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How to write great cover letters, follow-ups, queries & book proposals

Cover Letters, Follow-Ups, Queries & Book Proposals: Samples with Templates - Anne Hart

 

Here's how to write cover letters whether it's to an editor or whether you're writing to find a job or a customer in any occupation. The next series of how-to write articles that follow in this series will be on how to write follow-up letters, queries, and book proposals.

 
  • Paperback book: 294 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (April 22, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595316638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595316632

The cover and follow-up letter-writing techniques can be used when you're sending out a resume in any type of occupation, not only if you're looking for an editor to accept your book proposal outline. It's good for writing resumes that come with cover and follow-up letters. You'll also see in the next few parts of this series action verbs that move you forward. So let's begin.

 

How to you plan, write, and format great cover letters, follow-up letters, and proposals for work, business, publishing, marketing/sales, publicity, or relationships of all kinds from courting to letters to children, parents, siblings, and other relatives? How do you use cover and follow-up letters to position first your resumes, proposals, relationship communications, marketing or sales connections and connections?

 

Once your cover letter is positioned first to be noticed, then how do you position the letters to be noticed for the longest time in a number of situations? What kind of thank-you letters work best?

 

How do you ask for help in finding a job from a letter to a stranger, acquaintance, or business networking contact? How do you write a cover letter that will never be misinterpreted as spam? What kind of letter won’t be viewed as another sales pitch for yourself or your service? How do you plan, write, and format an outstanding book proposal that lets the reader see the bottom line—profit for the publisher?

 

After cover letters, how to you plan, write, and position first your follow-up letters? What types of letters bring people together? Act as a catalyst? Get you an interview? Position you first for inclusion in a job, business, or relationship? What type of letters position first, attract, and sell what you can do without looking like sales letters? What types of cover and follow-up letters are best sent with a resume?

 

The Cover Letter

 

Your cover letter shouldn’t look like a sales letter. Instead, it should detail with concrete facts how well you fit into a company or family. Sales letters get tossed as spam, especially online. What your cover letter is supposed to do is position you first. The first step in positioning you first in the reader’s mind is to show with active verbs how well you fit into the company or family.

 

How do you show with active verbs instead of telling in a cover letter? You create an action verbs resource sheet in alphabetical order and draw on those verbs to show what you can do or what you did that brought profit into the company or harmony into a relationship.

 

Use words in a cover letter for a resume or a book proposal such as “detailed, activated, accomplished, adapted, advised, demonstrated, designed, detailed, encouraged, entertained, established, edited, enhanced, fixed, generated, identified, inspired, maintained, motivated, operated, persuaded, orchestrated, organized, produced, protected, provided, streamlined, succeeded, supervised, systematized, tested, troubleshot, upgraded, used, validated, visualized, won, or wrote."

 

Select the active verbs that apply to your situation. The point is the active verb needs to show results—the bottom line of how you will bring profit to the company or relationship. Be very concrete and detailed in explaining how you will do this. A cover letter, a book proposal, or a marriage proposal all use active verbs to show how you will bring in something the other part is seeking—either profit for a company, harmony for a relationship, love for a marriage, and solid explanations of how you will bring in what you promise.

 

The cover letter personalizes your resume for each company. Before you sit down to organize your resume, first write your cover letter. Your mind will be focused on the position as you begin to sort the many details that will form your resume.

Your cover letter is really a sales pitch letter. Only to position yourself first, you have to work the words like you would work a room at a convention or party, without letting the letter appear like a sales pitch.

 

Think of your cover letter as a springboard or letter of introduction that brings people together. Without a cover letter on a resume, an employer will have to wade through your entire resume to find out how you will fit into the company. Your one-page cover letter introduces your resume and communicates a specific message about your value to a company.

 

A great one-page cover letter begins by pitching (in the first sentence) exactly what position you want in a company. Define yourself as a specialist; today's job market belongs to the specialist rather than a generalist. A cover letter also serves as a powerful introduction to (or umbrella for) anything else included in the envelope and is a sample of your communication skills.

 

Magnet Questions in Your Cover Letter

 

The first paragraph of your cover letter determines whether the reader will finish the letter. For your springboard, don’t let it sound like a spam-filled sales pitch. In the first brief sentence you need a positive magnet. Introduce who you are, your skills, or services. Describe specifically how your skills will be used in the company. Draw the employer toward you by stating how timely your services or skills are to the company. Or use a magnet question such as, "What's the most profitable and powerful resource you have?" You are going to have to position yourself first as the company’s most powerful and profitable resource.

 

Figure out how you can do it on the scale you are able to do. Then detail this kind of magnet question because it acts as a hook to capture your audience. Use this kind of catalyst magnet for employers, publishers, or clients. It goes beyond the sales pitch letter even if what you are selling are your skills. The other side sees your skills or services as a potential gauge of profit, results, troubleshooting, solving problems, or increase in production. That’s what a cover letter is about: making your proposal irresistible. Your proposal can be your resume or an actual proposal.

 

You have a cover letter as your springboard. Your proposal or resume is your treatment. The offer made by the other side for you to negotiate is your contract. So what’s your pitch? It’s your first sentence and it should summarize everything you want to say in one sentence. For example, “Star Trek is Wagon Train in space.”

 

Your pitch is not to be viewed as a sales pitch. It’s explaining what you are offering in your first sentence. Define and compare what you are offering to something familiar and universal. If the employer, client, or relative can recognize what you mean, you’ve explained yourself. That’s what a cover letter pitches in the first sentence: summarizing and explaining what you’re there to do for the person who reads your first sentence. That first few seconds seals the first impression. So pitch in the first sentence of your cover letter without letting the words hint of a sales letter.

