Qualifications Brief and Cover Letter
How to identify and contact potential employers
Here are a few steps you can take to identify your areas of specialty, identify potential employers (who seek these skills), draft a Qualifications Brief, and proactively contact them for employment, internships, or sponsorships with a cover letter and qualifications brief.
It is important that you identify the specialized knowledge, skills and abilities you have developed. Sources can be professional (occupational), educational (perhaps specialized research), or personal (volunteer work, hobbies, etc).
Start a “Profile Folder” that contains blurbs (short paragrahs) about what specific skills you possess. In this folder, focus on identifying all of your knowledge, skills and abilities (in separate blurbs). Here the idea is to draft blurbs about the knowledge, skills and abilities you have, but write them in terms of accomplishments (not just duties and responsibilities). It is vital to present your accomplishments so that they can be modified slightly to match specific needs (at a later date). In other words, this process will help you to develop a plethora of blurbs regarding the various solutions you can provide to particular companies, stated in terms of accomplishments. These blurbs provide wonderful preparation to "tell short stories" (30 seconds to 1 minute) during the interview process - focused on relevancy of tasks, challenges faced and results achieved. This folder should consistently be updated (at least quarterly). Each of the blurbs you draft can later be modified to fit the anticipated needs of any particular employer.
It is vital that you explore well beyond your primary job function. In other words, if you are in training and development, you should draft blurbs about what you did not only in training and development, but also about other functions. For example, the traditional resume may state:
Developed sales training programs, and delivered them across the Los Angeles region.
Instead, in you Profile Folder, state your specialties in terms of accomplishment, and attach a particular function for effect:
As Training Coordinator, I developed and delivered a 16-hour sales training program that included sales mentoring, and shadowing that was integrated with company incentive structures. Over a six-month period, I trained a sales force of 17 across the Los Angeles region, with a resulting 63% increase in sales during that time.
As you can see in the blurb above, you can use this for a sales position (which is outside your traditional function of Training Coordinator). Later, a separate version can easily be created, relative to another particular function (such as Human Resources, below):
Human Resources [function]
As Training Coordinator, I developed and delivered a 16-hour sales training program that included sales mentoring, and shadowing that was integrated with company incentive structures. Over a six-month period, I trained a sales force of 17 across the Los Angeles region, with a resulting 63% increase in sales during that time. The mentorship incentive program was subsequently expanded to other regions throughout California.
To start, you need to develop a blurb for all accomplishments where you were instrumental for their achievement. This is best done incrementally. A great way to quickly build blurbs is to commit the process to calendar – schedule so that each week you devote two hours to drafting and refining blurbs. In a relatively short period of time you will amass a collection of blurbs that can easily be modified and adopted into your qualifications briefs (Step 3 below).
2. Identify Potential Employers
Once you have identified your specialized knowledge, skills and abilities, and you have drafted numerous blurbs about your accomplishments, you will need to identify potential employers. You need to do some research to identify which types of employers can benefit most by finding someone with your unique skill set. This means that you need to understand the type of contribution that is needed.
It may be helpful to conduct informational interviews. This can be accomplished by calling people in select companies and asking if you can buy them a lunch. A key question that can be asked might be, “For [name the function – e.g., sales], what do you think are the three key things that need to be done, and done well, in order to survive and thrive in this company?” These types of questions will help you to gain insights regarding that company and its expectations. If you were to ask this question of three or four people, in similar positions, in different companies, you will be able to systematically develop an understanding of differentiation. In other words, you will be able to not only gain insight regarding industry issues, but also may gain an understanding about how each of the companies is different, in terms of focus and strategies. When you draft your cover letter and qualifications brief, this will help tremendously to help you stand out from the rest.
In some cases, you may not be able to talk with folks from your companies of interest. It is important that you conduct some research about their industry and competitors. The Internet (Google in particular) is instrumental in this process. Look at company web pages, industry association web pages, and industry on-line publications.
Another wonderful resource is the Way Back Machine , where you can research company websites longitudinally (at various points of time). It can be very meaningful to look at a company's website at historic points. For example, look at their website in 1998 (if available), then in 1999, then 2000, and so on - up to the present date and year. It is interesting to see how product and service offerings have evolved in the company over time. It will reveal how the comany has positioned itself. Looking at companies along with their major competitors will help you to develop a keen sense regarding how the companies are different and their competitive focus - very powerful informaton during the interview process.
These resources will help you to begin to answer questions on your own. By reading web content carefully, you can identify key points of differentiation across companies (types of technology, markets served, personnel, strategy, etc.). If done well, this step can substitute for personal interviews, but interviews are the preferred approach.
3. Cover Letter and Qualifications Brief
This step involves targeting one company at a time, and developing a specifically-crafted cover letter and qualifications brief. Using information from Steps 1 and 2 above, you will be able to select the appropriate blurbs, and modify them to meet the needs of a particular company. The blurbs should be chosen based on your research – they should match with the dynamics and anticipated needs of that company. In this way, your contact with them is attempting to provide them with a specific solution to their particular needs, and aligns your efforts.
Unlike a traditional resume, the qualification brief will focus on the knowledge, skills and abilities you have that relate specifically to the position and company to which you are applying. In other words, a separate qualifications brief should be written for each potential employer. Include standard resume headings, (Job Title, Company, Dates), but do not merely list your chronological job title, description and responsibilities. Instead, you should include your job title, and specifically-modified blurbs (stated in terms of accomplishments) that are focused on highlighting specific contributions that you can make (according to needs revealed through research).
A cover letter should be carefully written for each potential employer as well. It should be addressed to the manager of the area for which you would like to work (use the web, or call, to identify the appropriate person). The cover letter should have two or three paragraphs.
Paragraph One - Contributions you can make
Paragraph one should start by introducing yourself and highlighting a very brief summary of the key blurbs that you feel are most relevant to that company and job. Focus should be on the types of contributions that you can make, if you were given the chance. Be sure to highlight the experience and skills you bring that are relevant to that specific company, and explain why briefly.
Paragraph Two - Why you want to work for them, and only them
Paragraph two should discuss briefly your rationale for wanting to work for this particular company. In other words, here you want to let them know why you want to work for them (and not their competitors). Your research will provide these points of differentiation (see step 2 above). In combination with the first paragraph, this paragraph will provide evidence regarding the extent of research that you completed, and how well you understand how this company is unique and different than the others (and why this is preferable to you).
Paragraph Three - Next steps to take
Paragraph three should move toward action. If this is an unsolicited approach (not in response to a stated company classified), then it will be helpful to end with a gentle offer for a follow-up meeting. It is appropriate to give your contact information. About three days after they receive the letter (cover letter and qualifications brief) you should follow-up with a phone call.
This process will not guarantee that you will get the job, internship or sponsorship, but it gives you a targeted approach for specific positions, within specific companies – it will certainly raise the odds for success in your favor.
Author: Dr. Ralph Jagodka - © 2011-2021