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Job Magician The Start Off With an Unrelated Inspiring Quote Cover Letter – Why?  

One of the resume mailing mills encourages its customers to send only a one-page letter, without a resume, that starts off with an inspiring quote from Winston Churchill, John Kennedy (or perhaps Groucho Marx?), or another comment designed to demonstrate that the sender has tremendous insight.  After uplifting the reader with this, the letter adds a couple paragraphs about the person’s career and encourages me to get in touch.

Here’s today’s:

Dear Job Magician:

Did you know that it took people thousands of years to figure out how to tame fire after it was first discovered?

Sometimes it might seem like it’s going to be that long with technology. Like fire, technology spreads fast. Unless you have someone on your team who is an experienced “technology tamer” you can get burned. …


This may come as a surprise to you, but I was well aware that it took thousands of years to tame fire.  Nearly every 2nd grader knows that, too. And anyone who has spent more than three weeks in any office setting knows that taming technology is important.

At the worst, something like this is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. More sensibly, this is a waste of valuable selling space. Your cover letter should start off with something that makes the reader want to read more, not skip to the next resume. A better lead-in would be:

As the VP/Information Technology at the $225-million custom systems manufacturing division of McElhinny Industries, I oversaw the development and implementation of an enterprise-wide system that enabled us to cut the time on our orders from receipt of order to shipment from 66 days to 38 days, while saving an average of 13% in cost-of-goods.

Are you more interested in hearing more about this person? Is this a more convincing way to demonstrate that he’s a technology tamer than starting off with an odd statement about the discovery of fire, or a quote about Our Finest Hour from our dear Mr. Churchill?

These one-pagers remind me of Marlin Perkins’s Wild Kingdom TV program, when he would take a break from the animal action and remind us that, “Just as the tiger protects its cubs from the wild, Mutual of Omaha will protect your family in case of calamity.”  For those of you who are too young to remember Marlin Perkins, these metaphors were a running joke for at least a generation.

I hate to tell you this, but I throw all of these inspirational quote letters away. They never contain enough information for me to learn anything about the person (and since they don’t contain a resume, I can’t find out more without chasing down the person, and I’ve never read anything in one of these letters that has made me want to put in any effort to dig for more).

Your cover letter needs to hook the reader right away.  Start off with something enthralling that clearly demonstrates achievement. And include a resume ( I have never called a prospect who has sent a teaser cover letter without a resume, either). And maybe someone on the other end will give you a call.

For a guide on how to write a cover letter that will keep someone reading, click here.





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