– WRITING EMPLOYMENT LETTERS - PART II –
What you say and how well you say it immediately tells the reader something about your written communication skills and intellectual capacity. If well constructed and carefully worded, an employment letter can create enough interest to grab the reader’s attention. Conversely, a poorly written letter can significantly reduce, or completely eliminate, your chances to interview for the best jobs. There is, of course, no guarantee that a well-written cover letter will get you an interview, but it will go a long way in determining whether you will be taken seriously as a viable job candidate.
Most cover letters in circulation today do little to catch the attention of the recipients who must read them. And while employers expect a cover letter, most tend to view it as nothing more than a transmittal sheet that is likely to be redundant to the executive resume (i.e., both documents contain the same basic information). In other words, the average cover letter rarely highlights the applicant’s ability to mesh with the executive team and make a meaningful contribution to the company. So the more you can tie your personal talents and value to the employer’s needs, the more you will increase the likelihood that you will be perceived as a qualified candidate worthy of further consideration.
Improving Your Response Rate When Responding to Blind Advertisements
One of the key requirements for preparing a high-impact cover letter is to identify the exact type of personal skills and talents required by the employer. But even when this information is provided in the ad, most people typically ignore its importance and continue to show their usual set of skills and talents, regardless of the fact that they may be of little interest to the hiring organization. By contrast, the more astute job hunters know the importance of focusing on what might be called the employer’s “wish list” of personal traits in order to improve their chances of receiving a quick response.
The Importance of Your Cover Letter’s Salutation
When answering a blind classified advertisement that does not identify the actual recipient’s name or the company’s name, it is permissible to use “To Whom it May Concern” or, “Dear Sir or Madam.” You might, however, consider using a more creative salutation such as, “Financial Turnaround Specialist” or “RE: More Profits for Your Company!” This type of promotion is a useful tool for distancing yourself from other job seekers using the more traditional versions, and also helps remove the likelihood that it will be viewed as getting mail addressed to “Dear Occupant.”
Conversely, if you are answering a blind advertisement that identifies the company’s name, but not the name of the actual hiring executive (many firms use an employment manager in Human Resources as the initial contact person), call the firm and ask for the name and title of the appropriate executive. For example, if you are responding to an advertisement for a Director of Operations, place a call to the company and ask the operator for the name of the Vice President of Operations. In all probability this person would be the actual hiring executive, or at the minimum he/she would have a significant amount of impact in terms of who is finally selected to fill the open position.
In this way, your credentials are likely to be received and read by the senior operations executive who will make the ultimate hiring decision, even if he/she later forwards it to the Human Resources Department. This means that you will not only have avoided the crowd, but in most cases you will have scored some points for your initiative and interest. It would be wise, however, to send a second copy of your credentials to the HR contact identified in the advertisement, as it will be needed in the event your executive resume never reaches the senior operations executive that you initially targeted.
Avoid Disclosing Your Current or Expected Salary
As a general rule you should never mention your current earnings or desired salary, even if it is requested in the advertisement. This is due to the fact that a salary considered very high or low is likely to disqualify you from any further consideration without so much as a telephone call to clarify your financial requirements. Occasionally, however, an advertisement may indicate that your executive resume will not even be considered unless you include either your current salary or desired compensation. In this case, it will be necessary to acquiesce and include the requested information since you do not want your credentials discarded without your qualifications even being considered.
Dealing With a Poor Response Rate
A one-page cover letter that successfully matches your personal talents and value to the position for which you are applying will help impress the hiring authority so that he/she moves on to your executive resume with more conviction. Should it become apparent, however, that your materials are not producing satisfactory results, do not let pride of authorship blind you to the fact that changes are likely to be required in both your cover letter and executive resume. But even if your materials are pulling well, it doesn’t mean they can’t be improved. Never let yourself become complacent.