Search online and you’ll find a ton of places saying that writing a good cover letter and resume is essential to getting a job, which for the most part, is true.

However, you’ll find people telling you that you should include “this and that” yet, the vast majority seem to leave out the most important thing about cover letters and resumes…

Do you want to know what that is?

It is the fact that your one and only goal, when writing a cover letter and a resume, is to sell yourself as a benefit to companies. Why? Because that is the only thing they care about!

Companies are run by normal people who are not too different from you and I. Silly right? Well, if you know a little bit about human nature you’ll know that us humans are, at its simplest, astonishingly self-interested.

If you put a company’s interests ahead of yours, and truly try to come across as if their priorities, wants and needs were more important than your own, you’ll find yourself writing the best cover letter and resume that there is to write.

Your expertise is in IT. So I don’t pretend for you to read this guide and become an expert at writing cover letters and resumes. Hence, I’ve added a few detailed examples.   

But, before you scroll down to the bottom and start submitting applications, know that understanding the thought process that goes into writing a great cover letter and resume will help you in many aspects as you move through your career.

Cover Letters

In a nutshell, they should be used to:

  1. Address the company’s needs and wants (and long-term goals if applicable)
  2. Explain how you would add value to the organization
  3. Add a call to action

Let’s break them down one by one…  

Address the company’s needs and wants

Before getting someone interested in you, you must first understand what is it that they want and/or need so that you can offer it to them. That can be tricky. But…

Every single company out there needs to make sure that their total expenses are lower than their total revenue so they can turn in a profit; and, every single company wants to hire good people who can get along with existing employees.

That’s it. Simple, right?

With this said, if you’re applying for a highly competitive role you need to take it a step further by doing some research on the company’s market, competitors, ongoing/new trends, mission & vision, etc. so you can figure out their long-term goal and address it in your letter.

Explain how you would add value to the organization

Your cover letter should not be too long. In fact, it should only be a few paragraphs. So there’s no need to write exactly how you can provide value to the organization. That’s what your resume is for.

Nonetheless, you do need to state in a very brief and concise way, why it is that hiring you can help the company achieve and/or move closer to its goals.

This will allow you to be perceived as someone who can be an asset to the company rather than just one more employee.

Add a call to action

Essentially all you’re doing during the hiring process, from the moment you send your application to when you get hired, is selling yourself.

So think about your cover letter as the beginning of the process. You obviously want to invite your “buyer” to learn more about what you can do for them, don’t you?

You could incorporate a call to action in the same section where you talk about how you can add value to the organization. This way, you can keep your cover letter short.

Here’s an example of one of the best cover letters I’ve ever read:

Note: it is taken from the book How To Win Friends And Influence People. It’s a classic so the language might sound a little out of date.

Dear sir:

My ten years of bank experience should be of interest to a rapidly growing bank like yours.

In various capacities in bank operations with the Bankers Trust Company in New York, leading to my present assignment as a Branch Manager, I have acquired skills in all phases of banking including depositor relations, credits, loans and administration.

I will be relocating to Phoenix in May and I am sure that I can contribute to your growth and profit. I will be in Phoenix the week of April 3 and would appreciate the opportunity to show you how I can help your bank meet its goals,

                                                                             Sincerely,

                                                                             Barbara L. Anderson

Do you find anything odd about this letter?

Notice how the company and the hiring manager are the entire focus of it? Obviously she needs a job because she’s moving to Phoenix, but she doesn’t even mention that. Her focus is on positioning herself as a benefit!

Although writing the exact kind of letter might not do much for you for whatever reason, you could easily apply the same underlying strategy used on this example.

Here’s a template you could use as a reference:

Dear [whoever you’re addressing]:

Over the past [insert time] I’ve built a set of skills as a [insert role/industry] that should be of interest to a [compliment company].  

Over the past 2 years I’ve built a set of skills as a network technician that should be of interest to a growing company like yours.

My experience working in [broad area #1, #2 and/or #3], added to [your soft skills] make me a great fit to join your team as [title of job].

My experience in routing and switching, added to my ability to excel in team environments, make me a great fit to join your organization as a network engineer.

I’ll be in [location + time frame] and would appreciate an opportunity to show you how I can [help the company with whatever they need].

I’ll be in San Francisco next week and would appreciate an opportunity to show you how I can contribute to your company’s IT operations and overall growth.  

