How to Write a Cover Letter HR Can't Ignore

by James Ellis on June 22nd, 2010

Here's the problem: There are jobs out there, but there are a lot more people looking for jobs than there are jobs. Even entry-level jobs are getting hundreds of resumes.

A hiring manager would go blind trying to sort through all these resumes (and she's already got a full-time job), so the task gets passed to Human Resources. The problem here is that HR doesn't know as much about the job as the hiring manager. So the hiring manager wrote down all the thing she thought the new person would need to do and all the requirements that person would need. HR dutifully wrote all that down and turned it into the want ad you saw on Craigslist.

Remember, HR doesn't know anything about project management or office management or server and networking security, they only know what the hiring manager told them. So when faced with the daunting tasks of sorting through 100-plus resumes to find the dozen or fewer that will get passed to the hiring manager, the HR person just goes by what was on the ad.

This is something we can work with. If HR just wants to make sure that every resume they pass on to the next level meets the requirments, we have to show that you meet requirements.

How? 

A table.

In your cover letter, after your introductory paragraph, you need to insert a tw-column table that lists everything the ad said they wanted, and your experince and skills at each one. Like this:

Your Requirements My Experience
Develops best practices and tools for project execution and management. Spent six months developing a series of best practices for (company A) that were used by management and the department to reduce waste and increase efficiency.
Develops and manages project-specific budgets. In my last position, I managed an annual budget in excess of $400,000 in each of the three years I ran the project. I developed this budget by surveying past projects and new requirements to come up with each budget, that I then presented to the CEO for approval.

Note that I copy and pasted the left-column straight out of the want ad. Don't play around with the wording or try and get tricky.

Also, don't worry if this means that your cover letter goes longer than one page With a table that point-by-point spells out why you are a perfect match, HR will love you, since you are doing their job for them.

You aren't here to get the job, you're here to get the interview. And this is how you get past HR's filters to make to to the hiring manager. The best part is that few hiring managers will throw your resume and cover letter out because you look like a great fit. You will be worth the hour it will take to confirm that fit in an interview.

Use this and you will increase the number of phone calls and interviews you get.

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