(To see the previous article in this series, go here).

Every job seeker knows they have to have a cover letter, but surprisingly, the questions I get are all about formatting! Of course, format and “presentation” are necessary. However, gone are the days where using colored paper or particular weight cardstock make a difference. If you want to stand out from the crowds, you have to have a clear strategy and marketing plan.


Everyone else is writing their cover letter “because they have to.” When you focus on maximizing your message with every little second of a decision maker’s time; you will be DIFFERENT. You will stand ahead of the crowds and shine through as thorough, knowledgeable and professional. No matter what, that is what you want.


The concept behind “sell the sizzle and not the steak,” an old marketing lesson cliché, is to focus on the benefits and not the features. A feature is a descriptive quality. For example, a feature of the chair is it is made of solid oak. A benefit is the payoff of the feature. For example, a benefit of a solid oak chair is its sturdiness and to stand up under heavy usage.

If you desire to sell a product (i.e. convince someone to hire you), this is especially relevant. In other words:

  • Don’t sell the toothpaste. Sell the captivating smile.
  • Don’t sell the house. Sell the warm fuzzy feeling of a home.
  • Don’t sell the software. Sell how much time and money it can save.

For example, when you buy a light bulb, it is not really the light bulb you want. It is the light it provides.

  1. Benefits drive the decision-making
  2. Benefits focus on what the buyer gets.
  3. Benefits solve problems.
  4. Benefits show an understanding of the person’s challenges and plans for the future.

I like to think of the “benefit” as the advantage this product might give the buyer. Features Tell, but Benefits Sell!

The meat of your message is crucial! You need to show them how you are the answer to their problem (if they did not have one, they would not be hiring!) How can you fulfill the company’s needs? You can do this many ways, but it is vital that you do so in a way that your message is clear and concise. You do not want them wasting those 6-10 seconds on your cover letter; the point is to get them moving to your resume!

NEXT WEEK:  Cover Letter Presentation!

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Not only the trailing spouse of a US State Department Foreign Service Officer, Julie Mendez once also held a clearance and served as the Community Liaison Office Coordinator at the US Embassy in Rome, Italy. Now a Career Coach and Certified Job Search Specialist with JSM Career Coaching, Julie Mendez serves as the lead Career Coach at ClearanceJobs.com’s “UnCareer-Fair” events. She believes her calling is to aid clients in finding fulfilling work that utilizes their unique talents. Julie Mendez can be reached at www.jsmcarercoaching.com and JulieMendez@jsmcareercoaching.com.