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Tips On How To Write An Effective, Creative Cover Letter

Updated on August 21, 2012

A FIRST DRAFT...

Here's a cover letter worth it's weight.
Here's a cover letter worth it's weight.

WHAT A COVER LETTER IS...

In today's ultra-competitive job market, job candidates must learn to write effective cover letters. First impressions are key. Make yours stick.

Creative cover letters that instantly grab a hiring manager's attention will force him to read your resume... which should always be a primary goal for every cover letter you write.

Having written dozens of these letters for a variety of situations, I've learned a few tricks on how to help yours rise to the top of the pile.

Cover letter tip number one:

TREAT YOUR COVER LETTER FOR WHAT IT IS: A SALES LETTER.

Every great sales letter opens with an arresting sentence or headline. Cover letters are no different. In fact, I like to treat the entire letter as an expanded resume headline. Just be sure not to sneak in every qualification. That's what your resume is for.

Be yourself. Be creative. But don't lie.

Here's an example. You're applying for an entry-level sales position listing the top requirements as: A college degree, a strong desire to succeed, excellent communication skills, and the willingness to learn new skills.

Wow. You hit the jackpot. Such an open-ended posting begs for a creative opening headline. I'd probably write something like this:

Four years, plate after plate of lousy food, a carousel of noisy roommates and all I get is this silly cap and gown? Your company and I can do better than that. Right?

An opening salvo like that gets my attention. It demonstrates a young mind in search of fertile ground. Such headlines have gusto... Unlike this mess:

Are you still looking for a young, ambitious, people person who's great in class?

Actually, I'm not...pass.

So please, do yourself a favor and treat your cover letters for what they are: Sales letters. When you do, chances are your resume gets a going over.

A COVER LETTER'S PURPOSE...

Once you've decided to treat your cover letters as sales letters, it's time to explain their purpose.

Cover letter tip number two:

THE PURPOSE OF EVERY COVER LETTER IS TO INVITE ATTENTION TO YOUR RESUME, AND TO GET IT READ... IN FULL.

So how do you do this? Quite simply, you respond to the employer's requests and qualifications specifically detailed for the job. Doing this is relatively simple once you get the knack. -- These requests are usually listed near the top of the job description, or listed in bullet form somewhere in the posting.

I like to take the top two or three qualifications and address them with one or two short, sentence paragraphs.

Using a personal (and TRUE) story is a great way to capture your reader's attention.

Here's another job posting example:

Our company specializes in fulfilling dreams through personal growth and individualized, lifestyle-enhancing products and programs.

We focus primarily on direct marketing so a background in that field is highly recommended. We will also be launching into online marketing soon, so a desire to learn will be a plus.

Our products and programs are specifically designed to help people realize their fullest potential, enhance their lifestyle and achieve personal fulfillment. We're looking for the right person dedicated to helping our customers achieve their goals.

We have an immediate opening for an entry-level management trainee reporting to the director of marketing.

We stress a system of self-management within a team structure; so your success depends highly upon your ability to work individually and part of a team. All of our team members work toward the common goal and share in the larger reward.

We seek candidates with basic business fundamentals, strong interpersonal & team building skills, professional drive, and a strong desire to succeed.

Please respond with a cover letter of intention along with a current resume of qualifications. Please mention this ad in your cover letter.

No, the job posting is not real, but you get the idea. Now where do we start? First, we write a headline. Make it a grabber. Something like this...

Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched Tommy receive his diploma.

That would get me... or at least fuel the curiosity to know where the candidate is going...

Tommy's a great kid. Struggling early in life, he came back strong. He's my 'little brother' and I'm his mentor. I'm his 'big brother.'

Some would call this off-topic. I feel it draws the hiring manager into a story. People love stories. Stories invite people to read on. And once your reader is captivated, you can begin answering their questions.

Still keep in mind though this is a sales letter. You're selling your ability to do the job. Keep selling, but be creative. Be soft.

Your next few sentences should focus on the employer's biggest needs. In this case, a desire to help people reach their potential (which you already covered in your headline), a background in direct marketing, the team philosophy, and personal discipline.

Both of these requests can be answered in a couple of short lines:

As a senior 'big brother,' my role as a community-involvement director guided me into many lives. With other 'big brothers' I walked the neighborhoods where most of the boys lived listening to people and their stories. Knowing where someone comes from helps you to help them.

It wasn't always easy doing this work. But now that I've done it, I understand why I needed to. I was given a responsibility and allowed the freedom to get it done, on a team and on my own.

Seeing Tommy proudly receive his diploma was all the affirmation I needed.

For this example, that's a good ending point. You've drawn the reader in and covered the primary job qualifications: Enjoying people succeed, direct marketing, being a team player, and personal discipline.

From here you can elaborate on the smaller specifics such as: Mentioning your college degree (make sure it's relevant), acknowledging where you saw the job posting, and inviting them to review your resume.

Now you're ready for your closing.

Your SUCCESS knows no boundaries!
Your SUCCESS knows no boundaries!

BRINGING IT ALL HOME...

After you've successfully addressed each point in the employer's job posting, you'll need to summarize your letter and send out an invitation.

Cover letter tip number three:

SUMMARIZE YOUR PRIMARY SELLING POINT AND REQUEST AN INTERVIEW.

This is your opportunity. Even though you've engaged your reader with a unique story centered around your qualifications, your cover letter should never end without a request for an interview.

