Photo by Nod Young

You found an open position that fits your Must Have List – work you want to do, where you want to do it.  And you have a connection in your network who opens the door for you – s/he sends your resume and highly recommends you to the hiring manager.

Result: you’re definitely getting an interview. So how do you follow up?

In this case, my client is formally applying via the website. The cover letter in this case can be relatively short, while still covering the basics.  Here’s the first draft done by my client.  It’s pretty good. I edited it to make it even better (and changed the names for anonymity!).

Re: Government Relations and External Affairs Director – President’s Office

Dear President Soandso:

I am enormously interested in this opportunity at Very Important College.

John Doe and I discussed this important role.

For over 10 years of my career in public service, I have worked closely with elected officials, community and business leaders, advocacy groups and government agencies on many public policy challenges facing Really Big City.

My experience working in government for Major Elected Official Roe and other elected officials, in advocacy and in the private sector has allowed me to attain the skills that prepare me well for this position. I would be an asset to you and the institution as a results-driven government-relations leader with a large network.

I look forward to discussing this opportunity and will follow up with your office early next week.

Sincerely,

Applicant Name

What he did right:

  • personalized the email
  • emphasized his interest
  • used the name of the institution
  • dropped the name of his contact
  • summarized his experience
  • told them why he would be good for the institution
  • dropped an important name to give himself credibility and point the reader to his resume to find out what he did for this important person
  • used language from the job description regarding the desired impact of this position
  • told them he would follow up

Here’s how I improved it:

Re: Government Relations and External Affairs Director – President’s Office

Dear President Soandso:

I am enormously interested in this opportunity at Very Important College. John Doe and I discussed this important role, and it’s exactly the kind of work I want to do next. I’m especially excited by your focus on results – because results are what drive me and give me the greatest satisfaction.

During my decade-long career in public service and in the private sector, I have gained the skills, experience and extensive network that will allow me to be a great asset to Very Important College. I’ve worked closely with elected officials – especially Major Elected Official – and with community and business leaders, advocacy groups and government agencies on many public policy challenges facing Really Big City. I’ll bring my expertise, connections and enthusiasm for College’s mission to the position of Government Relations and External Affairs Director in your office.

As you will see in my resume, I led the effort to restore this important service to students. I assembled a strong coalition, created messaging, and developed and executed an advocacy strategy and plan that resulted in elected officials reversing their previous decision. As Very Important College needs, I can plan and implement effective advocacy campaigns for large and small policy issues.

It would be an honor to contribute my abilities to help Very Important Collegeempower over 22,000 students to fulfill their dreams.  I look forward to discussing the position of Government Relations and External Affairs Director at Very Important College and will follow up with your office early next week.

Sincerely,

Applicant Name

  • Used employer’s name and position title more than once to emphasize the personalization
  • Talked about the employer goal earlier to tell them he actually read the job description
  • Strengthened rationale for why he’d be good for the position, giving a specific example that is tied to the college’s mission, and making the match between his skills and what the college needs
  • Highlighted his key asset – network and connections
  • Added wording about his belief in the mission – very important to a college or non-profit

This kind of cover letter is usually effective in persuading the employer to at least give your application a second glance, and often an interview – assuming you meet the basic qualifications, as my client does.