Cover Letter Writing
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W W W . A U B U R N . E D U / C A R E E R
MAKE YOUR COVER LETTER COUNT
Demonstrate your knowledge of the company. Work a
By Max Messmer: Copyright April 04 CareerBuilder, LLC: Reprinted
fact or observation about the company that isn't
common knowledge into your opening paragraph.
Is a well-prepared resume enough to convince
Such a statement tells the reader you've done some
potential employers that you should be called in for an homework: "I have been following with great interest
interview? Don't be too sure. Not including a cover
the success of your company in developing and
letter with your resume—even when you submitted it
marketing a line of satin skirts. That interest has
online—is passing up a key opportunity to sell your skills. prompted me to send you this letter, along with my
A recent nationwide survey by Accountemps found
resume." You could also say, “I am writing because I
that 60 percent of executives believe the cover letter is was taken with your recent ad in the San Francisco
either as important as or more critical than the resume. Chronicle. In light of the work your company is now
A cover letter allows you to direct the reader's
beginning to do in gene splicing, I thought my previous
attention to aspects of your resume that are most
research fellowship in this area would make me a
relevant, demonstrate your knowledge of the
valuable candidate for a position."
company you're writing to and explain any part of
Explain your current situation. Are you finishing school
your work history that needs clarification. The following or in a ful -time job? Can you begin work immediately
guidelines can assist you in preparing a solid cover
or are you available upon completion of an internship?
Clarify these points in your cover letter.
Follow a standard business letter format. Try to address Explain why this job interests you. Let potential
the letter to a specific individual, even if it means
employers know what you have to offer. Do you have
making several calls to determine his or her name and any special abilities or knowledge that you could build
title. And be sure to ask for the correct spelling. A
upon if hired? A part-time job in college may have
prospective employer who sees his or her name
been in the same industry as the firm you're applying
spelled incorrectly may assume you are not detail-
with now. Or you may have experience with a specific
software application that will be used extensively in the
Once you've determined the hiring manager's name, position.
a good general rule for salutations is to use his or her
On a similar note, be sure to research prospective
first name only when you've been personally
employers and demonstrate that knowledge in your
introduced and have already referred to that person
cover letter. Not only does this show that you have a
by first name in conversation. Otherwise, use the
genuine interest in the job, but it also indicates that
person's surname preceded by Mr. or Ms. If you are
you have initiative—a quality that is highly sought after
responding to a classified ad with a box number, or if
in entry-level candidates.
you're unable to obtain the spelling of the hiring
Briefly elaborate on one or two key points to draw
manager's name, use a greeting such as, "To Whom It attention to your resume. Give details about the most
relevant parts of your work history for this particular
Writing the opening. The opening sentence of a cover position. For example: "I served two terms as president
letter should announce its purpose (even though the
of ABC University's student golf club, where my
purpose may seem obvious) and give the reader a
responsibilities ranged from overhauling the
compelling reason to read on. If someone mentioned organization's fee structure to representing our
the job opening to you, be sure to use his or her name members in key meetings with faculty and other
in the introduction: "I am writing to you at the
suggestion of John Doe, who told me you may be
Don't rehash your resume. The cover letter should
looking for an office manager." If you're responding to generate interest in the resume, but not reiterate the
an advertisement for a job, say so in your letter: "I am
applying for the marketing manager position
advertised in the Daily News and would like to tel you Have someone else review your cover letter. While you
about my qualifications."
may have used spelling and grammar checkers on
your computer, thoroughly proofread for any typos,
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poor grammar or spelling mistakes. Ask a friend or
matching that of your resume and cover letter.
family member to review it as well. Remember,
Thank You Letters: Use these letters as an opportunity
potential employers take cover letters very seriously, so to highlight your key strengths and remind them who
be sure that you do, too.
you are and why you should be hired. Personalize both
Closing the letter. End the letter with Sincerely,
the company information and your specific fit to that
Sincerely Yours, Yours truly or Cordially.
company. Make sure your letter is unique.