 

Next, convince the employer to hire you. The simplest way is to give employers an observation they can verify themselves. The observation can be about their needs, or your skills. Computer companies are always searching for new ideas to plug holes or fill needs in the industry. Position your cover letter and resume as a plug to fill a need.

 

Try using exclamatory magnets like ‘Velcro’ in the second paragraph of your cover letter.

There are three types of magnets to hold a reader's attention, it has been said:

 

1. a fear magnet—where you list a series of corporate or business fears and then tell how you'll solve the problems.

2. a story magnet—where you briefly explain how you will provide benefits to the company, using professional expertise or media contacts.

3. an exclamatory magnet or surprising statistics—where you mention surprising numbers or statistics associated with your career that startle the employer in a positive way. Use statistics to grab attention and motivate the reader to think about you.

 

Finally, a persuasive cover letter closes by making you stand out from the crowd and get hired. (A resume doesn't reflect the more action-oriented parts of your personality—it only states facts.) End the letter on a positive point. Show the employer how hiring you to apply your skills to the company's needs will bring positive results. What are positive results for an employer?

 

Positive results include more profit, increased production, problem solving, less employee turnover, lower costs of hiring employees, improvement of reputation, credibility, and image in the media, and bottom-line results-- increased revenues. Positive results for you include happiness and security with the results you obtain from a cover letter, resume, or proposal.

 

Does your fate really depend upon positioning yourself first on a pile of resumes and cover letters or proposals? It does in the mind of a reader with the authority to bring you in as part of a team. For further information on positioning yourself, read Al Ries and Jack Trout's book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Warner Books, NY, 1986. It provides advice about how to stand out from the crowd and win.

 

Cover Letter Tips

 

• Each time your resume goes to an employer, it should be topped by a cover letter. The courtesy of a cover letter is held in such high esteem by employers that resumes coming in without them frequently are discarded.

• As your computer skills and experience expand, you will have to work hard to condense them in a one-page resume or cover letter. Think of the entire computer industry as niches or areas of specialty. Your cover letter must be brief, but detailed enough to show your specialty or your unique qualities.

 

• Use your cover letter to personalize your communication and to establish a rapport with potential employers. Your goal is to build a relationship with someone who has the authority to hire you. A resume without a cover letter is too impersonal.

• The cover letter should express your enthusiasm and energy. It's your unique style, strength, and personality type that should shine through and move an employer to think of ways in which you could benefit the company.

 

Junk Mail or an Attention Grabber?

 

In the computer industry, thousands of resumes a year may pile up on someone's desk. These resumes begin to overwhelm an employer, and some may begin to see them as junk mail. These piles are given derogatory names like "the slush pile" in electronic publishing, "the stable" in information processing and technical communications firms, and "portfolio puss" in the corporate animation industry. How can you stand out? Only an action-oriented cover letter saves a resume from the heap.

 

Your cover letter can emphasize that you're an award-winning freelance writer, Web designer, or teacher or have recently completed an internship in journalism, counseling, new media, healthcare, design, marketing, genetics, government service, customer service, public relations, or programming. Maybe your volunteer work has won you recognition, or your sales record is outstanding.

 

If nothing outstanding has happened to you in your work or educational life, or you are a re-entry parent who had spent the past decade or two rearing children at home and volunteering for projects or causes, then join an occupational, special interest, professional, training, national association, or trade association and learn all about the newest products of several companies. Join projects or libraries and museums as “friends of” or members.

 

Volunteer to be on various boards or teams that focus on projects linking community and business. Genealogists can work with DNA-driven genealogy projects and surname groups. Act as a volunteer contributor to a local computer industry publication, or volunteer to do research or help out on a professional association's special task force or speakers' panel in your area of interest at the next convention.

 

Most employers who place classified newspaper advertisements request cover letters to accompany resumes. Most jobs come from information given through friends and contacts at work or through courses and special interest groups, associations, and projects. The format of your letter is important. Your first step is to find out when to use cover letters in what kind of situations.

 

Focusing on resumes only at first, or when seeking work, a job, or more customers and clients if you’re an independent contractor, you send a cover letter with a resume on ten different types of occasions. Notice that a cover letter is a noun, an object, sent in response to an active verb. The cover letter is active rather than passive. It accompanies the action taking place—the sending of a resume or proposal of any kind. The proposal can be for almost anything—a book proposal for a publisher or agent or a marriage proposal. The cover letter acts as a link to seal a relationship or ask for a contract.

 

A cover letter also can be turned into a greeting card or a greeting card cover letters. So the cover letter is a kind of ‘seal’ or request for a legal contract. When accompanied by a resume, book proposal, or other springboard, the cover letter in one page tells the reader at a glance what will be in the resume or book proposal or even a marriage proposal. It works with almost any kind of proposal, resume, treatment, or report accompanying it. When you send a cover letter, you also send a follow-up letter.

 

TEN KINDS OF COVER LETTERS

 

You send a resume and cover letter when:

1. answering an advertisement.

2. writing to a specific employer—the informational cover letter.

3. asking a friend for job-related information.

4. consulting an employment or outplacement agency.

5. networking with members of a professional or trade organization.

6. attending a trade show, exhibit, convention, or conference.

7. interviewing people for information, photos, or video projects.

8. asking bookstores or distributors to carry your self-published book.

9. launching your project in the media or on the World Wide Web.

10. traveling to do research.

