How to Write a Cover Letter that Works
Do you think of your cover letter as a summary of your skills and experiences? If so, you’re making a common mistake. The truth is that your cover letter is a sales letter – much like the ones created by direct marketers and copywriters to sell products and services. Just like those letters, your cover note must be compelling, easy to read, and must convey clearly why you are a perfect fit. (hopefully it goes without saying that your letter must also be personalized for each position).
How to use the AIDA formula to write your cover letter
AIDA is the acronym for a commonly used sales letter formula. The initials stand for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action and if you follow these 4 steps when constructing your letter, you’ll find it much easier to write a letter that gets results. Let’s go through them one by one and I’ll explain what I mean.
Getting Their Attention
I recommend starting your cover letter with a powerful opening sentence instead of the usual “I am submitting my resume for consideration… blah, blah…”
Let’s say you want to apply for a sales position. The job posting says the company needs someone to “develop and manage relationships with strategic partners, channels, end users, agencies, industry influencers, and large customers.” You can see that developing business is the company’s core concern, so you should start your letter by immediately addressing that core need.
• “Do you need someone to develop lucrative, long-term business relationships?
• “Would you like to build new strategic partnerships?
The answer, as you already know, is YES! So either of these opening sentences are appealing directly to one of the hiring manager’s central concerns. In addition, starting with a question is an attention-grabbing approach in itself, so this type of opening has two benefits.
You’ve grabbed them with that first sentence – now it’s time to deepen their interest.
You can do this by writing a second paragraph that provides evidence of your ability to address their core need.
Here’s an example:
My former CEO said: ‘Jerry built more strategic alliances in 12 months, than I had created in the previous six years’
or how about this:
In my last position, I grew sales by more than 45% and significantly increased market share without spending any more money. How? By building strategic partnerships across the United States and internationally.
Or here’s an example for a different type of position (in this case, an executive assistant role).
When my last boss needed an assistant to organize his chaotic office and help him gain control of his life, he hired me. Within 3 months, he was leaving the office earlier and spending weekends with his family for the first time in years.
Now follow this opening statement with details about how your experience fits the company’s needs. For example, our executive assistant might explain that she has experience in scheduling, travel arrangements, correspondence, spreadsheets and project management. She could also mention the titles of some of the senior executives she has worked for to communicate her seniority.
Keep this section brief (2 to 3 sentences) and make sure you keep the focus on the needs of the company, which you can find in the job posting.
Now you definitely have them interested, so it’s time to make them really want you! You do this by providing more evidence of your past successes as proof that you can do the same for them.
To do this, develop 3 or 4 bullet points that highlight some of your most impressive achievements.
Here are some examples:
• Reduced fixed costs by 34% while improving efficiency and customer service, by restructuring the sales organization. (sales executive)
• Organized chaotic office environment, eliminating 40+ cardboard boxes of files and paperwork within only 3 weeks.(executive assistant)
• Increased website traffic 200% by rewriting content for search engines and acquiring hundreds of new incoming links. (digital marketer)
Finish by expressing interest, restating the value you can add, and inviting the recipient to take action. Let her know what she has to do if she wants to meet with you, or offer to take the next step yourself. Here’s an example:
As you can see, I have been very successful in my past career and I see a great deal of opportunity for ABC Copr. I would be delighted to discuss my ideas in detail and will call your office within the next few days to see if we can find a convenient time to meet.
As you can see, there is a close fit between your need to improve your website’s performance and my track record of success in digital marketing. I will call your office on Tuesday afternoon to follow-up and answer any questions. Alternatively, please feel free to contact me at your convenience at (212) 555-5555.”
Note: If you end your letter with a promise to contact the company, make a note of your commitment and be sure to follow through.
(If you want to see some real world examples of these principles in action, here are two sample cover letters we created for clients – names changed of course).
In Summary – A.I.D.A. works!
AIDA has been used by marketers for many years, and for good reason. It gets results! By following this formula each time you create a cover letter or email, you will ensure that you address the employers’ needs, communicate your value, and effectively set yourself apart from your competition.
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