Writing Your Cover Letter

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What is Job Search Correspondence?

It's simple. Job search correspondence is any type of letter you write and send to a prospective employer when you are looking for a job. It is one way of communicating with the employer, usually in the early stages of your job search . The types of job search correspondence vary.

Your search for a full-time, part-time, summer job or internship will be greatly enhanced by the use of professionally prepared job search correspondence. Here is a guide to the likelihood that you will need to prepare job search correspondence according to the type of job you might be looking for:

Type of Job Use of Correspondence
Full-Time
Part-Time
Summer
Internship
Temporary
Almost Always
Sometimes
Sometimes
Frequently
Rarely

Since job search correspondence is considered "business correspondence," you may have to learn a few rules before attempting to prepare such a letter, especially if you have little experience with this type of correspondence. On the other hand, if you have had to prepare business correspondence at some time in your life, you may already know the rules. In either case, review these rules before you begin writing.

The Rules

A business letter is often your first point of contact with an employer. As such, it needs to represent you in a positive light, set the tone for future contacts, and be consistent with standard business practices.

Tips for Presenting Yourself Positively

You will be judged on the format, content and appearance of your letter. Gain the extra "points" this will earn you toward landing the job you want.

  • Use language that is grammatically correct. Have your letter proofread if you have any doubts.
  • Ensure correct spelling. Always spell check your letters; then read them over for words that are spelled correctly, but used inappropriately (i.e. "there" instead of "their").
  • Adopt a businesslike tone. Avoid the use of contractions (i.e. use "she is" instead of "she's"). Avoid slang (i.e. "It would be way cool to work for your company.")
  • In planning your correspondence, it is to your advantage to learn as much as possible about the position and the organization. To do so you should read the organization's recruiting literature, annual reports and job descriptions. Good sources for you to explore in completing your research are your local library (look for newspaper or magazine articles about the organization), employees or former employees of the organization, and the organization's website.
  • Produce a visually appealing business formatted letter that is error-free.
  • Laser print your letter on your original resume quality paper. Use a matching envelope and type the address.
  • Individually write each cover letter to show a sincere and specific interest in the organization. Your goal is to show the employer that you are the best candidate for the job. A form letter implies a lack of interest.
  • Address your cover letter to a specific person. If you don't know who this person is, find out. Call the switchboard operator or receptionist at the organization and ask for the name, correct spelling, and the title of the appropriate person. Many readers take offense to standardized greetings such as "Dear Sir/Madame."
  • If you are responding to an advertised opening, be sure to use the language and qualifications listed in the advertisement. Comparing the skills you already possess with those that appear in the advertisement can be a persuasive and effective technique for getting the reader's attention.
  • Be optimistic and energetic in your tone and support your claims with specific examples.
  • Use active voice and action verbs. (Check out the list of action words in the CCS resume webpage.)
  • Keep the reader's interest by varying sentence structure and length.
  • Each paragraph should have a minimum of two sentences.
  • Continually revise your draft until you are satisfied that this is the best statement you can make.
  • Keep a copy of your letters for future reference.

Types of Letters

Application Letter

Used to apply for an advertised opening; identifies the opening and describes the skills and abilities you possess in relation to the job duties. Sample PDF

Prospecting Letter

Used to present your qualifications to an employer you would like to work for but who has not advertised an opening; allows you to make your qualifications known to someone who may have a future opening. Sample PDF

Networking Letter

Necessary when using a referral source to introduce yourself to a prospective employer; the type of letter you would use if your uncle suggests you write to his cousin who is a recruiting manager at a company in which you have an interest. Sample PDF

Interview Confirmation

Confirming in writing the time, date and place of an upcoming interview.
Sample PDF

Interview Thank You/Interest

Expresses your appreciation for a recent employment interview and stresses your continued interest.

Interview Thank You/Decline

Expresses your appreciation for a recent employment interview and removes yourself from further consideration. Sample PDF

Acceptance Letter

Confirms in writing that you intend to accept a job offer made to you by an employer; also confirms your start date and salary. Sample PDF

Rejection Letter

Confirms in writing that you decline to accept a job offer made to you by an employer; often such a letter leaves the door open for future jobs. Sample PDF

Prompt Letter

There are various types of prompt letters; they are usually used to stimulate action or a decision on the part of the employer after you have in initiated contact. Sample PDF

Resources on the Internet

Jobweb:
http://www.jobweb.com

Books at Career Services

Adams, Robert L (ed). Cover Letter Almanac. Adams Media Corporation Holbrook, MA: 1995.

Yate, Martin. Cover Letters That Knock 'em Dead. Adams Media Corporation:Avon, MA: 2003

Enelow, Wendy S. and Kursmark, Louise. Cover Letter Magic: Trade Secrets of Professional Resume Writers. JIST Works:Indianapolis, IN: 2000.

Cover Letter Example

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