According to an employer survey conducted by an international association for professionals in the careers industry (Career Masters Institute), an overwhelming majority consider the cover letter very important and expect to see one included with resumes. They place great stock on letters as a reflection of your writing style, communications skills, personal qualities and ability to meet their needs. Yet, most job seekers will begin their cover letters with lackluster opening lines that do anything but capture the employer’s attention.
How do you entice decision makers or recruiters to continue reading your letter?
Just like a product or service, your cover letter needs to demonstrate how you are the answer to an employer’s problem.
To create powerful covers letter that position you as the solution to the problem, begin with a two-step process.
- First, analyze the position’s requirements and identify the important finance skills as well as other qualifications the employer or recruiter is seeking.
- Next, specifically address all the requirements to illustrate how you will meet the employer’s needs as the head or contributing member of the finance or treasury organization.
Most cover letters miss the mark because the job seeker focuses on general facts—that could apply to anyone with a similar background in finance, accounting or treasury—rather than zeroing in the employer’s needs. They fail to demonstrate how the organization can benefit from that background.
To develop a cover letter that grabs attention and targets an employer’s needs, ask yourself:
- What finance and other expertise do I offer that is key to this position and the employer?
- What are my relevant projects or success stories that I can present in my finance career?
- What is special about me that differentiates my qualifications from other finance professionals?
These questions will help you focus your cover letter and answer the questions that every employer will want to know about you: “What can you do for me? Why should I interview you?
Start by identifying your skills, abilities and experience. For example:
- 18 years of experience in corporate finance and treasury management, both domestic and international operations
- Extensive knowledge of accounting or treasury systems
- Skills in financial analysis and reporting, banking relations, budgeting, etc.
Now describe the benefits you can offer an employer based on your skills, abilities and experience. For instance:
- My experience in corporate finance and treasury operations is valuable because I can build a financial infrastructure or lead an effective treasury organization and staff the department with skilled people.
- My extensive knowledge of accounting and treasury systems is important because I can spearhead the implementation of these systems to save company money and improve accuracy.
- My skills in financial analysis and reporting are critical because I can provide management with accurate, on-time information to make business decisions.
Next, you will want to identify and jot down several specific examples of how you applied your skills and knowledge to benefit your recent or prior organizations. For instance:
- When I joined company X, it lacked a solid financial infrastructure and had an antiquated an accounting system. Financial reports were not produced on a timely basis. I established the financial infrastructure, hired the right talent, improved data integrity and provided on-time reporting in just a few months.
- Our company acquired another organization, and I provided the leadership to seamlessly integrate the new acquisition’s treasury department within our company. This included system design and implementation, re-engineering, human resources and process integration. In this effort, I streamlined staff and saved our company $250K in annual in bank fees.
- My responsibility is to review and analyze monthly statements to ensure that accurate charges are applied to our customers for cash management services. I created a spreadsheet to effectively manage the cash management income. As a result, I reduced redundancy in merchant service chargebacks, which saved time while increasing operational efficiency.
Then choose three of your best examples that relate to your target employer’s need—without duplicating those listed on your resume—and craft results-oriented statements that illustrate your success stories and promise a benefit.
Close your letters with an expression of interest (or a statement about your knowledge of the company and why you want to join it), a reiteration of the valuable contributions you can make and a call to action. An example would be: “I am excited about this opportunity as it matches your need for a senior-level manager to provide strategic planning and leadership to the finance organization and my track record of success in this area. I would be pleased to discuss my expertise first hand. Or, you can choose to end your letter with a promise to contact the company. However, if you so, make sure you plan to follow through.
If you apply the structure outlined in this article for each letter, you will create impact letters that resonate with employers, showcase the value you offer and differentiate you from the competition.
- previously published at afponline.org