Sincerely,

[your full name]

Resumes

In a nutshell they should be used to:

  1. Position yourself as an achiever
  2. Reinforce your position of being a benefit to the company
  3. Showcase your attention to detail and organization

Let’s break them down one by one…

Position yourself as an achiever  

Companies want results. They need to either become more efficient and decrease their costs or provide more value to their customers and increase their revenue.

Hiring managers are very aware of this. So they look for people who can add value either on the hard skills side or on the soft skills side, but preferably both.

You can position yourself as the ideal candidate by strategically presenting your experience, credentials and skills in such a way that it seems that you must be considered at all costs.

Note: needless to say, you shouldn’t lie about your skill set. Don’t “put lipstick on a pig.” If you do, you might end up embarrassing yourself in an in-person interview.

Here’s how you can position yourself as an achiever:

  1. Read 5-10 job postings and write down the top skills companies are looking to hire for your desired role.
  2. Rank the skills from most important/valuable to least important/valuable in your opinion.
  3. Ask yourself the following question: what real world tasks have you performed in the past that illustrate your knowledge of these particular skills?

Once you go through this process, use this formula to present your skills:

[key action] + [key skill] + [key purpose and key result]

For example:

Designed and deployed multi branch network using XYZ technology resulting in a decrease of 10 percent in the amount of N that was generating B problem.

Repeat this process with all of your skills making sure that every time you’re coming across as someone who could add value to a company in the specific areas that the company you’re applying to is looking for help with.

Reinforce your position of being a benefit to the company

After writing a great cover letter, you want to make sure that your resume is portraying you as the “perfect” type of person to join their company. To do this, you must take care of other details besides presenting your skills in a results-oriented way, which can really help your cause.

One of them is your resume objective. Once again, another example of a topic where there’s a ton of advice, but people seem to forget that no one cares about what you want, they care about what they want!

So instead of focusing on your desired job title and the skills you hope to use in your next position, use this section to your advantage. Tell them whatever you want, but do it in a way that shows how valuable you can be to them.

Use this formula:

[credentials + experience as…] have enabled me to become an expert at [general skills relevant to the job]. I’m a [top soft skills] person with a desire to implement and expand my knowledge of [top skills desired by the company], and I’m looking to join your team, where my existing set of skills and knowledge can [benefits to the company].

For example:

My 3 years of experience working in the IT field as a helpdesk analyst and network technician have enabled me to become an expert at routing and switching. I’m a driven and motivated team player looking to implement and expand my knowledge of networking, and I’m looking to join your team, where my existing set of skills can help streamline your IT operations.

Showcase your attention to detail and organization

The way you present your resume can say a lot about you. You want to make sure there are no grammar or punctuation mistakes. Companies like people who are detailed oriented and organized so believe it or not, they will look for these kinds of mistakes.

Here’s a reference you can use to present your resume in a clean and organized way (make sure you are prioritizing the order in which you list your skills according to what you concluded are the most important for the role): 

Name & Last Name

# street, city, state, zip code

Email

Phone Number

My 3 years of experience working in the IT field as a helpdesk analyst and network technician have enabled me to become an expert at routing and switching. I’m a driven and motivated team player looking to implement and expand my knowledge of networking, and I’m looking to join your team, where my existing set of skills can help streamline your IT operations.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

COMPANY 1

Title                                                 From(month/year) – to (month/year)

  • Designed and deployed multi branch network using X technology resulting in a decrease of X percent in whatever problem.
  • Relevant achievement # 2
  • Relevant achievement # 3

COMPANY 2

Title                                                 From(month/year) – to (month/year)

  • Relevant achievement # 1
  • Relevant achievement # 2
  • Relevant achievement # 3

CERTIFICATIONS

FSNA                                                                                     City, State

  • Relevant skill performed to achieve cert #1
  • Relevant skill performed to achieve #2
  • Relevant skill performed to achieve #3

EDUCATION

[       ] UNIVERSITY                                                              City, State

Bachelor of Arts in Information Technology Administration

SKILLS

  • Relevant skill #1
  • Relevant skill #2
  • Relevant skill #3
  • Relevant skill #4
  • Relevant skill #5
  • Relevant skill #6

ADVANCED SKILLS

  • Advanced skill # 1
  • Advanced skill # 2

If you follow this process and tips, you will be able to write a resume and cover letter combo that maximizes your chances of being invited to an in-person interview—regardless of how competitive a position may seem. Once in an in-person interview, however, everything will depend on how well you position yourself to the hiring manager.