 

Answering an Advertisement

 

Clip ads from trade journals, national employment newspapers, professional organizations' newsletters, computer magazines, and the publications of computer user special interest groups. Write down phone numbers from the tape recorded phone messages of job hotlines for members of trade and professional organizations. Clip ads from your daily newspaper's Sunday help wanted section.

 

The hidden (not advertised) job market appears mainly in trade journals, those magazines and newspapers directed to readers interested in a particular industry. Most jobs advertise qualifications for the ideal candidate. If the ideal job applicant doesn't respond, often the employer will take what's available.

 

Send your cover letters and resumes to the widest variety of ads possible, even if you only have some of the qualifications. One reason for this is that company paid training is sometimes available after employment. On-the-job training is offered when the technology is so new that little training is available outside the company.

 

When new software is designed, technical trainers are trained on the job so they can go out to other corporations and train the new software users. In a classified or display help wanted ad, ob requirements are listed according to their rank of importance, with the most important skills listed first. If you don't have all of the requirements, list the capabilities you have and specify which requirements they meet.

 

State how you will be an asset to the company. Take out all extra words; only list strengths in your cover letter. Let's look at an advertisement and analyze how to compose a cover letter.

 

Software Systems Specialist

 

You will install user devices, diagnose hardware problems, load software maintenance releases, monitor system and subcontractor performance, maintain communications systems, assist customer end users, and perform other duties as assigned.

 

Requirements include: a demonstrated knowledge of VAX/VMS or DSM operations, maintenance is a plus; a high school diploma/GED and five years directly related experience, or an AA in a related field and three years directly related experience. We offer a competitive compensation and benefits package. Please send your resume and cover letter indicating department code for position of interest.

 

The actual ad appeared as a display in the Sunday section of a major urban daily newspaper. The company name and address were listed. Your first step would be to call the company and find out the name of the person to whom you would direct your letter. You can also ask about new company information, such as new products. In your cover letter, this information can allow you to tell the employer how you could help the company reach its goals.

 

Some interviewers hold resumes a long time before getting back to you. To offset this waiting period, send a mailgram cover letter. Be assertive and courteous. Call the staff manager first, before you are called, and ask to set up an appointment for an interview. The cover letter on page 53 is a sample of an answering-an-advertisement cover letter.

 

Blind Ads

 

How you respond to a blind newspaper ad is up to you. Some people never respond to blind ads (ads in which the hiring company is not identified). In a highly competitive industry, you may want to know in whose hands your resume will fall, since it contains confidential information and your home address.

 

Thousands of companies use blind ads because they have economic reasons to remain anonymous. They may be placed by executive search firms on behalf of corporations. You must decide whether you want to discount potentially great opportunities by not responding to such ads.

 

Writing To A Specific Employer—The Informational Cover Letter

 

A different approach to your career search is to ask for information in your cover letter, rather than a job. Interview a department manager to make informed career decisions. This keeps you in touch with the company on a friendly, fact-seeking basis. Read the biographies of executives of major or fast-moving companies, which can usually be found in public libraries.

 

The department head for the area in which you want to work is the person who should receive your cover letter and with whom you should establish a rapport. Only the division specialist has the expertise in your area of interest, not the generalist in personnel. Address your fact-finding letters to the person who has the authority to hire you. Use a specific title such as Mr. First Name Last Name, Manager of Information Systems, XYZ Computer Corporation, Inc.

 

Never send your letter to anyone without first calling and getting the correct spelling of the individual's name and title. Letters sent to the personnel or human resources department tend to get screened out. Often a personnel department's purpose is to weed out the unqualified.

 

You will have the best chance of getting hired if you send a mail-gram cover letter and resume with your business card. All job applicants should have business cards listing their three best skills and any degrees or technical school diplomas. Such a business card may look like this example.

 

Technical Writer/Software User

 

Your Name, M.A.

Public Relations, Training Materials,

Courseware Design

Street Address or Post Office Box Number

City, State, Zip

Phone

Email Address

Web Site Url, If Any

 

If you’re looking for a job as a technical writer or editor and you have little or no experience, your database of employers may be gleaned from professional and computer journals, business publications, trade and professional associations, computer user groups, industrial directories, and the Yellow Pages.

 

Most of your research will be in finding out what type of software and hardware or applications systems are used in each company. Call the companies before you send them any letters or resumes and ask what systems they are currently using. Never waste your cover letters on companies that you didn’t research.

You can also ask for a list of their suppliers and research those firms for possible job leads. For example, one salesperson didn't land a job at the company first applied to but found a great job with one of the company's material suppliers.

 

In addition to companies that supply computer corporations, there are other businesses that provide technical staff training with all of these companies. Networking expands the possibilities of finding jobs that match your skills. Employment agencies use this same kind of research to drum up job orders.

 

Most corporations outside the computer industry still use computers as tools. Even the one-person home-based office uses online services, libraries, media, and computer-based research tools. Larger companies also may have information systems departments where data entry, word processing, database design, online retrieval, content production, Web design, desktop publishing, and educational or corporate training video production are developed.

 

Also, corporate video production studios have computers connected to VCR machines and video cameras to create multimedia presentations, usually for training videos or product demonstrations called desktop video (DV) studios. Large corporations have management information systems (MIS) departments and computer operations divisions. Smaller companies have Web development, database management departments or data processing (DP) departments. Electronic publishing companies have desktop publishing departments and technical illustration or computer-aided design departments. Computer-aided manufacturing companies may use computer-controlled robots.

