An Outline of a Cover Letter

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

You need a cover letter for each job you apply for. The cover letter may be completely customized, or it might be the same letter with different headers. At the very least, your cover letter should be customized for the kind of job you are applying for.

Those of us with many years’ experience often can do many different kinds of jobs. When you are applying for a particular kind of job, you will want to customize your cover letter and your resume for that kind of job. In this article, I am discussing a cover letter for a Business Analyst position. If you are applying for a Project Manager position, you would change the cover letter to be appropriate for that role. You want to focus the reader’s attention on what is relevant to the job you are applying for.

Start the cover letter with your name, address, and contact information (telephone, email). Then put the name and address of the person you are writing to and the date. In your salutation, put the name of the person you are writing to. DO NOT put To Whom it May Concern. You should always be writing to a specific person.

In the preparation for this application, you made a list of issues faced by your potential employer. In the first paragraph of the cover letter, list the issues you want to address. You might have a sentence something like this:

Recently you and I have been discussing some issues you are facing on your project teams. You have had to deal with difficult stakeholders, incorrect or poorly written requirements, and poorly trained team members.

Or if this is someone you have not been talking to, the sentence might look like this:

As a Project Manager, there are many issues you face on your projects. You have had to deal with difficult stakeholders, incorrect or poorly written requirements, and poorly trained team members.

Now in the next paragraph, explain why you are writing. You might have a sentence something like this:

I am sending you this letter because you don’t want to have these problems on your current project. There are many other challenges you need to deal with. I can contribute my experience and training in relationship management, requirements writing, facilitation, and change management to create smoothly running projects.

Notice how I state specific things that address the issues from the first paragraph. You can follow this up with a bulleted list of 3-5 specific things from your resume that proves you have these skills. For example:
• As relationship manager for the county jail, I cut the level of incidents between guards and inmates by 75%
• On over 20 projects where I was the Business Analyst, there were 1% or less project issues related to the requirements
• I have mentored 15 Business Analyst during their work on a project team, improving the quality of their work by 50%

Then summarize other things about you that may be important to the project manager. Perhaps something like this:

I am self-directed and work closely with my Project Managers to ensure the projects run smoothly. I love working with all kinds of people and in all kinds of situations. I think on my feet, and quickly create solutions to problems as they arise. (I love problem solving so much, I work on logic problems every night, which drives my family crazy.)

Then write a closing sentence or two. Here you are writing a call-to-action, which means you are asking the person reading the letter to do something. Maybe something like this:

Please review the enclosed resume. I am happy to provide you with references or any further information you require. I look forward to hearing from you.

Finally, sign the letter. Some people suggest a PS after your signature, perhaps something like this:

P.S. If you do not have positions available at this time, but know of someone who does, please let me know. My email address is foo@foo.com

Here is one final tip: hand address the envelope. This makes your letter look personal, and means it is more likely to be opened.

 

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About Geri Schneider Winters

Geri Schneider Winters is the primary author of the popular Use Case book "Applying Use Cases: A Practical Guide" and the founder of Wyyzzk, Inc. She has over 25 years experience spanning the software development lifecycle. Geri has learned her craft working with folks such as Grady Booch, Jim Rumbaugh, Ivar Jacobson, Walker Royce, Scott Ambler, Warren Woodford, Philippe Kruchten, and Kendall Scott, along with many less well known, but equally talented, people. Geri has worked in many companies in many industries, including IBM, Boeing, Lockheed, Adobe, Intuit, Delta Dental, United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Money Store, Charles Schwab, The Federal Reserve Bank, Visa International, USAA, Stanford University, University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, HiLCoE College, Agilent, Knights Technology, Deloitte and Touche, Safeway, and Coca-Cola Enterprises.