While the estimated
time recruiters spend reviewing a resume is arguable, you can be
sure today, it's not much. In fact, for an experienced recruiter,
it's more likely to be less than 15 seconds. To be fair, recruiters
are swamped with resumes; estimates exceed 400 resumes for a single
So the question
before you is: How do you distinguish yourself from the other 399
individuals who have submitted their excellent credentials to the
company recruiter for the same job you're after?
way is your cover letter. A
strong, powerful cover letter can actually make things easier for
a recruiter to view your credentials against the specific requirements
for the job. Moreover,
what is called the T-format letter (also often referred to the Q letter)
literally takes the reader's eyes from his/her requirements to your
experience relevant to that specific requirement.
The T-Format Cover Letter
To create a
T-format letter, review the job description, and make a list of the key
requirements. This shouldn't be an exhaustive list -- identify the
top three or four things the job requires. Against
each one of those requirements, identify your specific experience
relevant to the requirement. And, present them on the page in a
way that makes them stand out.
5+ years experience
in 2 years,
senior sales rep,
high tech product sales 3
years, sales rep, HP;
3 years, sales associate,
account team leader;
Fortune 50 account,
team of 3; co-
efforts of technical
and administrative teams
sales team and client;
- a 21% increase in
sales each year.
Begin your cover
letter with a strong opening paragraph (more on that in another
article). Next, create two columns in the letter, as in the example
above ("Your Needs," "My Experience"). Use
the list of the company's top requirements you created and your
experience relative to each one. Remember to be brief, but accurate.
be necessary to reduce the company's requirements and your experience
to a few words that will fit into this layout.
is to capture the recruiters' eyes. What could be easier than a
short list of their needs and how your specific experience matches
get attention largely because they don't require eye time. With
lots of white space, they are very much like reading newspaper headlines;
the eyes quickly grasp what is being presented and make fast assessments.
Presumably that attention moves your resume to the 'Contact"
pile while others are not.
actually like this type of cover letter simply because it is so
to the point.
Remember a strong,
positive closing paragraph or two emphasizing what you know about
yourself and your ability to contribute. Remember also a cover letter
should not exceed a single page in length. Sometimes that's the
More on Working with Recruiters
Sandra A. Mackay is an independent recruiter and outplacement counselor in
Massachusetts. When not recruiting for a company in 'staffing up'
mode, Sandy provides job development services for one of the nation's
largest outplacement firms to its individual clients.
These articles originally appeared in the June 11 and July 9 issues
of the Online Job Search
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