How About Electronic Cover Letters? You still need a
Thank You for Interview: Indicate your appreciation for
cover letter if you apply for a job via the Internet.
their time and the opportunity to speak with them on
Online letters do not need to be as lengthy as
(date) and at (location). Stress the importance of
traditional ones, but the elements should remain the
learning the information provided and your interest in
same. Use professional salutations such as "Mr." and
the possibility of using your background, education
"Ms.," and always include your full name, telephone
and experience (give specific examples based on the
number and mailing address.
interview conversation) for the position discussed.
Appearances aside, what really matters in a cover
Indicate that you will furnish any additional information
letter is what it says and that it generates enough
or are including requested information. Restate
interest to draw people to your resume. Use the
personal qualities which make you uniquely qualified
guidelines above to make sure what you state in your for the position and which may or may not have been
letter delivers exactly the message you wish to convey. discussed in your interview. Encourage them to let you
know if further information is needed. Let them know
An effective way to present yourself is to create a
you look forward to hearing their decision.
letterhead for your resume that can be used on your
cover letter and reference pages. Use the same font(s) Thank You for Plant/Office Visit Invitation: Thank them
throughout, and print everything on matching paper.
for the letter/phone call of (date) offering a plant/
This creates an impressive package.
office visit at (time) on (dates). Tel them the most
convenient date for you and when you will arrive.
Resource: www.careerbuilder.com Indicate what materials you have enclosed or the
ATTACHING COVER LETTER/RESUME TO AN EMAIL
company has requested, such as resume, transcripts
Email is an increasingly popular form of business
and/or application form. Indicate your appreciation
communication, and many employers request that
for the opportunity to visit them. Reinforce your interest
you submit your resume and cover letter via email. To
in a position with the company.
utilize email to its full potential, do the following:
Thank You for Plant/Office Visit: Thank them for the
Type the name of the position for which you are
time and opportunity to visit their plant/office on
applying in the subject line. In the body of the email,
(date). If applicable, thank specific individuals for
there is no need to include your email address, date or special efforts during your visit. Thank them for
employer’s address as that information is transmitted
accommodations, meals, air fare or other expenses
paid. Include any requested receipts needed for
There is no need to leave spaces between the closing reimbursement. Express your interest in the company.
and the typed name as there will be no signature.
Re-emphasize what you can offer to fit their needs.
Always check to make sure that your attachments are Letter of Acceptance: Indicate your pleasure in having
indeed attached before you hit “send.” You may want received the company's offer of (date). Include all
to follow-up your initial email with a brief email asking if details of offer: position, location, starting salary, bonus,
your resume and cover letter were transmitted and
starting date and relocation expenses. Mention the
readable when opened in their system. Graceful y, let materials you have enclosed, such as transcripts,
the employer know that you are wil ing to resend the
application forms and/or resume. Tell of plans and
attachments if there was a glitch in the transmission.
anticipated arrival date. Indicate enthusiasm for the
job and the opportunity with the company.
Resource: Greene, B. Get the Interview Every Time. 2004. Letter of Acknowledgment: Requesting More Time for
DO I REALLY NEED TO SEND A LETTER?
Decision: Acknowledge receipt of the offer of (date).
Any time someone spends more than ten minutes
Express appreciation and continued interest in the
assisting you in any business situation, send a thank you company. Indicate reasons for time extension needed
letter. This includes someone who gives you a job lead. (if possible). If you require further information, specify
For any formal correspondence, follow appropriate
what you lack. Specify exactly when you expect to
business format. Use good quality paper, preferably
make your decision. This situation usually requires a
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prior phone conversation, but always follow up with a 3. Telling the employer what the company can do for
letter to verify.
you instead of what you can do for the company.
