Cover letters that open doors


The next time you prepare a job application, don’t hastily dash off a generic, sloppy cover letter in the last minute like most of your competitors will.  Instead, take the time and trouble to tailor a concise, error-free cover letter to your target job. Why? Because a great cover letter will probably make a great first impression to hiring managers and help you land an interview.

One way to craft an A-plus cover letter is to include in it a fast-read table that proves that you meet the requirements of your target job. Here’s how to do so:

  • Identify the top five to seven requirements of your target job from its vacancy announcement. For example, do these requirements include communication skills, leadership skills, or knowledge of a specialized field?
  • Write a one or two sentence summary of your best professional and educational qualifications that prove that you meet each of your target job’s top requirement. For example, prove that you fulfill the communications requirements of your target job by citing the number of years of communications experience you have or the number of publications or presentations for conferences of executives you have produced.  Prove that you have supervisory expertise by citing the number of staffers you have supervised and the leadership trainings you have completed. And prove you possess the appropriate specialized field by identifying your relevant degrees.
  • Create a Word table that features two columns. Label the top of the left column “Your Needs” and label the top of the right column “My Qualifications.” (If necessary, Google for instructions on how to create a Word table.)
  • Fill out the table by entering each of the top requirements for your target job in the “Your Needs” column and entering the summary of your best professional and educational qualifications for each job requirement in the adjacent cell in the “Your Needs” column.
  • Also include in your table additional relevant, desirable qualifications you offer that are not specifically requested in your target job’s vacancy announcement. For example, if appropriate, add “Outstanding Reputation” to the “Your Needs” column along with the following text in the “My Qualifications” column. “Consistently earn exemplary annual evaluations.”
  • Omit from your table any requirements for your target job that you lack.

Although including a table in a cover letter may seem like a radical approach, I can almost guarantee that — if skillfully crafted — your “Your Needs/My Qualifications” table will help you win over hiring managers. I know this because I have personally used this approach numerous times to land interviews and coached dozens of clients likewise. What’s more, many of my clients were specifically told by their interviewers that their tabular cover letter helped them land their interviews.

Your table should be preceded by several lively sentences opening the letter that identify your current job and express enthusiasm for your target job. Show verve and avoid boring clichés.

After your opener, introduce your table with a sentence such as “Here is a summary of my Qualifications:” Close your letter with your contact information and a sentence describing your eagerness for an interview, and an expression of thanks of being considered for the position.

Why will your tabular cover letter be so effective?  Largely because of its readability:  By visually aligning your qualifications to the demands of your target job, your table will instantly prove to hiring managers that that your credentials match the demands of the target job. In fact, your table will practically shout out your suitability for your target job even to harried hiring managers who only skim applications without reading them word for word.

What’s more, when you apply for jobs, you will probably be the only applicant who will craft a tabular cover letter.  Therefore, your fast-read table will help you stand out from the pack — not by using gimmicks but by brandishing your systematic way of organizing information.

See this new blog post for an example cover letter that incorporates a “Your Needs/My Qualifications” table.


About Author

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is Ask your career questions by email to or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.

Leave A Reply