 

When you first telephone a company, ask for the director of computer operations or the manager of information systems. Either person can usually tell you which types of hardware and software are used by the firm. What you are seeking in your research are facts about a company's hardware and software, people, and job openings. Send out a dozen letters at a time to carefully targeted firms where you have already made verbal contact by phone or have interviewed directors of departments for company or product information.

 

Personalize all cover letters. Never send a form letter or a letter with a photocopied signature. End the letter with a question that makes it easy for the person to call you back with a product related or technical answer.

 

By asking a technical question rather than asking for a job at first contact, you're seen as a potential customer. Emphasize how you can be of value to the business. Direct mail campaigns emphasize showing companies the specific advantages and benefits of your abilities. See the sample cover letter to a specific employer. You don’t want to sound like a direct-mail campaign. However, you need to use the technique used by direct-mail campaigns that is, showing the benefits and advantages of bringing you into the ‘family’ in a relationship cover letter on the team in a resume or business cover letter.

 

Asking A Friend For Job-Related Information

 

This type of cover letter is used to gather job leads. Use it so that a copy of your resume may be passed to people your friend meets at work or during meetings. You are not asking for a job in this letter. You only want information. Use the information to develop a profile of employers, companies, or job requirements.

 

Let your friend know you're looking for a certain type of job—maybe even with clients of your friend's company. Write an informal, friendly letter instead of a formal business cover letter, and have your friend pass the resume only to personal friends and clients with authority to hire you. Sending three copies of your resume with the letter is acceptable.

 

Ask for suggestions in the letter. Mention any plans for, or openness to, relocation. Let your friend know whether your correspondence is confidential. Leave out salary references. Human resources information is harder to obtain than product information. Some companies promote from within or pay a recruitment fee of several hundred dollars to any employee bringing in a qualified friend who fills a new job opening. Many new jobs aren't advertised to people outside the company until all employees are given a chance to apply. It pays to have a friend on the inside to pass around your resume.

 

Consulting An Employment Or Outplacement Agency

 

Target only those agencies that specialize in your field. For example, write to those agencies that specialize in placing military retirees, displaced homemakers, programmers, word processors and desktop publishers, Web designers, DVD designers, database managers and systems analysts, accountants, software engineers, technical writers and editors, clerical workers, counselors, persons over age 55, recent college graduates, graphic designers, animators, drafters, technical writers or illustrators, temporary technical contract workers; or write to outplacement services for displaced computer personnel or other specialized jobs.

 

You can also write to executive search and recruiting firms and job consultants who work within placement agencies. Address your letter to the director. The purpose of a cover letter sent to an employment agency is to set up a personal interview. Ask to have your resume kept in the active file. Include in your cover letter when you'll call to set up an interview.

 

Keep the cover letter to an employment agency brief. Most executive recruiters will rewrite your resume according to their own formats. Ask to see your resume before they send it out. If you don't, you'll lose control of how they present you on paper.

 

Find out whether your resume will be downloaded onto a disk and sent electronically to companies across the nation or added to mailing lists. Look at the sample cover letters as they apply to your needs and use them as inspirational templates to motivate you to develop your own cover letters specifically targeted to your needs.

 

Networking With Members Of A Professional Or Trade Organization

 

You can use a professional organization three ways:

1. Use their letterhead when you write your cover letter to an employer.

2. Send your cover letter and resume to the director of a trade organization for job referral or use of the job bank.

3. A cover letter and resume directed to the job-referral officer or job hotline coordinator of a professional organization can be helpful if you do some homework. Work on the job bank for the trade organization, where you can develop a portfolio or database of details about the companies you solicit for job openings to go in the organization's job referral databank.

 

Volunteer to work with a professional, special interest, or trade association. There are regional or national organizations of people interested in specific areas of what you do or want to do—from technical writing to genealogy. Select an area of your interest and explore. Once you are in a professional, trade, or special-interest organization, seek increased responsibility to establish contacts and relationships with other members and to show your talents. Volunteer to speak on panels at conventions.

 

Most of these professional or special interest societies have task forces or committees, user groups, or networks of people employed in the same or related areas of computing. There are public relations task forces, newsletters, fundraising committees, membership drives, speaker special interest groups (SIGs), and job bank listings.

 

If you are looking for a job, try the professional or vocational-oriented groups and trade organizations first and then the hobby groups such as sellers and speakers marketing scrap booking supplies. You pick the field and the association or group. It can be educational, cultural, artistic, musical, technical, commercial, creative, paraprofessional, legal, medical, or social.

 

Target the job bank SIG. If you are part of this SIG, focus on calling employers to get job listings for the recorded telephone job hotline for your members. Your job bank task force might work alongside a committee that arranges internships for students, or recent graduates or retirees reentering the workforce (often the student membership committee).

 

After you have established telephone rapport with a recruiter or department manager at several of the corporations, you can call for the hotline jobs and then send your cover letter and resume to recruiters with whom you've talked. Keep it brief, and mention your affiliation with the trade or professional organization.

 

You might ask your contacts to provide you with old job performance evaluations from former employees with jobs similar to yours. These evaluations will give you an idea of what people in the company thought of employees' skill levels. That way, you'll know what's expected of your performance on the job.

 

If your qualifications are appropriate for the job you want, include some of the job evaluation terminology in your cover letter to a prospective employer. At least knowing the details will help you fit in with the company on the same level of terminology.

Joining a professional or trade association demonstrates to employers two important facts about you:

 

1. What you can do as a volunteer and

 

2. How you handle responsibility.

 

Always include in your cover letter your volunteer association experience and the details of how you handle responsibility for your trade or professional association.

