Job Specific Cover Letters, Part 4: Professional Cover Letters

Read Part 1 - Overview, Part 2 - Entry Level Jobs and Part 3 - Applying for a Promotion

At the professional level, cover letters are even more important. A CV full of degrees, compared to others with the same qualifications, doesn't do enough, and this is the point where targeting your application becomes crucial to your chances of success. The cover letter has to break the ice, and turn you into a distinct candidate for the job.

At the top of the food chain, you have to compete hard. There's only one way to do that at this level, and it's to show achievements and credentials. A great CV may be impressive, but it's far from self-explanatory to people reading your application. You need to show the exact advantages you have over other applicants.

Foundations of your application

Your cover letter must show a strong claim to positions from the outset. You spell out your claims to the job clearly and unmistakably, so that nobody could doubt your abilities. You refer to your roles and achievements, so you're an obviously qualified applicant.

For example:

The job is Senior Research Manager, Biochemistry (Genetics). This means running both administration and research, in a highly technical scientific field. The position holder is responsible for the entire department, including its budget.

Our applicant has a PhD in Biology, Genetics. The science isn't the problem, it's proving they have the ability to do this job. The PhD isn't evidence of management skills, or much else to do with the job. The applicant starts with credentials to lay the basis of their claim to the position:

I am strongly motivated to apply for the position of Senior Research Manager, Biochemistry (Genetics). I have noted the work done by your researchers over several years and am greatly impressed by the quality. As Senior Researcher (Genetics) at DEFG College, I was engaged in closely related research.

You'll note that the reader doesn't have to guess about the applicant's motivation or research credentials.

Supporting the application

The next phase is direct proof of experience in the role. That proof has to contain a very good fit to the role of the position.

Our applicant does have solid claims:

I was responsible for managing the ABC College Genetics Unit research programs, including managing the budget, administration, research program planning, purchasing and staff selection.

The applicant has done everything required in the position of Senior Research Manager, Biochemistry (Genetics), probably on a smaller scale, but obviously has all the required experience and skills.

Covering with logic

The cover letter must include compelling reasons to select the applicant for an interview. The cover letter must be convincing, and persuade the reader.

Our applicant can do that, too:

I believe I can make a positive contribution as Senior Research Manager, Biochemistry (Genetics). The ABC College Genetics Unit under my management completed research projects valued at million for commercial and public projects. The college additionally received a million Federal contract for a genetics based biochemical hazard reduction program.

Our applicant is the kind who can make a point. There's no possibility that this person won't get an interview. All the pegs are in the right holes.