Cover letter advice
How to make your sales pitch

Looking for cover letter advice? Well.....the advice is..... all your job application letters, and the cover letters for resumes that you're submitting, have to sell to the employer what you're offering them as a future employee.

In this page we'll explain exactly how to do that.

Cover letter advice - Knowing how to sell YOU

Apart from making sure you apply usual business letter writing conventions, which are described in cover letter tips, all job application letters have to appeal to the reader's interest, and meet their needs in an obvious way.

Your sales pitch and employer needs

All successful selling revolves around needs satisfaction - the "buyer's" needs. In job search terms, the buyer is of course the employer.

All jobs exist to satisfy a variety of operational needs.....and the job that you are applying for is no different.

The key to writing successful job application letters is to show that you really understand what is important to the employer in relation to this position - that is, the need, or needs, the organisation is trying to satisfy as a result of this job.

What sort of needs do employers have?

The job ad is the most obvious source for clues about the employing organisation's needs. You can also learn about these through your networking job search activity.

Simple desk based research can tell you a lot about needs and priorities - look at the organisation's website......look for information about what is important to the organisation - the things that organisations says are important to it, are an expression of needs.

Common examples of organisational needs in relation to a position you might be applying for could include:

  • Increase sales or market share, or improve client satisfaction
  • Better quality, improved safety
  • Reduce costs or waste
  • Better employee morale, or reduction in staff turnover
  • Improve efficiency or productivity
  • Better return on investment

This list is by no means exhaustive.

It serves to remind us that people's jobs, and people, in organisations basically exist to meet needs and solve problems.

Therefore....a really important piece of cover letter advice employers, through what you write, that you understand their needs, and can help meet them.

Do this, and you'll usually get their interest in your job application letters.

How? You must respond to the selection criteria.

Cover letter advice - respond to the selection criteria

Staggeringly simple cover letter advice isn't it, and probably quite obvious to you. Respond to the selection criteria, and you will end up making a highly targeted sales pitch to the reader.

But....why is it that so many people completely overlook addressing the selection criteria in their job application letters?

If you were taking cover letter writing advice from an employer they would certainly say to you - "please explain your suitability for the job against the selection criteria in the job advertisement."

Cover letter tips

As the term implies, the selection criteria relates to the attributes that employers are seeking in their ideal candidate - in other words this criteria is an explanation of their needs.

All cover letters sent with resumes will be screened against this criteria to develop a short list of candidates to be interviewed.

Those letters and resumes that clearly are related to the selection criteria will at least be considered.

Job applicants that don't cover the selection criteria in their letters and resumes will be's as simple as that!

I'm convinced that part of the reason many job applicants overlook the selection criteria is that they don't know where to look for it in the job advertisement.

Or they don't understand the importance of writing about what they have to offer in a way that is relevant to the reader's needs.

Where do you find the selection criteria?

If you're answering a job advertisement, sometimes it can be a little tricky to find.

So, let's look at the information you'll find in most "display" job ads, either on line or in a newspaper:

  • At the top of the ad, the job title
  • Next, there will usually be some brief information about the employing organisation - nice stuff about them - it's their sales pitch to you.....basically "come and work for us - see how good we are!"
  • Then, usually, a description of the job role - functions, duties, responsibilities, who you will report to, how many people you might be leading, scope of operations or territory you'll manage etc
  • Next, the selection criteria - often an itemised list which outlines the skills, knowledge, education qualifications, and sometimes things like required attitudes/personality traits
  • The last part of a display ad contains details of how to apply, who to contact with questions, closing dates for applications etc.

Many display job ads will follow this format, but not all, so how do you recognise the selection criteria part of a job ad?

Recognising the selection criteria in a job ad

The section of a job ad where the selection criteria is outlined usually begins with sentences such as:

  • "The successful candidate will be able to....."
  • "The successful candidate will have....."
  • "The ideal candidate will....."
  • "You will bring to the position....."

An itemised list of the employer's requirements will then follow.

Take very careful note of ALL the attributes being sought.

In cover letters for resumes that you are sending in response to job ads, don't dare miss writing about an attribute that is listed in the ad - and make sure you cover these points in your resume too!

Cover letter advice

Many people wonder why they miss out on getting an interview.

One of the main reasons is because they have overlooked writing about important selection criteria in either or both their cover letter and resume.

Another reason people miss out on an interview is because in their application they write about how well they meet the job responsibilities, rather than on how well they meet the selection criteria.

It's also surprising to me how many people don't apply for a position because they look only at the job responsibilities section of the advertisement, and if they don't have experience in that area, they decide (often mistakenly) they aren't qualified for the position.

This approach indicates a complete misunderstanding of the selection process - they don't realise employers make their selection on the "selection criteria".

So.....some key cover letter advice.....if you have the attributes they are seeking, but don't necessarily have experience in the job functions outlined in the job ad, strongly consider applying for the position.

Most employers accept, in fact know, that they will need to train their new hires in how to do the job. What employers want is people who already possess the attributes needed, so that they can be trained to do the job.

These attributes they are seeking from job applicants are the selection criteria.

Cover letter advice - summary

A successful job application involves selling your capabilities to the employer.

The key to all successful selling is to focus your sales pitch on the needs of the buyer - in job search terms this is the employer.

Employers who advertise their vacancies are quite helpful in telling you what their needs are - they will describe the ideal attributes they are seeking in the successful candidate.

These attributes are called the selection criteria - and each application received will be assessed against how well they meet these criteria.

Therefore in your cover letter, and your resume, you absolutely must explain the relevance of what you have to offer using the selection criteria as the guide what you write about.

Follow this cover letter advice.....and you'll have made a great sales pitch to the employer that is relevant to their needs. And.....that's how to get people interested in you!

New! Comments

Has this helped you in your job search? What else would you like to see here about job search? Leave me a comment in the box below.
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