Executive Question - Cover Letters

With so many Executive Search firms and so many recruitment and job sites offering advice on "how to write the perfect cover letter", it is difficult to really gauge just what the core fundamental rules of writing a cover letter are, particularly when there is so much conflicting evidence. What is the advice of the AESC, and those experts who consult Bluesteps members?

Danny Huffman, co-founder of Career Services International, explains how to write the perfect cover letter:

"Being a career coach and professional writer, I receive questions of this nature often. I’ll be the first to tell you, there is no such thing as a “perfect cover letter,” but if you begin with the stated question, “what does the reader need to know from a cover letter?”, the answer makes writing the letter, if not easy, at least less confusing. Here’s what the reader needs to know:

  • What position is this candidate applying for?
  • Is this candidate qualified for that position?
  • Can this candidate solve my problem?
  • What does this candidate want me to do?

The company and industry determine qualifications and what problems they face, making every cover letter different. A well-qualified career services firm can create a cover letter (and resume) that answers these questions completely, concisely, and in a compelling manner. In addition, it is formatted to magnify impact. At Career Services International, all of our writers are certified and follow the guidelines of The National Resume Writers Association, Career Management Alliance, The Professional Resume Writers Association, and Career Directors Institute. Using data triangulation (industry demands, company needs, and client value), cover letter subjectivity is replaced with an objective approach.

According to leading career management associations, effective cover letters must satisfy the following core fundamental rules:

Proper Format: The typical cover letter consists of three or four paragraphs:

  • First paragraph briefly introduces your goal position or role and the immediate value you offer. Present your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments to display your qualifications.
  • Second and third paragraph supports your qualifications. Anyone can claim; be one of the few to show the reader you have what it takes. Numbers (dollars and percentages) to quantify accomplishments are critical. Using 3 to 5 bullets to draw the reader’s eye and emphasize your accomplishments is a strong strategy. These accomplishments demonstrate your ability to solve a manager’s problems.
  • Final paragraph is your call to action. Be clear; request a meeting to discuss the company’s goals and how you can fulfill them.
Attention to Detail: Cover letters must be flawless and original:
  • Banish templates; they are the enemy of originality and conformity.
  • Guide the reader’s eye by organizing your letter with white space, well-used bolding (not too much!) and legible fonts.
  • Grammatically perfect. One error overrides everything you’ve done right.

Your cover letter is not just an introduction; it is the written vehicle lifting you above the crowd and bridging your career dreams to reality. Be careful and if you decide assistance is required, we’re a mouse click or phone call away.

I recently published my ninth book on career management issues and, on a side note, my latest, Resumes & Cover Letters: Writing to Stand Out, examines today’s question. If you decide professional guidance is needed or if you would like a professional review of your resume and/or cover letter, know Career Services International has assisted thousands of BlueSteps members and has been part of the BlueSteps network for several years.

All BlueSteps Members are entitled to a complimentary resume review with Career Services international.

Do you have a question related to your career management? Join BlueSteps Now to take advantage of this unique opportunity to understand the viewpoint of the BlueSteps Team of Experts, which includes Search Consultants, Resume Writers, Career Consultants and Compensation Experts.

By Danny Huffman, Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP) and a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC), as well as co-founder of Career Services International (an executive career management company catering to senior and six-figure professionals. As an experienced executive writer and noted author, Danny has assisted thousands of professional across the globe.


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