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Cover Letters: Teaser Ads For Your Resume

Monday, November 23, 2009

By Brad Karsh, President, JobBound

I know exactly what your cover letter says, yet I can assure you I’m not a mind reader.  Let me guess.  It’s a single-spaced, full page, four paragraph letter, organized as follows.

Paragraph 1:  How I heard about the job
Paragraph 2:  Why I want the job
Paragraph 3:  My qualifications for the job
Paragraph 4:  How I’ll follow up on the job

In addition, you’ve taken what’s already on your resume and simply rewritten it in paragraph form.

How do I know this?  Because virtually every single person writes the exact same cover letter!

Recruiting Directors are flooded with resumes and spend about fifteen seconds looking at each one individually.  Now try tacking on a full-page, extremely boring document that basically says what’s already on the resume.  How many cover letters do you think actually get read?

That being said, you still need to create one.  It shows that you’re interested in the job and are willing to take the time and effort to write something.

But here’s the trick: make that letter different.  Think about your cover letter as a teaser ad for your resume.  It doesn’t have to tell your entire life story, but it does need to attract interest in your resume.  Keep it short; make some sentences just a few  words, and make some paragraphs one sentence.  Write it very personally, and be conversational.
You need to catch their attention in the first sentence or two so they actually read on and give your resume extra review time.  But beware, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid!

Here’s a sample letter.  You’ll quickly see the difference between this one and the typical cover letter.

Dear Ms. Marhula,

Most people start studying advertising in college, but I got my start when I was ten years old.

It all began in Mrs. Kurtzweil’s fourth grade classroom, when my teacher explained to us how the entertaining commercials we watched on Saturday morning television were actually designed to make us try Lucky Charms or a Happy Meal.  Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by the power of advertising to affect attitudes and behavior.

Whenever and wherever possible, I’ve sought out opportunities to learn more about the business.  While at Wake Forest University, I had the chance to work on nationally recognized advertising projects for Coca-Cola as part of the AAF’s National Student Advertising Competition.  I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see my ideas and my work come to life in front of judges and company executives. I’m now ready to parlay my experience into a position at DraftFCB.

I’d love the opportunity to talk in detail about my passion for advertising and to share some of my creative work with you.  I look forward to speaking with you soon.


Darin Szabo

This certainly isn’t the perfect cover letter for everyone (don’t just copy it!), but it does give you a sense of what to do.

Often, it’s helpful to think about how you got interested in the field, why you like the particular job or company, or even some special connections or skills you have that the reader would find interesting.  Keep it short and personal, and let some of your personality shine through.

Good luck!


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