To Be Relevant, Focus on Your Cover Letter

A resume is probably the most overrated tool in a job search. Yet it is the thing most people obsess on.

Here’s the harsh reality:  your resume by itself will not get you a job. In fact, it probably will not even land you a job interview.

Think of your resume as a reference manual and your cover letter as a sales brochure. The owner’s manual in the glove box of a new car won’t sell the car. Likewise your resume won’t effectively sell you.

A reference manual contains the features, or the basic facts describing a product. Your resume is your reference manual which contains the facts of your brand—where you have worked, the job titles you’ve held, the education or training you’ve received and other such items.

Your cover letter, on the other hand, is the sales brochure written to capture the interest of a hiring manager. Properly written, your cover letter will make your resume relevant to the specific needs of a prospective employer.

Your cover letter should talk about the benefits you offer, not your features. A one-page letter should paint a picture that helps a potential employer visualize the benefits of having you as part of the team.

You’ve probably obsessed long enough on your resume. It’s time to create a compelling cover letter that will really sell the brand hidden beneath the features listed on your resume.


These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH

One Response to To Be Relevant, Focus on Your Cover Letter

  1. Sheila Myers says:

    Great advice, Duane. And very relevant for those of us actively involved in a job search.

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