Cover Letter Guide
Correspondence is more important than you realize and includes more
than just cover letters. The letters you write may single you out of
the crowd, but more importantly they communicate a level of effort.
Exemplary correspondence will not only show that you are professional,
organized, and thorough, but will also demonstrate your level of
interest in an employer. An employer will be impressed by the effort
you put into organizing your job search.
Every resume that you submit should include a cover letter. An
important function of the cover letter is to entice the reader to go
on to your resume! If your cover letter does not sell you effectively,
then your resume may never be read.
In most cases a cover letter is your introduction to a stranger. Keep
that in mind as you are writing. If your letter is sloppy or has that
pre-developed, non-personal look, that is what the reader is most
likely to remember about you. A well thought-out cover letter allows
your personality to come through - your confident manner, strong
motivation, or conscientious attitude - something your resume cannot
A cover letter is a marketing tool, and like most marketing tools, it
should concentrate on what the buyer will be receiving. Hence the
letter should not be directed to what you, the seller, will receive.
Tell the employer what you can contribute to the organization.
Personalized letters that clearly demonstrate your research effort
into the company and industry will have the employer turning the page
to examine your qualifications listed on your resume.
FORMAT & CONTENT
Your letter should be no more than one page. It should be printed on
the same paper as your resume and both should be sent (no staples) in
a matching envelope. Either traditional business format or block
format is acceptable, but it should be consistent.
Although you may develop one basic cover letter, avoid sending any
letter that seems like a form letter. Personalize each letter for the
organization to which you are applying. Avoid using "Dear Sir/Madam"
and "To Whom It May Concern." Take the time to find the name of the
person who should receive your letter and resume. Employers recognize
form letters very quickly. A well written letter can make a
difference, especially in fields where writing skills are essential.
After an employer reads your letter there should be no doubt of your
interest in the field and their organization. You also need to convey
your personality and summarize your related skills and training.
However, avoid reiterating everything on your resume. Point out the
most relevant pieces of information and make them want to review your
resume and meet you in person.
TYPES OF COVER LETTERS
There are two basic types of cover letters. The most common is the
application letter where you are aware of an available position and
wish to apply. If you are interested in working with an organization
but are unsure if they have any current openings, you will need to
write a prospecting letter. In a prospecting letter, you establish
your interest and qualifications while inquiring about potential
opportunities. The structure of these letters is similar and usually
consists of three or four paragraphs.
The first or introductory paragraph should briefly state the purpose
of your letter. If you are applying for a particular position,
identify both the position for which you are applying and the source
from which you learned about it. If you are not aware of current
openings, indicate the type of position you are seeking, and inquire
about similar opportunities within the organization. This is also a
good place to show off your knowledge about the organization and point
out why you are
interested in that particular organization.
SECOND (AND PERHAPS THIRD) PARAGRAPH
This is the main body of your letter. Take your knowledge of the
organization and match it with your interests, skills, and experience.
In an application letter, explain why/how your qualifications fit the
position description. If you are inquiring about possible
opportunities, concentrate on your qualifications for the position you
desire as well as your interest in the field in general. In both types
of letters, extract a couple of examples from your resume to support
your statements. Use aspects of your internship experience, volunteer
assignments, and class research that would be of interest to this
company. Refer the reader to your resume, but do not repeat details
from your resume.
Based on your experience and qualifications, briefly state what
contribution(s) you can make to the company or what qualities you
bring into the workplace, e.g., team player, specific research
expertise. Also, provide a couple of specific reasons for your
interest in working for this particular organization. Use reasons
based in your research of the organization rather than simply stating
that you want to work in the field.
Finally, you will want to request an interview and indicate your
availability. While many people state that they are looking forward to
hearing from the organization, it is a good idea to suggest that you
will contact him or her within one or two weeks to set up a time that
is convenient. This allows you to be responsible for following up
rather than leaving it to the employer.
Cover letters do not have to be difficult. Simply remember to tell
your reader four things: who you are, why you are writing, what you
have to offer the organization, and who will take the next step.
THANK YOU LETTERS/ LETTERS OF APPRECIATION
A thank you letter should be written within 24 hours of an initial
interview, regardless of whether it was for a job or just to make
contacts and gather information. Most recruiters say that they greatly
appreciate thank you letters and that few candidates take the time to
write a thank-you letter. Therefore, a good thank you letter will help
you stand out.
This short letter should express your appreciation for the interview,
reiterate your continued interest in the possibility of employment,
and remind the employer of your background and skills. It is a good
idea to mention some key point that was discussed during the interview
and offer to provide any further information the employer may require.
The best thank you letters show appreciation, conscientiousness, and
availability to continue in the process.
If you have received an offer of employment by the time you write the
thank you letter, you should confirm your receipt of the offer,
indicate your appreciation and interest, and inform the employer of
the date by which you will reply with your decision.