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Nail that cover letter!

Patti Breckenridge

Patti Breckenridge

I work with hundreds of hiring managers at Publix, from those in our stores to those in our corporate, distribution and manufacturing facilities. And I can tell you there is no magic formula to writing a cover letter. In other words, nothing will guarantee that your cover letter will be read.

However, I have discovered a method that definitely captures the attention of a majority of hiring managers. This method is based on the simple fact that hiring managers have to wade through dozens, if not hundreds, of applications for each opening. They truly want to find the most qualified candidate, but time pressures force them to cut to the chase as quickly as possible.

To help them do that, here is what I propose:

  • Read the Minimum or Required Qualifications very carefully. Make sure you meet ALL of those requirements. If you don’t, there’s no need to apply.
  • Read the Preferred Qualifications, if any are listed, to see how many of these “bonus” qualifications you meet. Most people hired at Publix have many of these. In other words, it’s usually not enough just to meet all of the Minimum/Required Qualifications.
  • Create a chart on your cover letter that lists all of the qualifications in the left column and how you meet those qualifications in the right column. Be specific, not general. I’ve provided an example below.

Once you’ve completed your chart, write the opening to your cover letter. Remember, you need to grab the attention of the hiring manager quickly. Here’s an example of what you might write based on the chart above:

Dear Recruiter or Hiring Manager:

Your posting for the Manager of Emergency Preparedness makes it clear that you need an experienced project manager with strong public speaking and written communication skills as well as a knack for data analysis and deductive reasoning. You and your company also obviously value team players who can also be independent thinkers. I believe I meet your needs.

Please read the chart below, which compares what you want with what I can deliver.

Use this method for writing cover letters and I can guarantee that more hiring managers will at least read them. Whether you land an interview or a job… well, the most important factors in those quests were covered in my last blog, which is here.


9 Responses

  1. kbesaw May 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    That is excellent advice, but unfortunately people with 22 years of experience in a grocery store can not even seem to get an interview!!

  2. anoah623 March 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

    Hello Ms. Breckenridge,

    I have a concern and a question. My concern is exactly what you’ve mention. I’m currently a graduate student in Instructional Technology but the internship posting asks for a “rising Sophomore or Junior majoring in Instructional Design, Creative Writing, Adult Education, or Leadership Development”. Would the minor difference in major/student status be enough to disqualify me as a possible candidate? If not, to whom should I address my cover letter?

    Thanks In Advance,

    • Patti Breckenridge
      Patti Breckenridge March 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      Our requirements are set in stone, so you won’t be considered if you don’t meet them. Sorry.


      • anoah623 March 8, 2014 at 10:53 am #

        Thank you so much for your reply, Patti.

        Have a great day,

  3. nzking November 20, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    Good morning,
    After reading this blog post, I am adjusting my cover letter accordingly, but I was wondering if you recommend using the chart method even when there are 15-20 required qualifications? That just seems like it will make for a very long cover letter and may deter the recruiter or hiring manager from reading it at all.

    Also, who should the cover letter be addressed to? And is “Dear Hiring Manager or Recruiter” an acceptable salutation for all cover letters? I would like to make it as personal as possible, but that information is not given in the job posting.

    Thank you,
    Nicholas King

    • Patti Breckenridge
      Patti Breckenridge November 20, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      Great questions, Nicholas!

      Let’s go with the easy question first, who to address at the top of the cover letter. In our culture, it would be best to say “Dear Hiring Manager.” Even when recruiters are doing the screening for hiring managers, they won’t take offense.

      Now to the meatier question. I would gamble in listing all qualifications in a chart — both required and preferred. I believe if you make the introduction to the letter clear about why you are using a chart, the hiring manager will look at it. For instance, I’d say, “I know that a person’s qualifications matter more to Publix hiring managers than anything else. So I’ll get straight to the point. I have outlined below how my qualifications match the required and preferred qualifications for the (LIST POSITION) you oversee. Please let me know if I can provide any further details for you.”

      I hope this helps.


      • nzking November 20, 2014 at 11:28 am #

        Thank you for the information! I just didn’t want my cover letter to be so long that it overwhelmed the person looking at it, but I will include all the qualifications then.
        Thank you,

        • Patti Breckenridge
          Patti Breckenridge November 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

          You are very smart to think about this issue.


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