Cover Letters to Hiring Managers and Headhunters Are Different

A reader asks, “What are the differences between a cover letter to a recruiter and one to a hiring manager? Do you make the same points?” Good question, there are distinct similarities and differences.

Similarities

The overall intent of a letter to a recruiter or a hiring manager is the same: to get into conversation, because nothing happens until people start talking to each other. The structure of the letter also remains the same, regardless of the recipient:


Your letter should

  • Sell succinctly to the customer’s needs as you understand them.
  • Be no longer than 2-5 paragraphs
    • For a printed document never more than one page
    • For an email the same points apply, with your strongest selling points visible on the initial screen view of the page, with minimal scrolling beyond
  • Legible 11 or 12 point sans serif font (the font has none of those cute curlicues that only Kindergarten teachers are authorized to use)
  • Strive for some kind of connectivity between you and the recipient’s company. Research and news coverage will often deliver this.

Differences

A hiring manager has specific needs and the better you understand those needs, the more effectively a cover letter can address your ability to handle them successfully. When you do this, it will establish relevance, arouse interest and build a bridge for two professionals to discuss a common interest.

Here’s a very effective strategy: your job exists is to help company profitability in some small way, and you can build connectivity by demonstrating your appreciation of this. The way your job supports the company’s bottom line, is to identify and prevent problems from arising within your area of responsibility, and also to effectively solve the problems that nevertheless crop up in the normal course of your work; your understanding of these issues, speaks to your understanding of the job’s scope, technical competency and professional commitment. That you get this makes big points with hiring managers.

Writing to a Headhunter is a more complex issue. S/he represents a range of hiring managers and their interests, and is also keeping an eye out for interesting candidates for a wide range of past and potential future clients.

Many times you will approach headhunters with no specific opening in mind, but because they specialize in your profession or area of expertise. You hope they will introduce you to companies, hiring managers and jobs you wouldn’t have heard of otherwise.

 In these instances you obviously cannot sell yourself to one specific set of needs. Instead you will

  • Introduce yourself as someone qualified for a certain type of job
  • Address the skills and capabilities you bring to that work
  • Identify the industries in which you have experience
  • Identify the types of companies in which you have worked and been successful

If you are writing to a headhunter about one particular opening, you can address it in the same way as you would with a hiring manager. However, if you have a range of skills that qualify you for other openings, it would be wise in a closing sentence to reference that wider range of skills and the job titles, to which they apply.

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