Re: Cover Letters, What's Important?

Subject: Re: Cover Letters, What's Important?
From: Candace Bamber <cbamber -at- CASTEK -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 08:11:07 -0500

Stark Vision asked about cover letters. Since I'm currently in process of
evaluating resumes and since I specifically asked for a cover letter in my job
posting, I've been thinking a lot about what I'm actually looking for:

>What are the most important things to include in a cover letter?
*Proof that you read my job ad and thought about how or whether you have the
characteristics/qualifications I asked for. That means the letter should create
a bridge between the ad's stated needs and the contents of your resume. For
example, I asked for an "all rounder" - so maybe the letter could point out that
you have done a lot of different types of projects, or that you have two degrees
- one in English, one in Physics, or that you attend classes at night, manage a
little league team, publish poetry and have freelanced as a tech writer for the
last four years. Whatever. What you actually say obviously depends on your
experience and what you consider relevant. You don't have to cover every point
in my ad - pick two that you think are important - I just want to know that you
read it.

*Proof that you went to the trouble of trying to find out something about my
company. "I was very interested in the article about the future of
component-based development on your website. With my background in OO
development methodologies, I believe I could easily make the transition...." or
"The recent article about your company in CIO magazine indicated that you claim
to be able to deliver large scale systems in less than half the time of
traditional systems integrators. In an environment where speed and efficiency
are critical to success, my experience in process development at blah
company..."

*Enthusiasm for life and for work, desire to be the best, creativity, optimistic
outlook, friendliness, willingness to go the distance. Established skills aren't
everything. I hire people, not lists of skills. Attitude means a lot here -
we're in the business of doing the impossible and making it look easy. I'm
willing to take on a strong learner if I think they will thrive in our rather
unique environment.

This is a little more nebulous, but I also look to see if there is something
that I can use to establish some common ground. When I interview I always start
in the same place "I'll tell you what I need and what I have to offer. You tell
me what you need and what you have to offer. Then we can talk about our common
ground and decide whether it's worthwhile for us to go forward." A hint of
common ground in a letter often makes me take notice.

>Is there a minimum and maximum length?
I like to see at least a couple paragraphs. I find cover letters much more
revealing about people than resumes, so I'm willing to read a little more than
some other interviewers might be. A page is probably a good length for most.
I'll read two pages if the letter engages my interest.

>What should I avoid including in the cover letter?
*Avoid telling me how you're going to come in and save my team/company from our
current ineptitude.
*Avoid crossing the line between "selling yourself" (good) and convincing me
that you're so conceited and into yourself that no-one could stand to have you
around (bad)
*Avoid threats (I once had a guy with a perfectly acceptable resume write in a
cover letter that he would kidnap my dog if I didn't invite him in for an
interview.)
*Avoid anything that hints that you might be desperate for work
*Avoid anything about money
*Avoid enclosing a picture of yourself
*Avoid telling me what you won't do

I hope this is helpful to someone.....

Cheers.

Candace

********************************************
Candace Bamber
mailto:cbamber -at- castek -dot- com

Castek
221 Front Street E
Toronto, ON, Canada
--Putting The Future Together---
*********************************************


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