Most people looking for jobs spend endless hours and agonies over their cover letter and, unfortunately, it is probably the least read document in the whole job search process. Obviously, you can’t send out a resume without one, it would look naked, but don’t rely on it to get you the interview.
There is, however, one kind of cover letter that gets the attention of most people, even those that get countless resumes and cover letters every day. This is what is commonly known as a T letter because there is a T-shaped margin through the middle of the page.
It has 3 components: an introductory paragraph, a requirements and qualifications table, and a concluding paragraph. Let’s take each element separately.
1. Introductory paragraph. This is where you indicate to position you are applying for and where it was advertised. You then finish with a statement somewhat like this: “In response to your advertisement, I offer the following qualifications:”
2. The requirements and qualifications table is just that – a table (without the lines) that you insert. Make it a 2 column table with as many rows as the requirements listed in the ad. The left hand column will be headed YOUR REQUIREMENTS and the right hand column MY QUALIFICATIONS.
In the YOUR REQUIREMENTS column you will break apart the ad (or job description) and list each requirement as a separate item. For instance if this was the ad : “Currently seeking a Business Development Manager to concentrate on marketing and selling one of its largest and most profitable contract staffing divisions based in the metro area. This role is extremely entrepreneurial in nature and includes business development, client management, and deal management. The ideal candidate is driven to succeed and demonstrates a strong work ethic.” The YOUR REQUIREMENTS column would probably include these 6 separate bullets: marketing and selling staffing, entrepreneurial, business development, client management, deal management, strong work ethic.
In the MY QUALIFICATIONS column you address each requirement item and detail your successes in that area. For example, in answer to the business development requirement, you might say: “15 years experience in business development in both the public and private sectors. Have identified and won 20 contracts ranging in value from $500,000 to $78 million. Have on-going relationships with all clients”. Obviously, the qualifications column is going to be very full while the requirements column will have lots of white space.
The key to the Qualifications column is to identify your successes throughout your career. What was the Situation you were handed (the problem, the project, the goal)? What Actions did you take? What was the Outcome (how big was the project, how much over goal, etc.)? These stories then become the bullets in your Qualifications column.
3. Concluding paragraph: sets the next step. If the ad you are answering identifies the contact and company, indicate that you will be in touch with them within a specified period of time to investigate next steps. If you don’t have this information, you want to express your interest in hearing from them soon.