Crafting cover letters

November 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

Cover letters get no respect, hiring managers say. Besides your resume, the cover letter is your best promotional and marketing tool to employers. Yet recruiters complain that cover letters are often too hastily and sloppily written, contain spelling and grammar errors (yes, from journalists) and have a robo-written feel to them — as though many others are receiving the same letter with just the name changed. (And not always that — I received one as a recruiter a few months back addressed to someone else at another news organization — someone I happened to know!)

Yet writing a cover letter shouldn’t provoke a cold sweat or days of procrastination. It’s your calling card and job hunters should use it as such. By following some simple rules you can develop a polished cover-letter style that allows you to produce these with efficiency and relative ease.

Here are some tips from experts:

*Take this seriously. Hiring managers for journalism positions take away plenty of points for a sloppily dashed-off cover letter. Alternately, you can gain some respect for a good one. Above all, be honest and direct in your letter. First simply express your interest in the position, and then summarize your background (your resume will go into greater detail), state why you would be a good fit for this job and restate your interest — this time saying why you are interested in this particular job.

*Try to get the name of the hiring manager you are addressing — rather than Sir (never, never! recruiters are often women) or the stuffy-sounding To Whom It May Concern. Make sure you spell their name correctly and have their correct title. Double and triple-check this.

*Keep the cover letter relatively short, usually no longer than one page. Don’t try to be witty or to get too familiar with the hiring manager. Don’t presume too much knowledge about the position or the organization — you could be inaccurate. Don’t gush about how much you want the job. Again, be honest, direct and polite.

*As noted in an earlier blog post on interviewing (“When the interviewer becomes the interviewee”) be careful how you mention a referral — you don’t want to appear to be name-dropping. If a contact recommended that you send the cover letter, state that in a straightforward way in the letter but don’t go on about it. And be honest about how you know the contact, if it’s relevant.

*Conclude the letter politely with a statement saying you would be available to meet at their convenience to discuss the position, or say you would be happy to send further material (that’s especially good for reporting or Web production jobs where you may be unsure what they want in the way of clips).

*Even if you have sent a resume, attach another copy to your cover letter, just in case. In the subject line of the letter make sure you state your full name and note the position for which you are applying. Make it easy for the recruiter or hiring manager; you never want to make them do extra work on your account!

*Several bits of good news to report today…Please send along tips of other journo job hunters who have landed well — success breeds success!

*The first I’m proud to say resulted partly from this blog….Derek Wallbank, most recently a reporter and researcher at CQ, and a member of the “Gang of 45,” has landed as a Washington correspondent for the MinnPost! Details follow:

http://www.minnpost.com/insideminnpost/2009/11/09/13271/minnpost_loses_a_washington_correspondent_and_hires_another
*And Michelle Hirsch, most recently a Web producer at CQ and another member of the “Gang of 45,” will be starting a new job in D.C. at The Fiscal Times, a Web site on fiscal matters that will launch in January. Michelle will be a reporter and Web producer.
*As always, some job leads!
*The first is a research fellow position with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in D.C.:

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a
non-profit, bipartisan public policy organization established in 1962
to address international policy issues and to provide policy options
and solutions.  CSIS is one of the largest organizations of its kind,
with a staff of roughly 180 employees, including more than 100
analysts tracking policy issues and developments in countries across
the globe.

CSIS is seeking a Fellow to join the Scholl Chair in International
Business.  The Scholl Chair at CSIS is advancing major initiatives
relating to the intersection of international business and security;
the future of the next global economy and international institutions
such as the G-20 and the WTO; U.S. and global competitiveness; and
international finance and trade.  The incumbent will have the
opportunity to interact with major international business and policy
leaders on a major project in this area, along with the opportunity to
create a broad intellectual agenda that is in accord with this overall
approach, and to maintain a high level of scholarship in an
entrepreneurial and fast-paced environment. The incumbent will
typically work on several long-term projects simultaneously, in
addition to responding to daily demands.

Description of Duties:

Conduct research as dictated by the Program:

Brainstorm and develop new projects which further the CSIS mission of
providing strategic insights and policy solutions to decision makers.

Write thoughtful, content-rich and innovative sections of proposals,
publications and book chapters.

Develop innovative graphic and statistical presentations to illustrate
the key impacts of global economic and security forces.

Design and develop projects, programs and publications in coordination
with other CSIS entities, as feasible.

Develop a record of scholarship that is called upon by outside sources
to provide expert advice and opinion.

Support Program activities:

Manage the substantive and operational priorities of sizable projects
and initiatives.

Identify new opportunities for policy relevant research.

Participate actively on a closely knit team.

Provide interviews on topics of expertise to print media, radio,
television, and internet media

Represent the program on a national/international level and among
scholars and policy leaders, as well as with the national and
international media.

Qualifications:

MBA/MA or other advanced degree required in the field of Business,
Economics, Finance, or National Security/Foreign Policy.  Independent
research skills are emphasized, along with the ability to conduct
financial research, develop innovative graphic presentations, write
analytical reports, concept papers and business correspondence.
Ability to manage competing priorities and multiple projects under
tight deadlines. Must possess strong communication skills including
the ability to effectively present information and respond to
questions from media, governmental entities, and the general public.
Requires familiarity with the Washington policy community and the
business sector.  An ideal candidate would possess background working
on international financial issues in financial services, business
strategy, and/or federal government roles.

If interested in applying for this position, please submit a letter of
interest, resume and salary history to:
employment@csis.org

Be sure to reference the position in the subject section of the email. EOE

*The hat tip on the next lead goes to the Pulse at Businessjournalism.org…It’s for a travel editor in D.C.:

 

Orbitz seeks a travel editor, based in Washington D.C.


Away.com/Orbitz Worldwide seeks an Editor to lead editorial efforts for Away.com travel guide products. Responsibilities will include ensuring editorial quality of product content, researching new destinations for coverage, training and management of external editorial resources, and coordination of expansion calendar with broader editorial efforts

Check out Away.com’s Career Builder listing.

*The next item is a site with many D.C. Hill jobs as well as jobs in agencies, corporations and non-profit groups. It is run by the Republican Communications Association so the jobs have a bit of a “reddish hue” to them:
www.rcaweb.org.
Happy hunting!
Jodi
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