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When writing a cover letter, are there any alternatives to the phrase "my background fits your needs specifically"?

In the cover letter podcast, Mark recommends that the opening include this phrase.  What should I do when my background is tangential to (but definitely appropriate for) the vacancy advertised?

There are times when it would be more accurate to write "my background fits your needs implicitly" or "my background fits 80% of your needs".  These variants are obviously much less powerful than the original.

I am hoping for an option that is more accurate, but retains the power of the first version.

RDHodgson's picture

 Are you a High C by any chance? :D

I don't know about tangential (if it's below 60-80% match I wouldn't apply), but if you fit 80% of their needs specifically, you can still say that you fit their needs. And what you're going to do is specifically tell them which of their needs you meet and why!

yellowfir's picture

 Yes, I am a High C.

I do spend most of my cover letter by linking my experience to the traits mentioned in the vacancy announcement.  I have the body honed pretty well.

I am concerned about the phrasing of this one sentence, because it sets the tone for the rest of the cover letter.

RDHodgson's picture

 Right, well, you meet those needs specifically don't you? 

yellowfir's picture

 Ah!  I think that I understand now why you asked me about being a High C.  To generalize:

The job advertisement states "Candidate should have the following 10 criteria."

I meet 8.5 of those, so I get anxious about the other 1.5.  I do not feel that I my experience meets the needs specifically. 

You're saying that because I meet most of the criteria, that it is legitimate for me to state that I meet the needs specifically.

Is this an accurate understanding?

AppleJack's picture

If the ad says "should" not "must" so if you have 8.5 out of 10 you should be fine. I'm also high C and am a little uncomfortable with stating that I meet the needs specifically, so I'm experimenting with incorporating that phrase in to my cover letters. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't. Regardless of whether or not I use that phrase, my cover letters are always written to make connections for the reader between the job description and my resume.

Good luck!

RDHodgson's picture

 Yep. You got me.

And I'm speaking as a High C also. I get why you're reticent, and I would feel that way too. Applejack is spot on there: unless they say you must meet all the following criteria, then of course you *must* meet all of them. As it is, you specifically meet 8.5 of the criteria.

If it's ambiguous whether they want all or most, err on the side of "most". Unless I'm mistaken, there's no harm in saying you meet them specifically, and them looking and seeing you only meet 8.5 specifically. They'll just toss your resume aside if they're that strict. They aren't going balk, laugh at you and tell everyone you're a big fat liar.

Perhaps you could say, "I specifically meet your requirements for...." and state *just* those requirements that you meet?

yellowfir's picture

I would rather have my application erroneously rejected for being underqualified, than have it be rejected because I misrepresented my record.

Sometimes people think this is a sheepish form of modesty, even though I am immensely proud of my achievements.  Perhaps such reticence is just a personality flaw.

For now I will continue to use the phrase that "my background fits your needs specifically". Thank you for reassuring me.

rossrader's picture

 Simply, I wouldn't bother with including a cover letter at all. 

Rather, agonize over the detail that goes into the custom resume you are going to prepare for them, make sure that the qualifications they require are highlighted in the resume and that you are well prepared to discuss any gaps and explore your experience more deeply.

My feeling is that most hiring managers and recruiters spend very little time, if any, reading cover letters, scan your last two positions for related experience, glance at your education to make sure you meet the minimum standard and get a rough idea of your age and then make a snap decision on whether or not to shortlist you for an interview or screening base on their initial impression. I'm not sure that the cover letter is really ever factored into the hiring decision and mostly just represents misguided effort on behalf of the candidate.

 

acao162's picture

Just to make it tougher on you - I regularly toss resumes without cover letters.  The jobs I hire for all require "exceptional written communication skills" - as in, you need to be able to write concisely, with proper punctuation, grammer and spelling.  Not only does a (short) well crafted cover letter tell me something about your communication skills, it also gives me more insight into your proof-reading/data entry/attention to detail.

I had an English teacher say (and I strongly believe it) "You write the way you think, if you are sloppy thinker, you will be a sloppy writer."  The point he was making was about critical thinking skills - they are essential to me.  All my superstars have them & I don't like to hire anything but stars. 

Another point to consider, your resume doesn't communicate a willingness to relocate, passion for the industry, or answer any other questions that might cause you to be rejected.

The key for me is short.  Keep it brief and tell me what I want to know about you - not what you think I need to know.  Everyone is a people person.  Everyone has above average communication/customer service/bookkeeping/programming skills.  Your resume demonstrates this, so don't waste paper on that.  Look for the questions & answer those in the cover letter.

Good luck.

southzone2002's picture

I've read posts from several recruiters and hiring managers boasting about using ATS (or one similar) software to elimiminate up to seventy-five pecent of the resumes they receive.  Many others state they "trash" resumes without cover letters.  I realize recruiters and hiring managers get bombarded with resumes from unqualified candidates daily but eliminating a resume solely based upon the person failing to attach a cover is ridiculous.  Just think of all the talented, well-qualified candidates your employer or client will never know about because you were too lazy or too busy to read his resume.  It doesn't take much more time to review everyone's resume and weed out the ones you don't like based on content.  If you see one that picques your interest, text or e-mail the candidate and ask for more information.  

AppleJack's picture

I get resumes without cover letters every so often and there is no way to know what position they are applying for or why, so they go into the trash immediately.

I want to add that I recently had an interview for a job that I wanted and could see myself doing well, but that my qualifications were not a logical match for. My cover letter was written to make the connections between the job description (project team lead position) and my accomplishments (lots of getting things done with no resources). I got called in for two rounds of interviews, they kept going on and on about what a perfect match I was. I had to keep stopping myself from saying "but I don't have any real experience with agile or scrum and I'm not a programmer, etc..." That did not matter, they were looking for someone who knew how to get things done. Ultimately they hired an internal candidate, but they are passing my resume to another department for another open position - a job specifies programming skills, so we'll see how that pans out.

The point is, when we are applying and interviewing we need to show ourselves at our best. We do not need to highlight what we are not. I'm not suggesting being dishonest, just that we should be good advocates for our own accomplishments and best qualities.

suedavis's picture

I have never seen a cover letter from a candidate, except at my very first management job, where I answered the "careers@" email box myself . I always get just a bare resume, sometimes even with the identifying information stripped. 

In the case where I answered the "careers@" box myself, the cover letter was a minor contributor to who got a phone screen and who didn't -- the resume itself was the main factor there. Bridging mismatches between your resume and the job description, and making it clear which position you're applying for (and that you actually understand the position and the company) are the things I'd look for in one. I didn't (and wouldn't) pass them on to other interviewers in the loop if the candidate got past my phone screen; at that point, I expect their resume, and their interview performance, to speak for itself.

"The jobs I hire for all require 'exceptional written communication skills'" -- mine, too. I already have a sample of their writing: the resume. And I can ask the candidate to provide a longer writing sample, too, and one that's less prone to easily-imitated formula than a cover letter is.

derosier's picture

 Another thought: using the MT format for the cover letter might get you recognized by a hiring manager and add another feather to your cap. The phrase is distinctive as is the resume format. If I ever see a MT candidate I know I'll have a great match on my hands.