Employers wonder “What’s in it for me if I hire you? What are you going to do for ME, if I do this great thing for you – giving you a job and paycheck?”

Use your cover letter to answer that question. The point of a cover letter is to convince the employer that you understand their challenges and have what it takes to successfully handle and resolve them. Your value is in relieving their pain. That’s what’s in it for an employer who hires you: pain relief and solutions.

Last week, I got two tweets (on Twitter) and several e-mails asking me about cover letters, so the topic is in the air. Perhaps this means there are more jobs being posted. Let’s hope so!

To give you a flavor of the questions, here are the tweets, with my responses.

First Tweet
Hi Julia – I’m wondering if you had any tips on writing a winning cover ltr wo sounding fake? Something I’ve been struggling with.

My Response
Show ur passion 4 emp’r issues. See my recent post (September 22). dm if u need more.

Second Tweet
@juliaerickson: Should I say “I’ll work for free.” just to get experience on my resume? Accounting is so hard to break into.

My Response
In cover letter cd ask 4 chance 2 wk pro bono (4 free) 2 get experience, volunteer @ non-profit 2 add 2 ur resume

Follow-Up Tweet
Cover letters are so hard for me because I really can’t think of why I’d want to work for a particular company, I just want to work.

My Responses

  1. What r challenges/problems u love 2 tackle, find in job descrip, say how u’ll address them in cov ltr
  2. The thing is you’ll get the work you really want 2 do & you can muster up wanting 2 wk 4 a company b/c u can do that wk there

How do you create a convincing cover letter?

  • Find the challenges and concerns stated and implied in the job posting, and then list them in a word processing document. This will be the beginning of your cover letter.
  • Take one challenge, and craft a sentence that uses some specific language from the job posting to show that you have zeroed in on and comprehend this challenge. For example, “Managing both full-time and part-time staff requires great leadership and organizational skills to distribute assignments most effectively, monitor performance, and maintain team cohesiveness and morale.”
  • For that same challenge, create a companion sentence that shows how your experience and skill is exactly aligned to meet the challenge. For example, “While at XYZ Company, I oversaw 20 full-time and 60 part-time staff and ensured that the team delivered its results on time and under-budget, while having fun doing it. In fact, annual turnover on my team of part-time workers was less than 10%, far less than the industry average of 30-40%.”
  • Follow this process for at least one more challenge and possibly two.

What you’re doing is building a case and telling a compelling story about your history and how it’s prepared you to be the person who will solve this employer’s problems.