The Almighty Letter
What's more, if the prospect reads the letter first and then sees the same copy in the résumé, the immediate reaction will be, "I've seen this before, so I can lay it aside and go on to the next applicant."
Same thing, if the résumé is read first.
In direct mail, the most complex element is the circular in terms of design and amount of verbiage. If printed in full color, it is also the most expensive piece.
The letter, on the other hand, is relatively simple—letterhead, salutation, copy, close, signature, P.S.
Since the résumé—the circular equivalent—goes to everybody, the cover letter can be used as the vehicle to versionalize your communication. It can show how your experience and background relate to—and can directly benefit—the chemical company, software developer or sales organization you're contacting.
In short, don't dash off a cover letter. As Lublin wrote, "It is the golden key to any job search."
Takeaway Points to Consider
- If you expect a letter to be read, the lead sentence must be a grabber.
- Chances are your lead will be found somewhere in the second or third paragraph of your first draft.
- Make the letter look different from the résumé. If the two elements look alike—with the same letterhead and same type style—it won't be immediately obvious which is which. "A letter should look like a letter," said the late guru Dick Benson.
- Avoid "gray walls of type." Try to make the first paragraph no more than three lines, and no paragraph longer than seven lines.
- Make your letter easy on the eye with wide margins and decent-sized type.
- Use ragged-right margins.
- One of the most-read elements of a letter is the P.S.
- "Don't overlook the size and vitality of your signature. It is your handshake."
- "When emotion and reason come into conflict, emotion always wins!"