You can learn a lot about how to write a powerful cover letter, not by reading books on cover letters written by employment experts, but by reading your junk mail.
That's right: Start reading the sales letters you get in the mail if you want to write cover letters that produce job interviews.
That's because, as far as is known, nobody ever got rich writing books on cover letters.
But there are plenty of copywriters who earn more than $500,000 per year and $50,000 per letter.
They get this kind of money for writing sales letters that sell in the millions of dollars.
And, since your job search is ultimately a sales and marketing campaign, why not take your cover letter cues from the letters written by highly paid copywriters?
Here are four ways to do it ...
1) Begin with a Name
When's the last time you bought something from a sales letter that began, "Dear Occupant"?
I thought so.
Because, if the writer doesn't even know your name, how are they going to understand your situation enough to deserve getting your hard-earned money?
Employers think the same way.
Why should they give you their money -- in the form of salary -- if you start your cover letter, "Dear Sir or Madam"?
So, it behooves you to start every cover letter with the name of the hiring authority. Make as many phone calls as it takes to find that person's name.
Here's a script to use when you call: "I'm writing a letter to the head of your Accounting/Customer Service/Warehousing Department. Could I have the correct spelling for that person's name please?"
2) Know Your Reader, Then Prove It
Your cover letter should show that you researched the employer. The more relevant, specific facts you can include in your letter, the better your odds that at least one of them will connect with the reader.
Every company hiring has problems to solve and opportunities to capitalize on.
Find them by asking the people you know personally and professionally. Good places to start are your email address book, followed by Linkedin.com. You can also try Facebook, MySpace and Zoominfo.com.
Google can provide a mountain of intelligence. Your main task will be to prioritize which facts to include and which to leave out of your cover letter.
In fact, if you don’t have room for everything, that can be good!
In your cover letter, include two or three relevant bits of information from your research, then language to this effect: “There isn’t room here to discuss all the ways I can contribute to ABC Corp., so please call me today to learn four more areas I can help you with, including the $750,000 opportunity mentioned in yesterday’s New York Times.”
3) Turn I, Me, My into You, You, You
Read any good sales letter and one of the most common words will always be YOU.
That's because good copywriters understand human nature, and how natural it is to be selfish. We care about ourselves first and foremost.
And, because hiring managers are human, they care more about themselves and their problems than about you and yours.
With that in mind, you can instantly improve any cover letters by making one, simple change: Turn all the mentions of “I, me, mine” into “you, You, YOU.”
Example: Don’t write, "I’m applying for a job where my skills will be rewarded with the opportunity for me to advance."
Write this: "You will benefit from my 11 years of accounting experience, which will help make a rapid contribution for your clients and your bottom line."
4) End with a Call for Action
The best sales letters don't just peter out with language like, "Please drop us a line if you like our product."
Instead, they ask for specific action, NOW.
Here's the closing from a letter selling mini-trampolines (I bought one, by the way): "Seeing is believing, so send for your Tramp-o-matic 3000 today."
And here's one from a letter selling business book summaries (I bought this one, too): "One quick toll-free phone call -- 1-800-123.4567 -- or an online click to www.abc.net -- and we'll get your first two summaries off to you, plus your eight bonus summaries."
Need more ideas?
Here's a closing you can adapt to your needs: "Please call me today at 555-1212 and I'll tell you how the same sales skills that helped me produce $235,890 in revenue last quarter can quickly boost profits for you."
Or this: "Please call me today at 555-1212 and I'll explain how the same accounting skills that helped me save $35,950 in taxes last quarter can increase profits for you."
So, stop sending cover letters to employers, and start sending sales letters instead.
When you do, you can’t help but sell more of them on the idea of hiring you.