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Writing a Great Cover Letter

Wouldn’t it be nice if every new employment opportunity were accompanied by an introduction from a mutual friend between you and your potential employer? Imagine if you, the candidate, could present yourself to any prospective employer in a specific way, prior to handing them a resume. No doubt, you’d feel better about your odds versus just sending in your resume. 

Naturally, whenever you can have a “warm” introduction versus a “cold” or “blind” one, you should! There are times, though, where you’re going to have to share your resume before you meet the decision maker(s) and, in these instances, you may want to consider a cover letter. 

I’ve written before that a resume is a chance to make a great first impression—I am not taking that back. Your cover letter is an introduction to you and your resume, strengthening that initial impression. This isn’t quite your mutual friend introducing you to your desired future employer, but a great cover letter beats no introduction at all.
The questions that should be answered in your cover letter are simple:
A. Why are you interested in their company and the opportunity?
B. Why are you a good fit?
C. How will you add value?

As with resumes, cover letters do NOT sell you. They’re marketing documents, designed to get you to the interview where you make the sale. The interview is “where the magic happens.” 

And, as with resumes, your cover letter should be clear, concise, and developed to speak to your target audience. It’s fine to start with a template or basic outline, but do NOT send an employer a generic fill-in-the-blanks cover letter. If you think a particular job/employer is not worth the time to write a cover letter, then perhaps you shouldn’t be wasting any time at all on applying for that job—really!

Joe Pro Resumes, another service of Joe Produce®, is a professional resume writing service. We blend industry knowledge with a strategic marketing approach to craft effective resumes that get interviews.

The top 15 recommendations for
great cover letters:

  1. Do your homework regarding the employer and role
  2. Cover the aforementioned questions
  3. Do not exceed one page. Three to five well-written paragraphs are plenty—opening, middle, second middle, and close
  4. Do NOT “sell” yourself
  5. Do NOT turn this into highlights of your resume
  6. Have a clear agenda—again, see the three questions above
  7. Be a person and not a “professional robot.” A small and careful glimpse of you as someone who is nice to work with every day is a positive impression
  8. Include a date as you would with any business letter
  9. Do NOT get into compensation-related issues
  10. Make no mistakes, including spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
  11. “Thank you, Your Name” is an appropriate, safe, and effective salutation
  12. If you were referred by a mutual and respected friend, then mention them
  13. Sincerely compliment the company and let them know why that is part of the attraction for you
  14. Your cover letter should reflect the same font style and size as your resume
  15. Everything stated in your cover letter should be in line with your resume and LinkedIn profile

Begin with the end in mind. Keep your objectives clear and simple—this is a letter, afterall. Do not overthink it and/or get greedy with what you’re trying to convey or accomplish here. 

If you need professional support with your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile, contact Joe Pro Resumes for a quote.

Hiring Managers, employers, and Human Resource professionals: 
Please read those cover letters—you may be missing a gem! A well-written cover letter can directly share details of the candidate that are not on their resume, as well as more clues about them, such as: Did they do some research about you and/or your company? Are they a strategic thinker? How do they formulate thoughts? Are they detail-oriented? Do they have that “something extra?” Despite not checking all the boxes, did they make you stop and think “What if?” 

Job seekers: 
Not all company career sites are set up to accept cover letters. If you run into that situation, you may have to get creative to get your cover letter into an employer’s hands, but BE CAREFUL. There is a fine line between an employer appreciating your creativity and tenacity and one who feels you’re being a nuisance. 

A handful of creative options:
If you have an email address for HR or the Hiring Manager, then email that contact your cover letter—only email them once, though. HR departments are often spread thin, but they’re diligent. So, while you may not receive a response, your message likely went where it needed to go
B. You can send good-old-fashioned “snail mail” to the Hiring Manager or HR manager. If you do so, be sure to include your resume too. Presentation is important, so use good-quality paper for both and hand-sign your cover letter
C. Fax machines sit around forever now without being used. It’s a bit old school, but you’re almost guaranteed to be the only fax on the machine. Fax numbers are often available online or in the Bluebook
D. Drop it off at their office if it’s close by. Again, make sure that it’s in a nice envelope with nice paper and hand-signed. Include your cover letter and resume, even if you submitted your resume electronically beforehand. And again, don’t hang around and risk pestering anyone. Do make sure that you look presentable and are ready to speak with anyone right then, should lightning strike 

NOTE: If you’re employed and trying to maintain confidentiality, some of the ideas above may present more risk. Be careful.

Contributing Author

Founder and President, Joe Produce Search℠. Joe Produce Search (JPS) is the Executive Search division of Joe Produce®. Joe Produce Search is comprised of experienced search consultants and produce professionals. Our placements range from middle management to C-level positions, throughout North America, covering a wide range of produce and produce-related businesses. Joe Pro Resumes is another service of Joe Produce®. Joe Pro Resumes helps you write and refine your resume to help you find the produce industry position of your dreams. We have written hundreds of resumes for many professionals in the produce business in addition to various related sectors.