Analyze the template or sample cover letter used to network with members of a professional, cultural, special interest, or trade association. Then write your own cover letter directed to members or directors of an association related to your own interests.

 

Attending A Trade Show, Exhibit, Convention, Or Conference

 

When you attend a convention or conference, visit the exhibit booths of each company. Ask the person at the booth the name of the department head, president, or person in charge of hiring for the department of your interest.

Write that person's name down on a sealed envelope containing your cover letter and resume. Your cover letter would be addressed generically, for example, "Dear Exhibitor." Hand the envelope to the booth clerk.

 

If the person in charge of the booth or exhibit is the company president or employer, hand it over and start a conversation about the company's products, services, and personnel needs. Smile, chat, and leave a positive impression of yourself with whomever is representing the company at the exhibit booth.

 

If you know about a convention or trade show well in advance, volunteer to be on a panel or announce a workshop, even if you only introduce others or speak for five minutes. If you have experience, send your proposals to read a research paper, speak on a workshop panel, or give a seminar.

 

Many conventions have exhibitions of your state's task force in a specific field. Send your cover letter and resume to your state advisory board on training and practice in your computer specialty. You might volunteer to join your state advisory committee board for drafting, or whatever your computer specialty is.

 

For example, the Minnesota State Drafting Advisory Committee (MSDAC) is a task force located at the Department of Vocational and Technical Education of the University of Minnesota.

 

Consider handing out samples of your work with your cover letter and resume at conventions and trade shows. If your job interest is in computer illustration or drafting, hand out non-returnable samples in a mini-portfolio to key representatives at trade shows. If you are a writer, include a list of publications and a published (or self-published) writing sample or news clipping with your cover letter and resume.

 

Similarly, if you are in a creative field or teaching, include anything you wrote related to what you want to do. Hand your cover letter (with your resume) to prominent speakers and company representatives at trade show exhibits, job expos, conferences, or conventions.

 

Interviews

 

Rarely will companies give first interviews at trade shows or conventions—unless the trade show is a job fair sponsored by several companies who are set up to recruit personnel at the gathering. Job fairs are usually sponsored by colleges or by professional and trade associations.

 

Some companies give only one interview. Others put you before several individuals from the personnel department. You then interview with the department manager. At a later date, you may be given a final group interview, before a board of subject experts who will decide whether to hire you. When each interview is over, send a different follow-up letter.

 

The Follow-Up Letter Format

 

What Stands Between Me and This Job?

 

A follow-up letter may be used at two different stages in the job hunt.

1. Right after every interview, send a follow-up letter of thanks to the interviewer.

2. You have sent your resum6 with a cover letter. A few days later you made a follow-up phone call and still you were not called in for an interview. Now is the time to send a follow-up letter to seek the answer to the question "What stands between me and this job?"

 

The follow-up letter is more than a thank-you note or common courtesy. It's a reminder of your qualifications and continued interest in the company. The follow-up emphasizes to an employer that you want to work for the company, even if the job advertised isn't right for you this time around. If you didn't land the job for which you applied, another one will open. Like the cover letter, the follow-up letter should be one page, usually three to six paragraphs. Practice developing the format of a follow-up letter after you have practiced developing the cover letter. Look at the sample letter templates and adapt them to your own interests and skills.

 

Template--Cover Letter Format--For Resumes:

 

Your Name

Street Address

City, State, Zip

Phone number

Email address

Web site URL, if any

Date of Letter

 

Name of person with the authority

to hire you in the department

in which you want to work

 

Title

Name of department

Company name

Street address

City, State, Zip

 

Dear Mr./Ms.__________:

 

Opening Paragraph—State the position you want. Tell why you want to work for that company. Make your sales pitch.

 

Middle Paragraph(s)—Mention your two best qualifications (related to the job in question). Explain how your skills and/or experience would benefit the company.

Point out any specialized training or skills that relate to company plans. Sell your abilities. Document your sales pitch with startling statistics or statements showing evidence of your talents.

Don't repeat yourself by listing what's on the resume.

 

Closing Paragraph—The reader needs to know at first glance that what's attached is your resume or resume and portfolio, list of publications, samples, or other itemized achievements. In the last sentence, let the employer know when you will call to follow up. (Don't wait for them to call you.)

 

Your closing sentence should ask for a specific action from the company. Reread the letter to make sure nothing is vague. Make every word concrete and practical enough to be remembered. Anything vague is quickly forgotten. There may be hundreds of competing cover letters on someone's desk.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your Name Typed

 

Enclosure

 

*Note: (Your handwritten signature needs to be in black ink, never another color. Book printing is done in black for contrast and clarity. Black ink signatures make a better impression.)

 

Sample Cover Letter #1: Resume Cover Letter

 

Your Name

Street Address

City, State, Zip

Phone number

Email address

Web site URL, if any

Month, Day, Year (March 15, 2004)

Person’s Name

Company Name

Street Address

City, State, Zip

Phone number

Email address

Web site URL, if any

Dear Mr. or Ms. Person’s Name:

 

Thank you for the opportunity you provided. Interviewing for the position of computer video games artist was exciting. I look forward to joining Web and Video Game Corporation and working with a dynamic manager like His or Her Name.

 

As I mentioned during the special effects tour with Ms. or Mr. His or Her Name, I am familiar with all of the duties and responsibilities of the job. I spent the last year as an intern working in the special effects department of the XYZ Web, Video, and Print-on-Demand Production and Publishing Corporation. There I quickly learned the value of timely and original illustrations for the electronic publishing, Web authoring, content production, print-on-demand publishing for the game design industry. My excellent work evaluations and reference letters from my internship are available on request.

