A reader emailed me recently for helping on cover letter. I thought our email Q&A might be helpful to others as well. To protect privacy, I have made some minor changes to our conversation. Hope this will be helpful to folks who are in similar situation.
Q: I came across an article you had written in https://www.geekmba360.com/?p=227. I just got laid off yesterday from a software start-up. The company was having financial problems. For such a situation, what type of cover letter is appropriate? I am having a hard time writing up one.
A: I don’t think you need be too concerned about the fact that you were laid off. You have a legitimate reason — the start-up ran out of money and it had to downsize. This happens a lot in software industry.
You don’t really need to mention layoff in your cover letter.
I would make the cover letter short and concise. and focus on 1-3 key reasons why you’re a good fit for the position the employer is trying to fill. Put yourself into the mind set that you’re selling yourself — what does the employer needs? To fill that needs, what are 3 of your most important selling points? I would list the reasons on the cover letter. Make it short and sweet.
Don’t need to mention anything extra. The only purpose of cover letter is to get yourself an interview. Then, you will get a chance to explain yourself.
Q: So I know each employer is looking for different things so the cover letter include what they are looking for? I don’t want to copy and paste their requirements but I want my cover letter to stand out.
A: When I look for a job, I actually customize each cover letter — as you said, each company has its own unique requirements. So, you need to think in term of how your background/experience will address their requirements.
For example, one company might be looking for someone who has C++ experience, and knows mobile technology. You want to specifically mention your experience in C++ development and the mobile area and how it’s applicable to the employer.
Another company might be interested in someone who has distributed computing experience, worked in scrum environment, and are familiar with Microsoft technologies. Then, you need to tailor your cover letter to address those areas (if you have relevant experience).
In a more generic sense, let’s say you’re asked to sell ice. When you talk to kids, you will tell them how cool the ice is, and how much fun it’s to eat ice. When you talk to older people, you might tell them that ice will help them to keep their food longer. Not a good example, but I guess you get the idea. đź™‚
Remember, job interviewing is a lot like selling. Make sure you read the book I always turn to when I’m looking for a job.