Guest Post: Using a Generic Cover Letter to Find a Job

Editor’s note: This is a controversial idea because it goes against nearly all the job search advice there is. Mass-spamming potential employers with a generic cover letter? That’s nuts! Yet, for Nickolay Lamm, the author of this guest post, this approach worked—and he says it saved him time and frustration. Check it out right here, and then let us know what you think.

If you’re like many people, your job search consists of responding to leads posted on websites such as Careerbuilder.com, Craigslist.org, etc. Fact is, 80% of jobs are not advertised. When I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh this year, I found myself applying for jobs that weren’t even in my field of study because that was all that was posted on online job sites.

Rather than applying for jobs online and filling out forms, I contacted hundreds of businesses out of the blue, with a generic cover letter, who weren’t advertising any open positions. Doing so saved me time (because I wasn’t spending 30 minutes on one application), lowered any competition (I was the only one contacting each business), and gave me freelance opportunities. The result of my cold contact job search resulted in over 20 job leads, one full time internet marketing position with InventHelp, an inventor service company, and one internet marketing freelance position for MASSolutions, a strategic marketing firm.

Here’s exactly how I did it…

  1. I made a cover letter in which I detailed my accomplishments throughout my 4 years in University and made sure that the letter would appeal to any employer that was looking to hire someone for a marketing position.
  2. I created a website and LinkedIn profile. That way, if I caught the eye of an employer through my cover letter, I would assure them that I’m a professional if they happened to search my name in Google.
  3. I e-mailed my cover letter and resume to every business in my area that had to do with marketing. To make the letter sound personalized for each business, I added the name of the business, their address, and changed maybe a sentence or two within the body.
  4. I managed my leads. After sending my cover letter and resume to about 500 businesses, I received 20 leads.

The “mass contact” approach allows you to look for jobs without spending hours filling out applications. The key to getting responses, however, is to spend a lot of time on your cover letter. Your cover letter should make any employer say “Wow…this guy (or girl) would be an asset to my company.”

A lot of job search advice says that you have to spend a lot of time on your cover letter so that you can customize it for each business you send it to. True, if there are five or so companies that you have your eye on, spend time customizing your letter. However, most of us don’t have the luxury of focusing on only several companies. Creating something generic that appeals to anyone in your field will not only let you uncover hidden jobs and lower your competition, but keep you sane as your job leads start to come in.

Below is the original generic cover letter I sent out…

To Whom It May Concern,

I have graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, majoring in Marketing. I am looking for an employment where I can utilize my knowledge, skills and experience.

Outside of the classroom, I have noticed my growing interest in marketing. While in high school, I started my own online business. I performed market research, communicated with overseas suppliers and the U.S. Customs, and provided my customers with pre- and post-sale support. I was constantly looking for new products and markets to explore. My starting capital of $100 grew into a modest sum I could apply towards my education costs.