 

In addition to my internship experience in print-on-demand publishing for the video game design industry, the knowledge I gained through courses in animation production and online desktop video editing and Web design in my associate degree program will serve me well in fulfilling the requirements of the position. I can contribute significantly to your corporation with my school’s award-winning illustrations and game designs by tailoring my details in editing and design to the expression of your online print-on-demand publishing or game design clients.

 

Thank you again for the opportunity to interview with your company and for the fascinating tour. I enjoyed our informative discussion, and the new animation was breathtaking. May I publicize your forthcoming video game by writing an article about it for the local weekly computer newspaper, The Web-Byter?

 

I volunteer each month to send the editor a column reviewing and recommending new software and computer video games. Also, I am available to write success stories from case histories by interviewing clients who switched to your software brand and would be willing to tell me why they switched and the positive results they had such as solving problems and achieving results from the software you manufacture.

 

If interested, please make my email address or phone number available to your marketing communications representative. I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your Name

 

#

 

Professional writer's associations and societies sometimes have online aids and job listings online as well as instruction in how to write cover letters, follow-up letters, outlines, and book proposals. For example, how do writers and other communicators in the media write cover and follow-up letters to promote their work or causes in the media?

Promotional and marketing business letters may use words as exclamatory magnets and personalize information valued by publishers by using action verbs instead of adjectives.

 

You'll find a list of writer's associations and their services at the end of this article. An exclamatory magnet is your first sentence speaking for itself and telling what everything in your letter is about in the first sentence.

 

The exclamatory magnet: Your first sentence tells your story in about 10 words
 

It's called an exclamatory magnet because it draws the reader in immediately to read more. It's not about using any exclamation marks in your writing. Don't use them at all. Use periods at the end of your sentences.

 

Most readers of cover letters give your letter less than 20 seconds. You have to summarize your most important point in the first sentence. Ernest Hemingway had one of the best exclamatory magnet type of "first sentence or actually two" in the form of a very short story that was only 9 words in length. Take inspiration from it when you write your cover letter. Say the most important point in your first short sentence.

 

On a bet, the famous author Ernest Hemingway once said that he could write a story in under 10 words. Here's his story: "Classified: Baby Goods. For sale, baby shoes, never worn."

Specialty professional associations for writers that offer job and promotional services
 

Writers in the media have their specialties. For example there are truck writers who belong to the TWNA - Truck Writers of North America. TWNA is an organization of professionals journalists, involved in gathering, writing and reporting news and information about trucks, trucking and the trucking industry.

 

Just like there writers and their professional associations specializing in dogs, cats, and planes and rockets. Check out the directory in the second part of this article listing many writer's national and Sacramento-based associations with their various specialties. For example see, the Aviation/Space Writers Association History of Aviation, the Dog Writers Association of America, and the Cat Writers' Association, Inc. Check out, the Society of Environmental Journalists.

 

Writing cover letters for writers, editors, and other communicators in the media

 

Sacramento job seekers looking to enter the media, cultural organizations as a public relations professional, journalist, or other communicator can begin by putting a cover letter on top of other mail should not allow the cover letter to look like a sales letter (unless the cover letter actually is a sales letter).

 

You don't want a cover letter to look like a form letter or sales letter, but more of a personalized letter offering information so new the media hasn't already heard of it. That type of information is to be directed to the person who has the power to hire you or needs vital information from you.

 

In the media, you're hired when you present the least financial risk to the executives with the power to hire you. They need vital information from you that they can't easily find elsewhere cheaper. When it comes to cover letters, this is your chance for a digital foot in the door.

 

Use concrete facts giving concrete facts - information so new the media hasn't already seen it

 

Your cover letter is judged by how well it fits into the company, and by extrapolation, how well you fit into the culture of the corporation or nonprofit organization. Cover letters also apply to electronic as well as paper mail. If you're a job-seeker bringing culture to media, you first need to place a cover letter on top of a resume or portfolio. It should never be mistaken for a sales letter. But the job of the cover letter and follow-up letter is to sell what you have to offer that your competition does not yet have and will soon learn from you.

 

Your cover letter positions you first in the media culture

 

The letter probably will be received with more attention if you detail the cover letter with concrete facts how well you fit into a company or family. Sales letters may get tossed as spam, especially online. What your cover letter is supposed to do is position you first. Make sure your cover letter depicts you as having the least financial risk to the person reading the letter and the person with the power to hire you or buy what you've written or published.

 

The first step in positioning you first in the reader’s mind is to show with active verbs how well you fit into the company or family. How do you show with active verbs instead of telling in a cover letter? You create an action verbs resource sheet in alphabetical order and draw on those verbs to show what you can do or what you did that brought profit into the company or harmony into a relationship.

 

Use active verbs in a cover letter instead of adjectives or nouns to show how you organized a project

 

Use words in a cover letter for a resume or a book proposal such as “detailed, activated, accomplished, adapted, advised, demonstrated, designed, detailed, encouraged, entertained, established, edited, enhanced, fixed, generated, identified, inspired, maintained, motivated, operated, persuaded, orchestrated, organized, produced, protected, provided, streamlined, succeeded, supervised, systematized, tested, troubleshot, upgraded, used, validated, visualized, won, or wrote. A list of active verbs appears in one of the appendices at the back of this book.

