In the military community you don’t have to “present” yourself to a potential employer. You simply “report” to duty, figure out what’s being done and what your role is in the organization, and go to work with little guidance.
The corporate world is similar, except you must “present” your qualifications in writing before being considered for a job. This letter is referred to in the career transition business as a cover letter, approach letter, targeted letter, or broadcast letter. Regardless of what these letters of introduction are called, they all have one common purpose: to get a hiring official to call you for an interview and eventually offer you a job.
Several steps must be taken to ensure your letter of introduction is read with interest. First, and most important, is making sure the addressee’s name is correct. This person should be someone who has the power to hire and fire. You can probably get this name through research or a networking source within the company. Do not mail a letter to “Dear Sir or Madam,” “Director of Personnel,” or “To whom it may concern.” Such addresses will only ensure the letter ends up in the trashcan. If you can’t get a hiring official’s name, you are probably wasting your time, envelope, and stamp.
Second, establish a link with the company or a person in the company in the first few sentences. This step will be key for someone to take the time to read further than the addressee’s name. For example, “Bob Johnston in your company’s marketing department suggested I apply for the job in training development” is a good lead-in, particularly if Bob is in a key position within the company. Ideally, you would ask your source at the company to personally deliver your letter to the hiring official and speak on your behalf as someone who would make great contributions to the company. You can almost be assured of a call and possibly an interview if you have the minimum of qualifications.
Third, state the specific position you want within the organization: “I am applying for the position of XYZ’s director of training and believe my years of training management have prepared me for this job.” Restating the job announcement and number, if appropriate, is helpful, particularly if the company has a number of positions open and is expecting a lot of letters and résumés.
Fourth, state your qualifications for the position. Review the requirements of the job and summarize what experience you can bring to the company. Depending on your writing skills you can either address in detail your qualifications in the letter or attach a résumé for more information. Don’t make the letter too long; provide just enough information to interest the employer and whet their appetite.
A letter of introduction is difficult to write, so practice until you feel comfortable that you are addressing the employer’s needs. After each sentence ask yourself, “So what?” If your statement doesn’t make sense or doesn’t answer the question, make changes. Remember, Employers are busy and get plenty of applications, so they will initially try to weed out as many as possible. I am not suggestion you supply the employer with fancy gimmicks, only simple, straightforward facts addressing the employer’s stated requirements.
Finally, in your closing paragraph, ask for an interview and provide available dates and times if appropriate. “I would like very much to be considered for the position of director of training and am available any afternoon for an interview.” Provide your office and home telephone numbers, and close with “I look forward to hearing from you,” or “I will call you next Tuesday for an appointment.”
Now that the letter is written, double-check your spelling and grammar, and make sure the letter is easy to read and makes sense. Does it address the employer’s needs; have you told them what contributions you can make; would you hire the person based on your letter if you were the hiring official?
If everything is as you want it, print the final letter on white bond paper. Check to make sure it looks neat and is centered, with equal borders, and that it’s something you could proudly present. If so, you have a finished product. This letter of introductions should rarely ever be more than one page. Enclose a résumé of no more than two pages if you want to provide more detail.
As mentioned earlier, attempt to hand deliver the letter personally or have it delivered by someone in the company. Call after three of four days to see if the letter has been received, and ask if there is any other information they need. Do not overdo the phone calls once you are sure your résumé is in the right hands. Use good judgment to decide if you should call in a few weeks to check on the status of the application and possible interview. Also, keep track of when you mailed material, called, followed up, and provided or received input from a company. It is embarrassing to call the office and ask about information that has already been provided.
You have only begun the career transition process, and writing the letter is the easiest thing you will do!