10 commandments of cover letters
Beyond covering the key elements of the cover letter, there are a few basic rules you must never break.
I. Remember, it’s not what the sponsor can do for you. It’s what you can do for the sponsor.
II. Be business-like. If you’re mailing your cover letter and résumé, use high-quality paper and a conservative font (Times New Roman, Helvetica, Arial or Tahoma). Other fonts can be tough to read. Use at least 11-point type (12 is better, but don’t use anything bigger — except maybe for your name at the top of the résumé).
III. Keep it simple. If you’re sending your materials via email, problems can arise. For one, lots of pro staff managers will not open attachments unless they know you. (They might infect their computer.) But if you make your cover letter and résumé part of the text of the email, it may format it strangely on the receiving end. Be as basic as possible and hope for the best. Ask if the pro staff manager will accept attachments. If he agrees, send them in Microsoft Word. Just about everyone uses that.
IV. Be appropriate. Your approach to a pro staff manager should be business-like. It should not have any unnecessary personal baggage attached. Do not include a message of your faith or your favorite NASCAR driver or your favorite college football team. If it turns out that you have some of that stuff in common with the pro staff manager, use it later — when it’s appropriate to do so. For your initial approach, assume that all you have in common is that he’s running the pro staff and you want to be a part of it. Including things like a biblical passage, “Roll Tide” or a Dale Earnhardt-styled “3” on your cover letter or résumé does not indicate that you are spiritual or passionate. It indicates that you don’t know where to draw lines and that you might be an idiot.
V. Be interesting. Cover letters and résumés are usually dull. What can you say that will make yours stand out and get noticed? This does not mean an unusual font, strange photo or something else that’s basically unprofessional. It means finding a way of expressing yourself or finding a way to tell your story that’s better than the way your competition is doing it.
VI. A cover letter supplements, supports and highlights your résumé. It should never repeat it. If parts of your cover letter repeat things in your résumé, delete them. It should complement your résumé, not try to replace it.
VII. Be clear about what you want and ask for it. By the end of your cover letter, the pro staff manager must know exactly what you’re looking for. You’d be surprised at how many cover letters and résumés go on and on about what a great angler some person is without ever mentioning that he’d like a pro staff position. If you can’t sell yourself, how are you going to help the pro staff manager sell product?
VIII. Provide a clear next step or call to action. Are you going to contact the pro staff manager (good idea) or are you going to wait for the pro staff manager to contact you (terrible idea)? Let him know that you’ll be following up.
IX. Leverage your relationships. Who sent you? How did you get the contact information? Who do you know that might help you get a foot in the door? The world would be a better place if everyone had to earn things on their merits. Until that world comes along, make some friends who can help you.
X. Your cover letter must be perfect. There must be no misspellings, no misplaced punctuation and no run-on sentences. Since you can’t send yourself through the mail or via email, the cover letter is all that speaks for you. If it speaks badly, you look bad and will not get the sponsorship. There is zero room for error with the big (i.e., profitable) companies. If you are not a good writer, get a good writer to prepare the cover letter and résumé for you. If you are not good speller, don’t just trust spell check. (It doesn’t catch when you use the wrong word — “there” instead of “their.”) Get someone with real grammar skills to look it over. A good cover letter stands out and gives you a head start on your competition.
Tags: appropriate, business, call to action, clarity, commandments, cover letter, grammar, interesting, members, professionalism, resume, rules, simple, spell check, sponsors