 

Select the active verbs that apply to your situation. The point is the active verb needs to show results—the bottom line of how you will bring profit to the company or relationship. Be very concrete and detailed in explaining how you will do this.

 

A cover letter, a book proposal, or a marriage proposal all use active verbs to show how you will bring in something the other part is seeking—either profit for a company, harmony for a relationship, love for a marriage, and solid explanations of how you will bring in what you promise.

 

The cover letter personalizes your writing, portfolio, or resume for each company

Before you sit down to organize your resume, first write your cover letter. Your mind will be focused on the position as you begin to sort the many details that will form your resume.

 

Your cover letter is really a sales pitch letter. Only to position yourself first, you have to work the words like you would work a room at a convention or party, without letting the letter appear like a sales pitch. Think of your cover letter as a springboard or letter of introduction that brings people together.

 

Without a cover letter on a resume, an employer will have to wade through your entire resume to find out how you will fit into the company. Your one-page cover letter introduces your resume and communicates a specific message about your value to a company.

 

A great one-page cover letter begins by pitching (in the first sentence) exactly what position you want in a company. Define yourself as a specialist; today's job market belongs to the specialist rather than a generalist. A cover letter also serves as a powerful introduction to (or umbrella for) anything else included in the envelope and is a sample of your communication skills.

 

Magnet Questions in Your Cover Letter

 

The first paragraph of your cover letter determines whether the reader will finish the letter. For your springboard, don’t let it sound like a spam-filled sales pitch. In the first brief sentence you need a positive magnet. Introduce who you are, your skills, or services. Describe specifically how your skills will be used in the company.

 

A springboard is defined as the facts you use to gain momentum, as in vaulting your words like a vaulting pole to offer valuable, new information that previously has not been read before. It's about putting a sharp, new focus or angle, a fresh idea on details or information you're offering that's easy to follow for the reader. A cover letter is the opposite of a sales letter, yet it's selling your skills in a subtle way by offering what's not been offered before to the same publishers or producers.

 

Focus on your timely or ageless works

 

Draw the employer toward you by stating how timely your services or skills are to the company. Or use a magnet question such as, "What's the most profitable and powerful resource you have?" You are going to have to position yourself first as the company’s most powerful and profitable resource.

 

Figure out how you can do it on the scale you are able to do. Then detail this kind of magnet question because it acts as a hook to capture your audience. Use this kind of catalyst magnet for employers, publishers, or clients.

 

Sell your writing or speaking as a potential gauge of profit, problem-solving, and measurable results

 

It goes beyond the sales pitch letter even if what you are selling are your skills. The other side sees your skills or services as a potential gauge of profit, results, troubleshooting, solving problems, or increase in production. That’s what a cover letter is about: making your proposal irresistible.

 

Your proposal can be your resume or an actual proposal.

You have a cover letter as your springboard. Your proposal or resume is your treatment. The offer made by the other side for you to negotiate is your contract. So what’s your pitch? It’s your first sentence and it should summarize everything you want to say in one sentence. For example, “Star Trek is Wagon Train in space.”

 

Your first sentence as an exclamatory magnet speaks for itself like a portfolio of pictures or photos

 

Your pitch is not to be viewed as a sales pitch. It’s explaining what you are offering in your first sentence. Define and compare what you are offering to something familiar and universal. If the employer, client, or relative can recognize what you mean, you’ve explained yourself.

That’s what a cover letter pitches in the first sentence: summarizing and explaining what you’re there to do for the person who reads your first sentence. That first few seconds seals the first impression. So pitch in the first sentence of your cover letter without letting the words hint of a sales letter.

 

Next, convince the employer to hire you. The simplest way is to give employers an observation they can verify themselves. The observation can be about their needs, or your skills. Computer companies are always searching for new ideas to plug holes or fill needs in the industry. Position your cover letter and resume as a plug to fill a need.

 

Try using exclamatory magnets like ‘Velcro’ in the second paragraph of your cover letter. There are three types that help solve problems:

 

1. a fear magnet—where you list a series of corporate or business fears and then tell how you'll solve the problems.

2. a story magnet—where you briefly explain how you will provide benefits to the company, using professional expertise or media contacts.

3. an exclamatory magnet or surprising statistics—where you mention surprising numbers or statistics associated with your career that startle the employer in a positive way. Use statistics to grab attention and motivate the reader to think about you.

 

Writing persuasively to sell what you have to offer in words or photos

 

Finally, a persuasive cover letter closes by making you stand out from the crowd and get hired. (A resume doesn't reflect the more action-oriented parts of your personality—it only states facts.) End the letter on a positive point. Show the employer how hiring you to apply your skills to the company's needs will bring positive results. What are positive results for an employer?

 

Positive results include more profit, increased production, problem solving, less employee turnover, lower costs of hiring employees, improvement of reputation, credibility, and image in the media, and bottom-line results-- increased revenues. Positive results for you include happiness and security with the results you obtain from a cover letter, resume, or proposal.

 

Does your fate really depend upon positioning yourself first on a pile of resumes and cover letters or proposals? It does in the mind of a reader with the authority to bring you in as part of a team. For further information on positioning yourself, read Al Ries and Jack Trout's book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Warner Books, NY, 1986. It provides advice about how to stand out from the crowd and win.

 

Cover Letter Tips

 

• Each time your resume goes to an employer, it should be topped by a cover letter. The courtesy of a cover letter is held in such high esteem by employers that resumes coming in without them frequently are discarded.

• As your computer skills and experience expand, you will have to work hard to condense them in a one-page resume or cover letter. Think of the entire computer industry as niches or areas of specialty. Your cover letter must be brief, but detailed enough to show your specialty or your unique qualities.

