Should you write a Cover Letter?

A young woman who was working as an intern recently asked me if she should send a cover letter with her resume. Her internship was ending soon, and she was seeking a full-time job with benefits.

sending in a cover letterThe woman explained to me that she has been receiving mixed advice from her friends. Some told her not to waste her time sending in a cover letter because most hiring managers don’t read them anymore. Others told her that sending a cover letter would make her appear more professional.

Here is my answer – yes, you should definitely write a cover letter.

Here’s why – with HR and sales managers receiving hundreds of resumes a year, you need to do everything you can to distinguish yourself from the crowd. While it may be true that most hiring managers may not read (or at best just glance at) your letter, at least it will make you stand out.

Almost every employer and sales manager I have spoken to have told me that if a sales person doesn’t send his cover letter along with his resume, that person’s job application is immediately deleted or ignored.

Even companies that give you the “option” of submitting a cover letter, I should still send one. Why?

Because the employer is testing you to see how professional and driven you are to succeed in sales. You see, if you are going to be lazy when it comes to job hunting by not sending in a cover letter, you may be lazy when it comes to generating sales. Are you going to make only two sales calls or 8 to reach the decision maker? Are you going to write short but interesting emails to your prospects, or copy and paste the same stale email that you are sending to everyone? Are you going to occasionally come in early and stay late to hit your quota, or are you just going to be a 9-to-5 employee?

Sometimes you have to take your own initiative. I once applied for a sales position for a start-up company that did not give you the option online to submit a cover letter. Yes, you had to complete an application and send in your resume, but it appeared that no cover letter was required.

Puzzled and confused, I found the email address of both the CEO and HR Manager. I sent them both my resume and cover letter. I explained I was taking this action because I didn’t see a place to submit my cover letter. I further told them that I felt it would be unprofessional for me to just send them my resume without an attached letter.

A day later, the CEO apologized to me for not putting a cover letter option on the company’s website. A couple days later, I received an email from the HR manager inviting me to take a phone interview.

In the eyes of both the CEO and HR manager, I showed them the initiative and willingness to go beyond the call of duty to apply for the job.

I passed the test.

writing a cover letter for a sales jobI once worked with an employer who gave all sales applicants an interesting test – before you sent in your cover letter and resume, you had to call a special phone number and leave a voicemail about a product or service that you were selling. It didn’t matter what product or service you were calling about, but you obviously had to sound enthusiastic and give a clear reason why the prospect would want to return your phone call. Once you left the message, you would then send you your cover letter and resume on the company’s website.

Would you believe that more than 80% of all job applicants did not follow instructions! They either didn’t bother to call and leave a message, or they only sent in their resume without their cover letter.

As a result, those 80% were put in the “delete pile” and were not called back.

While a cover letter (and resume) alone may not determine if you have the drive and determination to succeed in sales, first impressions do matter. Your cover letter and resume only gives your potential employer a quick peek at who you are. But in most cases, sending in both a cover letter and resume is your only way of getting your foot in the door to get that first (and maybe several) interviews before getting the job offer.

In the age of Twitter and email, cover letters may be considered old fashion. And while most potential employers could probably read your LinkedIn profile to learn about you, sometimes it’s the little things that stand out.

Be old fashion. Be professional. Write a cover letter.

Here are two sites that I recommend on how to write a good cover letter –

“6 Secrets to Writing a Great Cover Letter,” by Seth Porges
“How to Write a Cover Letter” by Amy Gallo

Note: Like my post? Please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Should you be a hero at work?

should you be a hero at work?The following are true stories –

A saleswoman works 60 plus hours a week for a small tech company for 10 years. The company goes out of business. Not only is she laid off, but she doesn’t receive any severance. No letter of recommendation. Goodbye.

A secretary, who works 40 hours a week, decides to  work for free every Saturday at a struggling small community newspaper company. She does this for nearly five years. The company goes out of business and she loses her job. No severance. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

A grant development manager at a 7-person nonprofit organization spends more than a year working tirelessly to obtain new grants and donations. In fact, she generates more revenue than her predecessor. But when she becomes pregnant and asks the board for paid maternity leave, they string her along for 6 months. Eventually, they only offer her three weeks paid maternity leave. Angry and shocked by their proposal, she quits her job. The board of directors is stunned by her decision, but they do nothing to persuade her to return. Instead, they post an employment ad to fill her position.

What do all three of these women have in common? They are heroes. They went beyond the call of duty for their employer. But in the end, their employers screwed them over.

Which brings me to my question – should you be a hero at work?

Yes, of course you should be professional. Yes, you should do the best job you can every day. And yes, show incentive by offering ideas and occasionally working late to complete urgent projects or close deals that could help your company.

But should you constantly work overtime without any guarantee of advancement or financial gain?

For example, the saleswoman who worked 60 hours plus per week may have been better off attending networking events, or expanding her contacts on LinkedIn rather than devoting all her time and energy for one employer.

The secretary who came to work every Saturday may have been better off using that time by taking courses to upgrade her skills and market herself better in the workplace.

should you be a hero at work?And the grant development manager should have been more forceful in getting an agreement on the length of her paid maternity rather than drag out the process for 6 months.

Here’s the problem with being a hero at work – they are usually taken advantage of by their employers.

Some employers don’t give a damn about your hard work or devotion. Some are completely clueless about what you are doing. And some may care but they don’t have the financial means to award you.

Heroes are very common in the sales professional. You come in early. You work your ass off late at night. You sometimes skip lunch. You make call after call, or do a string of online demos or meet clients. We do this because we want to earn a lot of money. That’s a given. But we also do it to gain recognition in hopes of advancing our careers at our jobs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but just make sure you understand the ground rules and office politics at your job before trying to be a hero.

If you don’t, you could end up a burnt out shell. Stunned and anxious, you end up wondering what happened when the office doors close because of a merger, reorg or acquisition that leaves you out in the cold. Or a new manager comes in, doesn’t like you, and decides to hire his friends to replace you and your team. Or the company suddenly tanks for financial reasons, and you don’t get paid when payday rolls around.

The signs are there, but you are so wrapped up with work that you fail to see them. You are so blinded trying to be the hero that you don’t see reality until it smacks you in the face. By then, it’s too late. Now you have to start finding a new job.

So rather than be a hero at work, why not be a hero to yourself? Focus on developing your own professional brand that can translate into more lucrative and awarding career moves. At work, they may tell you that “it’s not about me, it’s about we” – i.e., work is a team effort. That’s true. But just make sure you find a little “me time” for yourself.

Attend networking events. Take courses. Read books. Upgrade your skills. But don’t allow any employer to take advantage of you and treat you like dirt.

Heroes belong in comic books and in the movies. Not in the workplace.

Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.