The goal here is to draw the reader in, so that they can’t wait to get to the next part of your letter. Few other applicant s will do this, preferring instead to begin with the same, tired expressions as almost every other. That spells opportunity for  you to break to the front of the pack.

The word that best describes an effective cover letter opening is “compelling”. Your opening should pull the reader in and make them not want to put the thing down, even if they started reading with indifference.

A powerful technique to grab the reader’s attention is name dropping. Just as it gets attention when you casually mention you were in the president’s office the other day, leading your letter with the recipient’s or a mutual friend’s name almost leaves them with little choice but to read further. It’s just human nature. Don’t stop there, however. That’s just the beginning.

Go into something else that compels the reader to continue. What would do that? Mention any common experiences you’ve had, especially things associated with industry functions or the reader’s alma mater. Be sure to communicate the fact that you know what their company is working on and how you can help them in the opening paragraph.

What are some great ways to start your cover letter? An excellent question, that.

Here are some example openings you can use for inspiration when writing your cv:

“Mr. Jackson, your presentation at the regional conference was a real eye opener. That was powerful stuff. It made me realize that I would be the perfect fit for the vacant district manager position at XYZ Corp.”

“Jacqueline Masters suggested I contact you regarding your vacancy in the communications department. We have collaborated together on several projects for the EPA department and the skills I honed on those projects, and my unique background would make me a valuable asset for 123 company.”

Notice here how mentioning someone that the reader knows, and the fact that you’ve worked with them previously gives you instant credibility, as does the fact that you’ve worked for a well known company or agency. In addition, you’re implying a recommendation, and writing about your unique background arouses curiosity, leading the reader to continue.

“Here are 5 great reasons I am the best candidate for your vacant district sales rep position.” Naturally, anyone reading that with a vacant district sales rep position would want to know what those reasons were, leading them continue reading.

“Discover how I my unique skill set will let XYZ corp finally crack the tough north east market.”

This is a great opening for several reasons. First, it leads with the powerful word “discover”. That word has been a favorite of copywriters for  as long as advertising has been around, because it arouses curiosity, an exceedingly compelling emotion. The reader will want to know more, so they’ll read to find out.

Ditto for referring to your unique skill set. Anyone hiring for a position will want to know what about your skill set is possibly that unique, and if it really can help them. Next, you’re using a stated goal that shows you know something about the company and their specific objectives. That speaks volumes about you as a candidate. The fact that you are saying you can help them with a specific problem they have instantly elevates you as a candidate, and leads to further reading.

Do the research, and if possible find out who will be opening your letter. That helps you personalize it, and gets it through the corporate maze. Getting the letter to  the proper person is essential. It doesn’t matter how great your opening is, if the correct person never sees it.

Remember, it’s the headline and the opening paragraph where you get the chance to pull the reader in and get them on your side, so to speak. Once you’ve done that, the rest of your task is so much easier, and your chances of being called for an interview increase exponentially.

“Warning, Warning, Warning!”

If you are from my generation of black and white tv programs to color, than you probably remember “Robot” from Lost in Space. He walked around all the time saying, “Warning, Warning, Warning Will Robinson.” He had an uncanny way of knowing when danger was looming in front of them or around them. Let me be your Robot for just a moment….

“Warning, Warning Warning!” Do you take the time to determine whether you are stepping into the right job, the right organization for the right reasons? Or, are you soooo desperate for a J-O-B, that you will jump out of a bad situation into a worse situation?

“Warning, Warning, Warning!” It is very important that you find out about at least 4 things to determine if the opportunity is really right for you.

  1. Do your values align with the organizational values?
  2. Do you clearly understand the overall scope of the job you are interviewing for?
  3. What about the boss? Can you work for this person?
  4. What is the overall organizational climate?

Do your values align with the organizational values? If your organization values winning at any cost, but you don’t, that is an immediate conflict and you will not survive in that organization without changing. If your company values 60 hour work weeks and you are only willing to work 45 hours per week because you value family over the additional 15 hours, you will have conflict and again, you will not survive in the organization. You are responsible to ask questions that will give you a clear picture of the organization before saying yes. Research will help with this as well.

Do you clearly understand the scope of the position? What is the job title? What are the key roles and responsibilities? Who are the key stakeholders? What is your span of control? What are the critical objectives you need to accomplish in the first 30, 60 or 90 days? Ask this question in the interview. If you say yes before knowing this you will be in trouble and may be potentially setting yourself up for failure.

What about the boss? I know for me personally, I like to understand the leadership style of my boss. I will not work for a micro-manager. PERIOD. I need a strong leader, not milk toast, afraid to make a decision. If you had a bad experience with your previous boss, get clear on the new one. You might find the new one is worse than the one you have.

What is the overall organizational climate? There are some organizations that you walk into, it is 90 degrees and sunny outside. It is pleasant. Everybody “appears” to be happy, enjoying their job. But there are other organizations that are zero degrees and freezing outside. These organizations are painful to work in. People are rude to one another, and people are afraid to breathe. If you are uninterested in working for a syrupy sweet organization, versus a highly rigid organization, make sure you know it before you say “YES”.

“Warning, Warning, Warning! Danger Will Robinson or whatever your name is…” My intention in this post is to warn you about the potential pitfalls of making a quick decision when in the job market. “Jumping out of the fire into the frying pan.”

Warning, Warning, Warning! Take responsibility for finding out about the new organization before you say YES! If you play to win this game of interviewing, you will have heeded the warnings and you will find yourself in the right organization, doing the right thing at the right time! Have FUN!