EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

I once wrote an editorial I called: Your resume stands alone

If I must say so myself, it was one of my better missives. It highlighted the simple fact that unless your resume sings your praises properly, you honestly don’t stand a chance. A resume needs to be complete, as in no missing jobs or obvious skipped time spans, especially at the beginning of your career. The companies you have worked for need to be defined in one simple line or two, and your job titles need to sort of jump off the page. Career progression speaks miles about you, especially early in your career.

If the resume is so darn important, you might ask, what is the role of the cover letter? In acting terms, the cover letter is a supporting actor. While it is not of prime importance and while it is true that you can probably get an interview without sending one if your resume is good enough, it is also true that at times it can push an otherwise cast off resume over the top.

I would be the first to admit that it is simply not possible to customize your resume for every ad you see. The odds of being selected are low, and if you are not a perfect fit, it is perhaps not worth the effort. Still, there is a lot you can do with your email cover letter that just may close the gap.

Let me be clear that your cover letter is not supposed to be a rehash of your resume. That is a waste of my reading time as the “hiring authority” and yours as an applicant.

To get started in writing a good email cover note, take the job posting and lay it next to your resume. The first issue you need to address is what subject to use. Do yourself a favor and if the posting requires a specific subject, use it EXACTLY as they have it written out. The reason is that with all the spam circulating in the world and perhaps multiple jobs being handled by one person (imagine that), it is possibly the way they are ensuring that all the applications get into the right folder on their computer. Deviate and you will lose.

Next question is who the heck are you supposed to be writing to? If it is Matt Bud, I must tell you that I take exception to being addressed as “Sir or Madam” or the ever popular “To Whom It May Concern.” (Those are not names I generally use, and like running your nails down a chalk board, they tend to grate on my nerves when I see them.)

Make your email look like business correspondence. When I write to clients of The FECG, I start the letter:

Matthew R. Bud
Managing Partner
The Financial Executives Consulting Group, LLC
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883

Dear Mr. Bud:

Starting out this way sets the right tone and shows that you are a true professional. Ending your email cover letter properly requires a FULL outgoing signature (I know you would be disappointed if I didn’t mention the outgoing signature issue several times a week, so I thought I would do it again tonight.)

A full outgoing signature includes your “given” name, your nick name, a proper physical address, your email address and ALL of the phone numbers where you may be hiding. On this last point, please know that when I want to reach you, I want to be able to do it NOW while your paperwork is on the top of my desk. My outgoing signature is:

Regards, Matt

Matthew R. Bud
Managing Partner
The Financial Executives Consulting Group, LLC
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883

MattBud@TheFECG.com
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell
(203) 227-8984 Fax

So, you are probably asking, what goes in the middle?

The middle of your email cover letter needs to answer the simple question of why you are applying. It should provide some “proof of the pudding” but not blather on at length. As an example: In response to your search for a Chief Financial Officer for your high technology manufacturing company, please know that I was Chief Financial Officer of a top 10 precision instrument manufacturing company for over 15 years.

Don’t say things like I am a perfect fit for this job. It just never plays well. That is a judgment the reader will have to come to after reading your resume and cover letter and it is presumptuous for you to say it first.

Most important is for you to answer any questions raised in the posting such as your expected salary range and your availability. I would also suggest you address any “elephants sitting in the room” such as why you would move from Florida where you have lived for 25 years to Minnesota. Since it is likely you have NO winter clothes, that issue presents a real puzzle to any reader. If you mention that you grew up there, that would help. The reader may not immediately notice that your first job was there or even where you graduated from college unless you point it out. Obvious questions, even ones not asked, need to be answered in your cover letter.

While the email cover letter plays only a supporting role, just as in a movie or play, a lousy supporting actor can ruin your theatre experience despite a leading actor who is a real star.

Make sure your supporting cast enhances your performance every time.

Regards, Matt

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