The V-Letter: Lessen Your Chances Of Ending Up In The “Discard Stack”

Donald J. Strankowski
Ascend Career and Life Strategies, LLC

One strategy to lessen your chances of ending up in the “discard stack” is called the V-Letter.

This document is a short letter that compares your qualifications with the employer’s requirements for the job. It uses the same concept as a cover letter with the only difference being that you are replacing the middle paragraph (the “body” of the cover letter) with a “skills table.” It’s brief and concise enough to catch the reader’s eye with highly relevant material within those first crucial seconds. When you compose a V-Letter (V=Validation) you will list only those qualifications that you either meet or exceed. Requirements that you don’t meet or exceed may be omitted from the letter. Therefore, you will be addressing in all probability, the top 4-6 key requirements you best match.

A V-Letter can effectively be used in practically any job application situation. Chances are that the vast majority of the job openings you will be applying for will list, directly in the recruitment ad, certain qualifications that potential candidates should possess. Even if you are applying for a position that you perhaps heard about through networking or other means and don’t have a tangible recruitment ad to work from, doing a little investigative work to find out what exact qualifications the company is looking for will help you tremendously. The job qualifications, and your validation for each, are the heart of the V-Letter.

Guidelines for constructing the V-Letter

Generally, most recruitment ads found in the newspaper or on the Internet will list a litany of requirements and qualifications each job candidate should possess. Some recruitment ads I’ve seen have 25-30 different qualifying factors! Most recruitment ad job requirements are written in descending order of importance. The key is to focus in on the job requirements that are listed early on in the description; the first five or six.

The V-Letter should be no more than one page in length and be written in Block Style or Simplified Block Style. For presentation, Times New Roman or Ariel font in 10-12 point work best. Here are the guidelines for assembling the V-Letter:

  1. Paragraph One should tell the reader where you heard about the job opening or where you saw the recruitment ad. You should also tell the reader what you know about the company. Quote some facts or figures or a recent press release so that you give the impression that you are keying in on them individually and not taking the “generic” approach. You can gain valuable information for inclusion by simply checking the company’s web site. Tell them you want to be a part of the team at Company X and that you are inspired by this opportunity. Create some excitement!
  2. A “skills table” now replaces text in Paragraph Two. The V-Letter strategy replaces the conventional text-based paragraph concept with a table that validates that you have the skills and traits they are looking for. From the published job description and/or based on your investigation, list the top 4-6 job requirements that you can draw clear validation to—that you fulfill this particular need—in a bulleted-style on the left hand margin. Corresponding to each job qualification, list your validation that you actually possess the skills or traits they are looking for. This may be a brief sentence or two describing something you did or achieved in a previous position. This validation can be written in telegraphic style (eliminating all use of personal pronouns—similar to how one would script a resume).
  3. Paragraph Three is your call to action. Ask for an interview or state a specific day and time that you will be calling them for follow up.

Always thank the organization for their consideration and remember to sign your letter if hand delivering, faxing, or snail-mailing.

Why the V-Letter works

It’s one thing to state in a resume or cover letter that you have “X” skill set and “Y” experience. It’s another thing to actually prove it. One of the major reasons people are eliminated in the first stages of applying for a job is that they allow the screener make the assumption that their skills will be a match for the position; hoping that the screener will “read between the lines and figure it out.” Why not draw a crystal-clear picture that you are a solid fit for the position rather than leaving it to chance? Very few job seekers actually take the time to validate their skills and draw parallels to their experience. The V-Letter also looks more attractive in terms of presentation when compared to the generic cover letter and simplifies the evaluation process for the screener. The V-Letter will automatically set you apart from the vast majority of the other job seekers applying for any given position.

You may request a sample V-Letter via email at [email protected].

Donald J. Strankowski is founder and President of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a training and consulting firm for businesses, professionals, and executives. He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted at 303-245-7049, via email at [email protected], or on the web at