A Good Cover Letter Starts With "You"

Tackle your job search from a different perspective--that of your prospective employer.

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Karen Burns
That's right, "you." Or “Your.”


Because the most effective way to job hunt is to think and act from the perspective of your potential employer.

Sound obvious? It’s not. When we’re looking for a job we’re thinking about ourselves and our needs. Namely, our need for a job! We continue this inward focus in how we present ourselves to possible bosses--laboring over our résumés, spiffing up our qualifications, fine-tuning our references. It’s all about us! Which is understandable and 100 percent normal.

But guess what? While we’re busy with thoughts of ourselves, our potential bosses are busy with thoughts of themselves. They worry about budgets, head count, inventory, deadlines, proposals and--these days--hanging onto their own jobs.

So, you can be a standout candidate and win a manager's undying appreciation by demonstrating that:

  1. You understand his/her problems, and
  2. You, wonderful you, possess what it takes to solve those problems
  3. Meaning, in your cover letter (and in all your interactions with potential employers) start by showing you understand the industry and the issues. Extra points for being able to mention the latest new contract, or that magazine interview the CEO gave, or the software some wizard just dreamed up.

    Then say how your qualifications and experience fit into this company’s universe. If you can point to a specific challenge this company faces and then offer good ideas for dealing with it, even better. Make it more about them, less about you, and you may find your job search just got shorter.

    Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009 (but available now for pre order at Amazon!). She blogs at karenburnsworkinggirl.com .