Letters are Job Search tools
It may seem strange to hear, but letters are an important tool in the Job Search process. This is true for both hard copy [paper] and e-mail letters. This may be the first time you will have to write and send job-related correspondence. For that reason, you may be challenged to decide what to say and how to say it for a number of unfamiliar situations.
Regardless of the type of letter you may be writing - just like your résumé - relevancy is crucial. Your letter(s) should be focused toward each individual situation; this is not the time to send out cookie cutter one-size-fits-all correspondence - it just doesn’t work.
Cover Letter - FAQs
What is a cover letter? A cover letter is an introduction, a sales pitch, and a proposal for further action all in one. It gives the reader a taste of what is to come. A well-written letter is the first opportunity you have to talk to a potential employer. It is used by many employers as a screening device.
Your cover letter should include a similar heading, if not the same, that is on your resume. Include the following parts in the body of your letter:
- Opening - Tell employers who you are, why you are writing, and how you heard about the organization or specific opening.
- Sales Pitch - Get right to the point! List in either paragraph from or bullet points - the reasons why the employer should see you as a viable candidate. Start with a statement that provides an overview of your qualifications, then go into each qualification more specifically as they apply to the job opening, using examples you identified before you started writing.
- Insight - This is the "why them" section of your letter. It is where you interest the reader by commenting on something positive about the organization and letting them know why you are a good fit.
- Request for Further Action - Do not think of this last paragraph as a closing, but more of an opening to further contact. End the letter in an assertive, but courteous way by taking the initiative to follow up.
Ask yourself the following questions before you begin writing your cover letter...
- What does the prospective employer need?
Which skills, knowledge and experience would be an asset in the job you are targeting?
- What are your objectives?
You are applying for a specific job and trying to get an interview.
- What are three to five qualities that you would bring to this employer or this job?
If you are responding to a job listing or classified ad, then those qualities should obviously be the job requirements mentioned in the ad.
- How can you match your experience to the job?
What are at least two specific accomplishments you can mention which give credit to the qualities you identified in the prior question?
- Why do you want to work for this particular organization or person?
What do you know about them? What is it about their products or services, philosophy, mission, organizational culture, goals and needs that relates to your own background values and objectives? Do your research.
Once these five questions have been answered, you are ready to begin creating your cover letter!
- Tailor your letter to target the reader, industry, and job opening.
- Write to a specific person using his/her title.
- Research the company thoroughly.
- Communicate your capabilities in ways that describe how you will meet the needs specified in the job description.
- Always refer to the accomplishments on your resume that relate to the immediate benefits that you can contribute to this employer.
- Use action words to relate your accomplishments.
- Use proper spelling and grammatically correct sentences.
- Make sure the letter is well organized and carefully worded.
- Use appropriate language. Avoid the use of clichés, slang, contractions or contradictions.
- Emphasize concrete reasons why the employer should be interested in you and avoid flowery phrases describing growth, challenge, advancement, etc.
- Avoid sounding desperate. You want the employer to know that you are interested in a particular job, but not that you cannot live without it.
- Be honest and sincere; try to give an impression of modest confidence.
- Avoid using the personal pronoun "I".
- Create your letter on a computer. Using a professional business style.
- Proofread and sign your letter. Typographical errors are not acceptable.
Thank You Letter FAQs
What is a thank you letter? A thank you letter is a follow-up step to an informal or formal interview that offers you the chance to establish good will and set you apart from other candidates. It is one of the most important steps in the job search as it keeps the candidates name in the forefront of the employer’s mind. This is especially true when several candidates are interviewed over a few days' time span.
Resumes look pretty much the same, so a thank you note can set you apart and do wonders for your profile. I appreciate thank you notes, don’t you? And, a well-written, well-timed thank you letter could land you a second interview and give you a second chance in case you did not interview well.
- Name the job you interviewed for and the date of the interview.
- Help the interviewer to remember who you are. Bring up something positive that happened or was said in the interview. Make it personal.
- Show your strong interest in the job. Be enthusiastic
- Did you forget to add something at the interview and only remembered it after you left the building? Do you have qualifications you did not mention to the interviewer about? Do it now.
- Sell yourself. Work on what you know to be the employer’s needs. Tell the interviewer of your ability to answer these needs.
- Offer to give more information and to come in for another interview.
- Thank the interviewer for the interview, for their time, and/or for considering you for the position.
Use plain white paper or paper that matches your resume and cover letter. Use the same letterhead you created for your resume. Type it or write it in black ink. It should have a neat and clean appearance. There should be no mistakes in spelling, grammar or punctuation. As with all of your documents, have someone read it to check for errors before you mail it.
The basic rule of thumb is that each interviewer gets a thank you letter which should be sent within 24 hours. If that is not possible, send the thank you to the highest ranking interviewer and ask that your appreciation be passed along to the others. A good idea is to collect business cards from each interviewer so that you have their correct position, job title and spelling of their name, etc.
Letter Formats and Samples
Keep in mind that each situation differs. These format and letter samples are provided to show you what to say and how to say it for each type of letter addressed here ...... no pun intended!