In my class, I assigned students to submit a resume, hypothetical cover letter and accompanying job ad. I thought this would be an easy assignment and way for me to get to know the students but it turned into a larger lesson on communication.

I see a resume and cover letter as a microcosm of the communication process as a whole. These documents must be accurate, compelling and succinct. They must bring the content to life in a way that is meaningful for the audience, not the writer and, like most messages, they need to inspire action. Hiring and interviewing are key managerial skills and I believe the students need to role model in that area by having a resume, letter and LinkedIn profile that conveys their strengths and uniquenesses. Let’s just say that I was underwhelmed with what I received.

So, we spent a portion of class working on two key elements of the cover letter: 1) the focus and 2) the closing. The letter should be about THE EMPLOYER, not the candidate. Consider the difference between:

  • “I am applying for ABC position because I have XYZ strengths” – vs. – “I am applying for ABC position because I have XYZ strengths that can help your organization delight and serve its customers.”
  • “I am interested in ABC position because I’ve always admired your organization and am interested in your industry.” – vs. – “I am interested in ABC position because I believe my XYZ skills can help you continue to be a leader in your industry.”

Make it about them!

We also worked to end with a strong statement. Instead of the unmemorable “Thank you for your consideration” or “I look forward to hearing from you”, think of the difference it makes to conclude with something like:

  • “I look forward to sharing further how my experiences could enhance ABC and help create a positive impact on your clients.”
  • “I welcome the opportunity to utilize my experiences to help ABC [do what its website says it’s trying to do] e.g.: become a leader in the community, grow in this region, etc.”

Make it about them!

Whether or not you are actively pursuing a job, I believe it is always a good idea to have a current resume and updated profile. Be ready when an opportunity comes knocking!

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.


  1. Now if you could get them to read the job ad and submit requested materials such as the cover letter, they’ll be set. In a recently posted job ad that asked for cover letter and resume to be sent, no more than 3% of applicants submitted one.


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