Letter Rejecting Offer: Indicate that you have given
This mistake is particularly common among new
considerable thought to the offer, but you have
college graduates and other inexperienced job-
decided not to accept it as outlined in their letter of
seekers. In most cases, employers are in business to
(date). Indicate that it has been a difficult decision for
make a profit. They want to know what you can do
you. Thank them for their time, effort and
for their bottom line, not what they can do to fulfill
consideration. Let them know that their confidence in
your career dreams. Tell the employer how you
you was appreciated. Mention aspects of the position
can meet his or her needs and contribute to the
or company that were appealing to you.
Response to Letter of Rejection: Thank them for
4. Leaving the ball in the employer's court. Too many
informing you of their decision and for considering you.
cover letters end with a line like this: "I look forward
If you are still interested in them, tell them you look
to hearing from you." Proactive cover letters, in
forward to being considered for future positions.
which the job-seeker requests an interview and
promises to follow up with a phone call, are far
DON'T MAKE THESE 10 COVER LETTER MISTAKES
more effective. Don't be vague about your desire
Your cover letter shows employers how well you
to be interviewed. Come right out and ask for an
express yourself. It can also demonstrate that you are
interview. Then, take your specific action a step
savvy in the ways of marketing yourself and selling your
farther and tell the recipient that you will contact
best qualifications. A good cover letter can entice the
him or her in a specified period of time to arrange
recipient to review your resume. A bad cover letter
an interview appointment. Obviously, if you say
can turn them away. Here are 10 mistakes that
you will follow up, you have to do so. If you take
contribute to bad cover letters and you want to avoid:
this proactive approach and follow up, you will be
1. Sending your resume without a cover letter. Sure,
much more likely to get interviews than if you did
some employers don't read them or place little
not follow up. This follow-up aspect is another good
importance on them. But since you do not know
reason to obtain the specific name of the hiring
the reader’s values, include a letter.
manager. Here's a sample closing paragraph
requesting specific action and describing the
2. Failing to address the letter to the specific name of
writer's planned follow-up.
the recipient. Addressing the letter to "Dear
Personnel Director/HR Director," "To Whom It May
I would like to be considered for a sales position in
Concern," "Dear Sir or Madam" (or worse, "Dear
which someone of my background could make a
Sirs") instead of a named individual are all lazy
contribution. I will contact you soon to arrange for
approaches that show the employer that you were
an interview. Should you require any additional
not concerned enough to find out the name of the
information, I can be contacted at the phone
person with the hiring power. It's not always easy to
numbers listed above.
find the name of the specific hiring manager, but
5. Being boring and formulaic. Don't waste your first
try to do so if at all possible. Usually, you can just
paragraph by writing a boring introduction. Use the
call the company and ask who the hiring manager
first paragraph to grab the employer's attention.
is for a given position. Tap into your personal
Tell the employer why you are writing and
network to learn the names of hiring managers. If
summarize the reasons you are qualified for the
you know someone who works for the company
position, expanding on your qualifications in later
that has posted a position online, ask your contact
paragraphs. Read more. Don't use such clichés as
to find out the name of the person hiring for that
"Enclosed please find my resume" or "As you can
position. Also use the library, phone book and
see on my resume enclosed herewith." Employers
internet to find names of hiring managers.
can see that your resume is enclosed; they don't
The worst-case scenario is that your letter will begin
need you to tell them. Such trite phrases just waste
"Dear Hiring Manager for [name of position]:" It's
precious space. Write a letter that will make the
not the best approach, but if you absolutely
employer want to get to know you better. Allowing
cannot find a name, this salutation does at least
typos, misspellings, or incorrect grammar/
provide some specificity.
punctuation into your letter. Your letter reflects your
ability to write and communicate. Be sure your
document is letter-perfect before sending it out.
