Dear J.T. & Dale: I have been working in my current job for about eight months and have accomplished very little. Prior to my current position, I spent two years in a lower-level job where I accomplished a lot. I’m preparing for a job search, and I’m not sure which job to highlight in my cover letter. — Megan
J.T.: Here’s the goal of any cover letter: to inspire someone to pick up the phone and speak with you. I guarantee that doesn’t happen when you start with, “I saw your ad and want to apply for ________.”
Dale: It happens when you make it clear that you meet all the stated job requirements, and then offer something extra. And that means calling on all your job experience and highlighting the best of both. Kate Wendelton, the founder of a job-hunting group called The Five O’Clock Club, has a technique I admire: including a list of the stated job requirements in your cover letter, with how you meet each one, putting them in side-by-side columns.
J.T.: As for figuring out what else to talk about, I have my clients answer questions like these:
—Looking at your past professional success, what makes you good at what you do?
—How has your work inspired you?
—What value does it provide?
—If asked to describe yourself in an honest, humble, funny yet confident sort of way, what would you say?
The answers to these questions will become the raw material that you use to go beyond job requirements and write an irresistible cover letter.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
© 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.