A poll taken of recruiting and hiring managers uncovered that 75% of the people who review resumes said they read cover letters but only if they know the cover letter has been customized for the company and the position. I have two ALWAYS statements regarding the job search and one is to ALWAYS send a cover letter. My preferred cover letter format over any other is the T cover letter.
What is a T Cover Letter?
The T cover letter gets its name from the imaginary T that is formed by the two columns in the middle of the single page letter (using Microsoft Word’s table feature). The left column is the list of requirements as outlined by the hiring company and the second column is the qualifications you have that match the requirements. With this format you visually are walking the hiring manager through why you are the perfect candidate. How powerful is that?
We know the most important section of the cover letter (the T portion) and there are other sections of this single page letter as well.
The top of the cover letter should have the same header information and in the same format as your resume. This is your letterhead and should be used on all of your job search correspondences to give it a professional look. Consider it your own custom stationery.
You should address the letter to the name of the hiring manager, which you should be able to get through networking. If you absolutely don’t know the person’s name, don’t address the letter to ‘Dear Sir’ as this can offend female hiring managers.
The opening phrase should mention the position you are applying for and how you heard about the position. If you did it correctly, you networked into the position and should mention the person’s name who told you about the position or who recommended you contact the person.
The Brag phrase is our name for the section that appears before the T. This phrase (a sentence or two) should affirm that your experience and abilities seem to be a great match for the position and serve as a transition to the T portion of the letter.
The T consists of two columns with the respective titles of ‘Your Requirements’ and ‘My Qualifications’ or something equivalent.
The items in the columns should have bullets for each point. The bulleted items in the right column should line up to the point it corresponds to in the left column. If you have more qualifications for a particular requirement, it is fine to have white space on the left before the next bullet. Keep the text as concise as possible. List your qualifications for each requirement in priority order, with the most important qualifications first. If the hiring manager stops reading part of the way through, she will have read the most important points first.
We are often asked how to handle requirements where you do not have the matching qualifications. The answer is not to list them. The hiring manager’s list is like a kid’s Santa list during the Christmas holiday. No child believes he is going to receive everything on the list, it is the items he would like to have. Hiring managers list all of the skills and experience they would like to have. Even some requirements listed as mandatory will be bypassed for an otherwise great candidate.
The deal isn’t a deal until it is closed. Following the T portion, a closing phrase is needed that expresses your interest, belief that you are a great fit, and next steps. Consider stating that you will follow-up with them in a few days to see if they have any questions.
T Cover Letter Tips
- To compile the phrases to use for the opening, brag, and closing sections, look through the book Cover Letters That Will Knock ’em Dead by Martin Yate. Find wording that sounds like something you would say, not all phrases will.
- Make the T cover letter the first page of your resume. In doing so, your resume addresses the problems that can occur when the cover letter is attached separately from the resume.
- The cover letter may not get read. Hiring Managers may only print the resume assuming the cover letter is just another blah blah blah paragraph formatted letter.
- The cover letter may not get forwarded or stored with the resume. The company recruiter may have read the cover letter and been impressed but it may not make its way to the hiring manager.
- Note: Embedding the cover letter in the same document as your resume eliminates these problems.
There is also one big advantage of making the T cover letter the first page of your resume. If the company uses keyword search software, your resume will get picked up because you used their keywords in the requirements section of the T cover letter.
Visually walk the hiring manager through why you are the perfect candidate by using the most powerful cover letter format – the one page T cover letter.