The Importance of a Strong Cover Letter


Importance of a Strong Cover Letter

Why does one resume seem to jump off the page and command attention while a dozen others land in the “maybe” pile?  It’s not just the qualifications of the candidate. Interviewers will admit that the most impressive resumes are often not from the candidate with the highest qualifications.

Outline of a Career Snagging Resume

So what’s the secret of preparing a career snagging resume? The first impression isn’t the resume at all – it’s the cover letter (you must be sending a cover letter). The typical cover letter says:

Dear HR Manager,

Enclosed is my resume for review. I’m applying for the new wound care specialist position. You can see my experience on the attached resume.

Thank You,

Hopeful But Weak Candidate

There’s a ho-hum introduction. What it really says to the manager is:

Hey there – I’m too lazy to write a letter so I’m going to count on you to figure out why this job is right for me. Let me know when you want me to start!

A commanding resume cover letter starts with more than a vague reference:

Dear Mr. Marvin,

Improving outcomes with commitment to provide high quality patient care is a mission that so closely resonates with my work ethic that I know my skills can be the right fit for your new wound care specialist position.

Notice that the job seeker took time to research the company website and find the mission statement. Then, by carefully wrapping a phrase from that mission statement into the opening sentence, there was a subliminal pull to the manager to keep reading.

That connection was further used to create a sense of already being part of the company by sharing a belief system. What a great way to get Ms. Marvin (not just “To Whom It May Concern” or “Human Resources Department”) in a positive mood to read the resume!

Next, the resume must be as powerful and compelling as the cover letter. A great cover letter won’t make up for a weak job history. But a great cover letter can overcome a lack of job experience for a newcomer to the job market by showing interest and intent.

Frequently, the opening statement will be a vague “please hire me” request such as:

I am seeking new challenges with an organization that is a leader in the wound care and offers opportunities for personal and professional advancement.

Yawn. How many times has an interviewer read that one? Frankly, the interviewer doesn’t care what you want. His job is to care about what the facility wants. In writing those opening statements, keep in mind the famous quote for the late President John F Kennedy:

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

So use that as a reminder to put the focus back on what you bring to the facility.

I am a strong candidate for New Wound Care Specialist because I bring to Long View Wound Care Center the right experience, training and motivation to exceed expectations for this position and also achieve my personal goals for career advancement.

See the difference this win-win introduction makes.

Carefully review your resume draft to see that it’s specific without belaboring the point. Rather than say, “Voted Outstanding Employee of the Quarter” three times, let the reader know why that’s impressive.

Instead say, “Voted Outstanding Employee” for three consecutive quarters over eight other wound care professionals.  If you’re applying for a job where there aren’t regular competitions or others with your job title, then give a specific about what you did.

Don’t say, “Improved the wound care outcomes.”  Instead say, “Implemented a new protocol that increased patient outcomes by 38% over the previous year.”

Giving specific examples of your achievements are only good if truthful. Never stretch the facts to make it sound better than reality.  Even if you are changing industries and are tempted to puff up the statistics since you think “they’ll never know,” you might be shocked when the prospective boss is so impressed with the numbers that he asks about them in checking your references.  Or he might ask another HR manager in that field only to learn that your claims are highly inflated to the point that you are simply a legend in your own mind.

If you choose to list awards or certifications, only give those that are relevant to this job search. It’s great that Rotary Club recognized your civic service to their group, but unless you can tie this directly to a job function or a company, who values community service, leave it off the resume.  If you have a certification that will be vital to the position for which you are applying, than make sure you talk about the WCC® credential.

Think of your resume as the “foot in the door” to get an interview. It’s your job history but it’s also your sales pitch. Use action oriented words that sparkle. Get away from repeating the expected: Developed, Implemented, and Directed and use keywords such as “Revitalized the current wound measurement guidelines,” “Synchronized protocols for wound dressings,” or “Solidified new nationally contracted products into our treatment guideline.”

Make your word choices cause the interviewer to want to know more.  In that way, there is an overall sense of accomplishment and improvement, yet it’s not revealing everything so there’s a sense of, “What does this candidate know that we need to know?”  This is followed by, “How soon can you come in for an interview?”