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Proofread your letter. Put it down and proof it
effective when you possess all the qualifications for
again a few hours later with a fresh eye. Then enlist
a job, but it can even sell you when you are
a friend to review it for errors.
lacking one or more qualification. The format so
6. Rehashing your resume. Use your cover letter to
clearly demonstrates that you are qualified in so
highlight the aspects of your resume that are
many areas that the employer may overlook the
relevant to the position, but you're wasting
areas in which you lack the exact qualifications.
precious space—and the potential employer's
See a sample letter in a two-column format.
time—if you simply repeat your resume.
9. Rambling on too long and telling the story of your
7. Failing to specifically tailor your letter to the job
life/career. Keep you letter as brief as possible.
you're applying for. If you're answering an ad or
Never, never more than one page. Keeping to four
online job posting, the specifics of your cover letter
or five paragraphs of no more than three
should be tied as closely as possible to the actual
sentences each is a good guideline. Using bul et
wording of the ad you're responding to. In his book,
points in the letter is a good way to break up
Don't Send a Resume, Jeffrey Fox calls the best
blocks of text and interest the reader. Some job-
letters written in response to want ads "Boomerang
seekers tend to use their cover letters to provide a
letters" because they "fly the want ad words—the
narrative of their life or career. That's not what the
copy—back to the writer of the ad." In employing
letter is all about; it's a marketing tool that should
what Fox calls "a compelling sales technique," he
focus on the qualifications that wil sell you to the
advises letter writers to: "Flatter the person who
employer. Your letter should answer the question
wrote the ad with your response letter. Echo the
that the employer will be asking while reading the
author's words and intent. Your letter should be a
words you've written: "Why should I hire this
mirror of the ad." Fox notes that when the recipient
person?" Answer with your Unique Selling
reads such a letter, the thought process will be:
Proposition. Use simple language and
"This person seems to fit the description. This person
uncomplicated sentence structure. Ruthlessly
eliminate all unnecessary words.
A particularly effective way to deploy the specifics 10. Using wimpy language. Avoid such phrases as "I
of a want ad to your advantage is to use a two-
feel" and "I believe." Your statements will be much
column format in which you quote in the left-hand
stronger without them. It's best to either leave off
column specific qualifications that come right from
the qualifier or use a stronger qualifier, such as "I
the employer's want ad and in the right-hand
am confident," I am convinced," or "I am positive."
column, your attributes that meet those
Resource: Katharine Hansen
qualifications. The two-column format is extremely
EMAIL COVER LETTER FORMAT
Subject: Marketing Position
Position you Want
Dear Ms. Doe:
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COVER LETTER CONTENT
Current Address: xxx Street City, ST ZIP Phone Number Email Address
Permanent Address: xxx Street City, ST ZIP Phone Number
May 20, 2006
Mr. U. R. Employer
Director, Personnel Department
We Have Lots of Money, Incorporated
Auburn, AL 36830
Dear Mr. Employer: (address to particular person, always)
Introductory Paragraph: State why you are writing; name the position or type of work for
which you are applying; and mention where you learned of the position or organization.
Give specific dates if you have had specific conversations with a person, and include this
personal reference as it may attract more attention.
Body: The next one or two paragraphs should be your sales pitch. Explain why you are
interested and how you best fit this position. “Tease” the reader enough to read your
resume. Emphasize particular skills or duties that are part of the job description. As a recent
graduate, you may want to use a paragraph to address academic qualifications and
another paragraph to highlight experience and skills. Illustrate in this section that you have
knowledge of the company’s needs and of the position to demonstrate you have done
your “homework.” Be confident!
Closing Paragraph: Be short and to the point. Indicate what steps you would like to
happen next—if you want an interview, ask for it! Passive Approach: Results from you
saying, “I look forward to hearing from you,” and places responsibility on the employer to
make the next move. Active Approach: Puts you in the position to initiate contact with the
employer. State a specific date in the near future when you will verify receipt of the letter
and/or seek to arrange an appointment. If you say you will contact them, do! Finally, thank
the employer for his or her time and consideration.
Always Sign Your Name in Black Ink
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