In keeping with our sample job posting, an appropriate closing might read like this:

Thank you for taking time to read my story. I'm confident your position for an entry-level management trainee strongly melds with my strengths and my desire to help others achieve success.

I would honor the opportunity to meet with you during a personal interview to share more about my background and let you know how Tommy is doing. I'm ready to excel in your organization.

Thank you for your time. Thank you for reviewing my candidacy.

Respectfully,

YOUR NAME

You can finish by writing a brief sentence referring to your current resume being attached as well as letting them know you'll be following up.

As you can see, writing a creative, yet effective cover letter is not that difficult. Once you establish your writing confidence and begin using your uniqueness to your advantage, the interviews and offers are sure to follow.

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    • Rob Jundt profile image
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      Rob Jundt 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thanks for your recent comment. I was in the advertising business for a while. Writing should sound like everyday conversation to me. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      KeithSung 5 years ago

      Rob, did you read a little about creative or comedy writing? or how did you learn to write like this?

    • Rob Jundt profile image
      Author

      Rob Jundt 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      Just goes to show that everyone has an opinion. I do appreciate yours as well. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      DC 5 years ago

      You must think the interview panel are stupid what r u going for a used car salesman job

    • Rob Jundt profile image
      Author

      Rob Jundt 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Maralexa,

      Thank you for your kind comments. Searching for a job in today's climate is certainly a challenge. Therefore, any type of edge you can obtain is valuable. Creativity, uniqueness, and of course competency, I feel, are essentials skills we all need. Thanks again for stopping by.

      RJ

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 6 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      That was very good advice,Rob. Writing a letter such as yours makes you sound like a great person to work with. It takes courage to put yourself out there like that. I think it also shows that you are not desperate for a job but are seriously looking, and that you won't take just anything but seek a good fit. (even if you are desparate). Thank you and a pleasure to follow you.

    • Rob Jundt profile image
      Author

      Rob Jundt 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Stephen:

      Thanks for the kind comment. It is odd that in a few months, I will be once again using the same cover letter writing skills I wrote of here. Funny how life has its twists and turns. Once again, thanks for the read!

      Rob

    • StephenSMcmillan profile image

      StephenSMcmillan 6 years ago

      Very useful hub in finding jobs. Fresh graduates must have read your hub, ROb.Voted up.

    • profile image

      'lekan 6 years ago

      I guess I have a edge with this information.

      This is nice, thank you.

    • Rob Jundt profile image
      Author

      Rob Jundt 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thank you all for such nice comments. This was a fun hub to write because at the time I was looking into a career change. As it turned out, I went back to school instead.

      Thanks again for dropping by!

      RJ

    • corajane06 profile image

      corajane06 6 years ago from Upstate NY

      Great read-- very useful advice! I enjoyed this a lot. Thank you. :)

    • profile image

      alice 7 years ago

      I love your article

      thx ur great

    • Rob Jundt profile image
      Author

      Rob Jundt 7 years ago from Midwest USA

      To all of you who have so kindly commented, a big thank you! I apologize for being SO tardy!! Life is crazy hectic; as it is for many others. I did, though, want to say thanks for dropping by and reading my "letter". These really do work for the right kind of job. I tend to drift toward the more creative side of things. It shows a separation from the rest of the mundane, run-of-the-mill cover letters that I've seen. And in today's economy, it is better to stand alone than in a crowd. You can shine brighter! Good luck in all you do!!

    • writernovel profile image

      writernovel 7 years ago from United States

      Nice article! I enjoyed reading it. I think I'll test it and see how it works. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Britney 7 years ago

      This helps a lot, Thanks!!!

    • profile image

      Ananth Varshith 7 years ago

      This helps me a lot to write my resume. Thank you . you are an awesome writer. it was fun reading it.........

    • profile image

      Laura Paris 7 years ago

      Hey this is really great hub. I really liked your cover letter. thanks for sharing.. :)

    • profile image

      Steve 7 years ago

      Good hub. Very informative.

    • profile image

      Steve W 7 years ago

      Very informative and great hub. Good job!

    • mcacreate profile image

      mcacreate 7 years ago

      This is a great hub. I have read many sample cover letters but nothing like this. I never thought of using our creative writing skills in a cover letter. Sort of gives us an edge!

    • santoion profile image

      santoion 8 years ago

      I believe that YOU are Great !

    • Rob Jundt profile image
      Author

      Rob Jundt 8 years ago from Midwest USA

      Matt and Erick: Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your comments! Truly, esp. in today's day and age, cover letters should pre-sell your resume and yourself. They need to shine with the polish you'll show in your interview. Good luck out there. Quality talent will always be in demand. Never sell yourself short! Thanks again!

    • profile image

      Erick Smart 8 years ago

      Your cover letter is a key part of selling yourself to the potential employer. But remember is only part the resume still needs to be flawless and accurate and you must back it all up with a solid appearance and interview.

    • Matts88 profile image

      Matts88 8 years ago from Canada

      Thoroughly enjoyed reading this, you are a great writer :)

    • Rob Jundt profile image
      Author

      Rob Jundt 9 years ago from Midwest USA

      Thanks hootnhowell (I like that moniker), your comment has been well-received. I'm humbled.

    • hootnhowell profile image

      hootnhowell 9 years ago from Peoria Heights, Illinois

      Great Hub very informative. Your writing is top shelf