• Use your cover letter to personalize your communication and to establish a rapport with potential employers. Your goal is to build a relationship with someone who has the authority to hire you. A resume without a cover letter is too impersonal.

• The cover letter should express your enthusiasm and energy. It's your unique style, strength, and personality type that should shine through and move an employer to think of ways in which you could benefit the company.

 

Junk Mail or an Attention Grabber?

 

In the computer industry, thousands of resumes a year may pile up on someone's desk. These resumes begin to overwhelm an employer, and some may begin to see them as junk mail. These piles are given derogatory names like "the slush pile" in electronic publishing, "the stable" in information processing and technical communications firms, and "portfolio puss" in the corporate animation industry. How can you stand out? Only an action-oriented cover letter saves a resume from the heap.

 

Your cover letter can emphasize that you're an award-winning freelance writer, Web designer, or teacher or have recently completed an internship in journalism, counseling, new media, healthcare, design, marketing, genetics, government service, customer service, public relations, or programming. Maybe your volunteer work has won you recognition, or your sales record is outstanding.

 

Joining professional writer's associations can help you starting with their newsletters

 

If nothing outstanding has happened to you in your work or educational life, or you are a re-entry parent who had spent the past decade or two rearing children at home and volunteering for projects or causes, then join an occupational, special interest, professional, training, national association, or trade association and learn all about the newest products of several companies. Join projects or libraries and museums as “friends of” or members.

 

Volunteer to be on various boards or teams that focus on projects linking community and business. Genealogists can work with DNA-driven genealogy projects and surname groups. Act as a volunteer contributor to a local computer industry publication, or volunteer to do research or help out on a professional association's special task force or speakers' panel in your area of interest at the next convention.

 

Most employers who place classified newspaper advertisements request cover letters to accompany resumes. Most jobs come from information given through friends and contacts at work or through courses and special interest groups, associations, and projects. The format of your letter is important. Your first step is to find out when to use cover letters in what kind of situations.

 

Focusing on resumes only at first, or when seeking work, a job, or more customers and clients if you’re an independent contractor, you send a cover letter with a resume on ten different types of occasions. Notice that a cover letter is a noun, an object, sent in response to an active verb.

 

Cover and follow-up letters are active and use the present tense

 

The cover letter is active rather than passive. It accompanies the action taking place—the sending of a resume or proposal of any kind. The proposal can be for almost anything—a book proposal for a publisher or agent or a marriage proposal. The cover letter acts as a link to seal a relationship or ask for a contract.

 

A cover letter also can be turned into a greeting card, and you’ll find in this book, samples of greeting card cover letters. So the cover letter is a kind of ‘seal’ or request for a legal contract. When accompanied by a resume, book proposal, or other springboard, the cover letter in one page tells the reader at a glance what will be in the resume or book proposal or even a marriage proposal. It works with almost any kind of proposal, resume, treatment, or report accompanying it. When you send a cover letter, you also send a follow-up letter.

 

Ten Types of Cover Letters

 

You send a resume and cover letter when:

1. answering an advertisement.

2. writing to a specific employer—the informational cover letter.

3. asking a friend for job-related information.

4. consulting an employment or outplacement agency.

5. networking with members of a professional or trade organization.

6. attending a trade show, exhibit, convention, or conference.

7. interviewing people for information, photos, or video projects.

8. asking bookstores or distributors to carry your self-published book.

9. launching your project in the media or on the World Wide Web.

10. traveling to do research.

 

Answering an Advertisement

 

Clip ads from trade journals, national employment newspapers, professional organizations' newsletters, computer magazines, and the publications of computer user special interest groups. Write down phone numbers from the tape recorded phone messages of job hotlines for members of trade and professional organizations. Clip ads from your daily newspaper's Sunday help wanted section.

 

The hidden (not advertised) job market appears mainly in trade journals, those magazines and newspapers directed to readers interested in a particular industry. Most jobs advertise qualifications for the ideal candidate. If the ideal job applicant doesn't respond, often the employer will take what's available.

 

Send your cover letters and resumes to the widest variety of ads possible, even if you only have some of the qualifications. One reason for this is that company paid training is sometimes available after employment. On-the-job training is offered when the technology is so new that little training is available outside the company.

 

When new software is designed, technical trainers are trained on the job so they can go out to other corporations and train the new software users. In a classified or display help wanted ad, ob requirements are listed according to their rank of importance, with the most important skills listed first.

 

If you don't have all of the requirements, list the capabilities you have and specify which requirements they meet. State how you will be an asset to the company. Take out all extra words; only list strengths in your cover letter.

 

For further information, check out these books: Amazon.com: Cover Letters, Follow-Ups, Queries & Book Proposals - Samples with Templates, Who's Buying Which Popular Short Fiction Now, & What Are They Paying? How to Write, Customize, & Sell Tales Online or On Paper, Ethno-Playography, How to Publish in Women’s Studies, Men’s Studies, Policy Analysis, & Family History Research: 25 Ways to Organize Your Communications Training Business, and Do You Have the Aptitude & Personality to Be A Popular Author?

 

Check out your own city's chapter of various national writers associations. Various Internet search engines also can show a list of national and international writers associations and services. Use keywords in your search such as "list of national writers associations" or "list of international writers associations." Public and university libraries usually have copies of various directories of national and local chapters of writers associations.

Techniques of writing cover & follow-up letters: Guide to writer's associations and services.

Book by Anne Hart.