The cover letter is an introductory letter in which you will state your interest in either a position that you know is available or the possibility of an opening in the future. The letter will focus on your personal and professional assets-your qualifications, traits, experiences, and interests-and how they could benefit that agency, based on what you have been able to learn about the agency.
Before you can begin to write a cover letter, you must know three things about each agency:
- Why you want to work for this agency
- What kind of position you want
- Who your cover letter should be addressed to
You may think that the position you want will be the same for each agency, but that is not necessarily true. It all depends on the agency and how its positions are structured. With the same set of qualifications, you might be hired by a smaller agency to take on a broad range of responsibilities in a position like art director or production coordinator, while a larger agency might hire you to work within a more narrowly defined job structure in a position such as a graphic designer or mechanical specialist. So the job functions that accompany a particular position title will depend entirely on the agency.
It is always a good idea to call the agency and ask for a job description if you are applying for an opening you have heard or read about. If you are just sending a letter of inquiry to an agency, then simply indicate the general area like management, sales, design, or copy-that you would like to work in. Then as you detail your specific qualifications, the agency person who reads your letter would be able to decide exactly what positions would be right for you.
Starting your first draft
To write the first draft of a cover letter for each of your chosen agencies, begin by doing Personal Assets Evaluation. Look at the benefit statements. There you also wrote the names of those agencies that you found to be compatible with your statements. As you go back and review these benefit statements from your work environment preferences, job structure preferences, and your special interests and skills, find the agency names you matched with them. This will be your working list for cover letters.
Your first draft
Since each agency will receive a separate cover letter, do a workshop sheet for each agency. The more personalized and focused each cover letter is, the more impact it will make.
For each cover letter draft, complete this information:
- Agency name
- Specific things about it that you find appealing
- Any areas of compatibility you have with that agency
- A paragraph that summarizes those areas of interest and compatibility
- An explanation of how your skills, talents, training, experience, or pure enthusiasm can be put to use to benefit that agency
- The position you want to apply for and qualifications you have for it
- Summary paragraph of interests and compatibility:
- How this is all a benefit to the agency:
- Position and qualifications for it:
When you are writing a cover letter, always put yourself in the position of the person you want to read this letter. To do this, ask yourself the following questions: What does this person need to know about me and my experiences to even consider calling me in for an interview? How can I best convey this information in a concise and professional way? Using the information you gathered from your rough draft workshop, you are ready to put it all together. Here is the format for a concise, powerful cover letter.
1. Opening statement
Begin your letter by referring to the specific position you are interested in. If you are not responding to a classified advertisement for a specific position, you should mention other areas of interest you would consider if there are no openings in your specialization of choice.
2. Body of the letter
Here you would detail the qualifications you have for that position, and how your own personal interests and background experience could benefit the agency. This includes the specialized skills you have to bring to an agency and all the employer benefit statements applicable to this agency.
As you adapt these benefit statements to the specific letter you draft for each agency, try to connect what you have to offer to what you know about that agency from your research. This will show that you have done your homework.
Explain why you are attracted to or interested in this particular agency and, if possible, how that will make you a better employee.
End your letter with a statement that says you will be calling your contact person's assistant to set up an interview within a specified number of days. (Ten days is usually enough time for the letter to arrive and be read.)
It is important to be true to your word and make that follow-up phone call within the time period you specified in the letter. Little details like this will impress a potential employer.
Finishing the job
When you have finished what you think is the final draft of each cover letter for each agency on your target list, review it for typos, misspellings, and proper grammar. Then read it out loud. If you find yourself stumbling over a particular sentence, chances are that it is poorly constructed. See if you can rewrite it, by either shortening it or rewording it. The reading out loud test is the best way to find out where the rough spots are in any piece of writing.
Ad agency owners are very critical about poorly written letters from prospective employees, because so much of the work agency people do has to be formally written and sent or presented to clients-from ad copy, press releases, and research findings to media schedules and campaign proposals, to mention only a few.
Finally, read your cover letters one more time to be sure that you have constructed your benefit statements so that they apply to the individual needs of each agency.
Just to be on the safe side, ask someone else to read and proof your letters, too. No matter how closely you may think you have looked at them, this is important. You become immune to the most glaring errors when you have been looking at them for a long time.