Impressive Written Communication
Aside from résumés or CVs, your job search will likely require you to write cover letters, complete applications, and send follow-up thank-you letters.
A cover letter usually accompanies a résumé or curriculum vitae. It should be written to show how your skills and experience meet the specific requirements of a position. Be simple and direct in your cover letter; remember that most people spend less than 10–30 seconds reading a cover letter and résumé.
A cover letter typically consists of three short paragraphs. In the first paragraph, explain how you know of the company, state the job you are interested in, and describe how you fit with the company’s needs.
In the second paragraph, list your strengths, accomplishments, skills, and goals, and explain how these will add value to the company. Power Statements and other techniques taught in the Career Workshop can help you do this.
In the third paragraph, indicate that you will follow up by a specific date to answer questions. You may also indicate that you want to arrange for an interview.
As you write your cover letter, include the specific job title you are applying for, and use other key words that the employer will recognize as requirements for the job.
When sending a résumé as an e-mail attachment, send the cover letter in the same attachment. For example, if you have a two-page résumé, send a three-page attachment, with the cover letter as the first page and the résumé as the second and third pages.
Employers use applications to judge you. Applications also provide an opportunity to sell your qualifications. The following suggestions will help you make a positive first impression.
Read the entire application before you begin. Pay close attention to what is asked and how you should respond. Observe instructions such as “Do not write below this line” and “Office use only.”
Positive Visual Impact
Print neatly, and use correct spelling and grammar. Use black ink, and respond to all questions. Don’t leave any spaces blank or questions unanswered. Write “NA” (not applicable) if an item doesn’t apply to you. Avoid negative information if possible. Look for ways to show you’re the right person for the job.
When the application asks what position you are seeking, use the specific job title used in the advertisement (not “Any” or “Open”). If you are interested in more than one job, fill out more than one application.
Include education, employment history, clear and concise descriptions of previous job duties, a list of significant skills, and reference information. However, don’t volunteer more information than the employer requires. Try to use positive statements about why you left a job. If possible, avoid terms like “Fired,” “Quit,” “Illness,” or “Personal Reasons.” Such terms may screen you out of the job.
Your application will become a permanent part of your record when hired. False information can be a basis for dismissal.
Use “Open” or “Negotiable” in response to salary questions.
When asked to provide references, choose people who can talk specifically about your qualifications. Ask them for permission to use them as references, and give them suggestions of things they might say about you. Work and professional references usually carry more weight than academic or personal references.
A good follow-up letter, such as a thank-you letter, is one of the most important tools in job searching and networking. Send a thank-you letter within three days of your conversation or interview.
In the letter, thank the person for taking time to meet with you, and reemphasize your interest. Refer to things you discussed in your conversation or interview that were most appealing to you. Thank the person again for his or her time and consideration. Offer to provide further information as needed, and offer to meet again.