My Cover Letter Was Out of Shape

A Denver job seeker hits the gym to get in shape for a job search, then tones up his resume and cover letter.


In early 2009 Greg Anderson found himself out of a job for the first time in 13 years.

The operations pro quickly set about to optimize his job search and discovered an unusual method that helped him focus on work and finding a job: He got in shape.

In the process, he also learned to tone and shape his job search and his personal brand – his resume and cover letter.

In the end he looked better – in person and on paper – and he was able to stretch his skills to fit a job in a new industry.

Anderson had spent 13 years working in the finance divisions at General Electric, including two as the president of the operations and production division at GE Money. When he and his wife decided to settle down in Denver, he left GE and took a new job as chief operating officer at a consumer-finance company. Two years later, as the economy struggled, so did his company, and he was laid off.

Anderson wasn’t committed to finance. He knew his operations skills would translate to other industries. But the OpsLadder member was committed to Denver, and he preferred to find a job at large organization, like GE, where he’d spent the bulk of his career. From March to November, he set out to find a job that fit those criteria.

“The idea was to focus on solutions I could provide for a business,” he said. “The bigger challenge for someone who has large-corporation experience is that there are not many big companies in Denver.”

In the meantime, he had taken a job working on business development for a sports training and conditioning company in Denver. He spent time learning the business and, eventually, took the company’s message about fitness to heart. He began training at the gym and taking classes. He lost 35 pounds in the process.

Anderson also credits his newfound work routine with helping to focus on his job search.

“I found my workout routine was a great way to clear my head, and it became an integral part of my job search routine,” he said. “It was a good balance of mental and physical.”

He took the workout routine with him when he left in November to pursue the job search full time and applied some of his new fitness thinking to his job search. He took a look at his job search and decided some of it was out of shape.

“I felt I had a really strong, progressive resume. But with so many people applying for jobs, I needed a cover letter that would position me well.”

In his conversations with recruiters, Anderson learned that HR managers get so many responses to a job opening that their first reads of cover letters are cursory. He wanted to be sure his letter was the one that stood out.

“A good cover letter will explain your skill set and your value as prominently as you can in that first paragraph. I had read a lot about positioning yourself as a solution. The way I got my job was I addressed everything they said they needed and positioned myself as a solution to their needs. They had 170 resumes, and mine was put on top of the pile,” he said.

While he believes his GE experience was a big draw, he’s convinced that the way he presented himself in his cover letter got him in front of a hiring manager at Securitas, a security-services company that located him via OpsLadder.

“It’s a completely different sector [from] consumer finance, but the challenge is the same,” he said. “Looking for operational efficiencies, business development and financial management. These were the things that appealed to me. Even though it was a completely different sector, the challenges were things I could solve for them.”

And, to assess whether Anderson was up to the challenges facing an area VP, the hiring manager asked him to put together a PowerPoint presentation on a hypothetical business challenge.

“It was a neat challenge,” he said. “They told me later they find it effective to find out how a person thinks. It’s a great way to screen people.”

Anderson said he had a job offer within eight days of his first call from Securitas. He was hired in early February, and he hit the ground running, thanks to that hypothetical presentation.

“Putting it together gave me an education on the company. Even though it was a made up situation, some of the issues were real. A number of the ideas I presented are going to be put into play. It gave me a head start on the job,” he said.

Anderson said the exercise also got his brain “back into strategic mode,” which was refreshing after focusing on day-to-day business issues at the fitness company he had been working for. Now, he says, the challenge is doing that other kind of exercise – the physical kind.

“I was doing it five days a week, but since I’ve started working again, I’ve missed a few workouts. I need to get back into it. I’ve learned it’s important to keep mind and body active.”