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Career Services

 

Student Center 240

1200 S. Jay St.

Aberdeen, S.D. 57401

 

Phone: 605-626-2371

Fax: 605-626-3399

E-mail: careerdev@northern.edu

 

 

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Career Services
Cover Letters

For help writing a cover letter, visit Career Services or the library. Most résumé books have a chapter on cover letters.


A cover letter is always used when you mail your résumé to a potential employer. Your résumé may be written in a rather cryptic and terse format with generic information. Your cover letter, in contrast, is written in correct English sentences and paragraphs, tailored to interest each individual reader. Mass mailings of generic cover letters are notoriously ineffective in the job search process.

A well-written cover letter creates only positive results. It is one piece of a set of professional documents you have sent or will send to this employer. They all work together to form an impression of you as an employee and colleague. The letter creates a desire in the employer to want to meet you and learn more about you in an interview.

The cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself, give specific evidence of your ability to do this particular job, and

 

Online Tutorial

Sample Letters

 Cover Letter
 Response to Classified Ad
 Sample Acceptance Letter
 Sample Rejection Letter
 
Sample Thank-You Letter

 



request an interview. You can do this in one page—no more. However, be sure to use some personality and enthusiasm so that your passion for this work will show in your words. Your letter and résumé are samples of two distinctly different writing styles that employers will use to judge your ability to communicate.

General Guidelines:

1. Any business letter style or format is acceptable. Choose a style that serves you, and stay with it.

2. Learn the name and title of the person to whom you are writing, if at all possible. Usually, a simple phone call or a little networking will accomplish this small task. Occasionally, it cannot be done and you will have to use a general greeting or no greeting.

3. Write clearly. This needs to be a quick read for most people, so it needs to flow easily. Avoid long, complex sentences for most job opportunities.

4. Organize simply. Most cover letters consist of three paragraphs of two or more sentences each.

Your first paragraph tells the reader the job or type of job you want. You can also mention how you learned of this opportunity. Make it interesting.
Your second paragraph gives specific evidence of your job skills, citing past accomplishments. If the vacancy announcement or job description mentions skills or traits that are required or desirable, this is where you need to prove your ability. Generally, you will have room to expand on only two or three qualities, so be selective.
Your third or final paragraph politely requests an interview. You may also state your availability, such as being in Denver the week of March 4-11. For some sales or marketing positions, people will state that they will call in a number of days. If you do this, mark your calendar and be sure to make the call! Some employers will mark their calendars and wait to see who follows through, who really pursues opportunities, and who just tries to look good.

5. Choose your words carefully, for strong impact: avoid redundancy, use industry jargon appropriately, eliminate unusual abbreviations and do not simply repeat information from your résumé; do embellish generic résumé information or give information relevant to this employer.

6. Be neither modest nor boastful. Find a middle ground where you are promoting your candidacy with honesty and confidence. If you believe you can do the job, be sure you have convinced the reader!

7. Use the active voice rather than passive.

8. Reread aloud to search out trouble spots. Proofread. Spell check. Ask for assistance from others in the Writing Center, Career Development & Placement, etc.

9. Print on paper that matches your résumé and reference page.

10. Sign in blue ink.

FOLLOW-UP LETTERS

A follow-up letter is sent whenever needed to provide additional information to the employer, to convince the employer of your continuing interest in the job, or to give evidence of your persistence. If you send a follow-up letter, it is best to clearly identify yourself as a candidate who has already submitted a letter and résumé. That way, the employer knows that your materials are already in the system and that this document should be added to your file. More importantly, the letter shows your good manners, persuasiveness and good communication skills.

This letter is also direct and forthright. State clearly why you are writing, say what you have to say, and be done with it. The reader is a busy person. You may just be sending an updated résumé because you moved from campus to your parents’ home for the summer. Say that and add a sentence or two about your interest in working for this employer.

Remember to laser print the letter on paper that matches your other documents. Blue ink is recommended for your signature.

THANK YOU LETTERS

Thank you letters or personal notes are ALWAYS sent after interviews, within 48 hours. Handwritten notes are perfectly acceptable if your penmanship is legible. However, use plain, professional cards or stationery, not cute or funny cards. Blue ink is recommended for all personal correspondence and signatures. Typed business letters are also very appropriate. In either case, send the thank you!

All you need to do is thank the interviewer, be polite and respectful, state what you understand the next step to be, and sign the letter. If the interviewer asked for additional information, include it. You might mention your enthusiasm for this job, if that is the case. Do not take this for granted. Failure to mention your desire to work for the employer may be seen as lack of interest. You may also mention some specific aspect of the job or the interview that was of greatest appeal to you.

ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION LETTERS

When an employer makes a job offer, you are not expected to accept or decline on the spot (unless it is August and you are applying to teach in the public schools). In fact, it is recommended that you not give an immediate reply. Just as the employer often takes some days to consider your candidacy after an interview, you can also consider the offer made by the employer. Be sure you know your time frame and respond within it. Once you have weighed the salary, benefits, cost of living, travel, relocation assistance, and other factors and have decided, then you need to write and send a respectful letter to declare your decision.

Whether you accept or decline, you need to be polite and respectful. Do not burn any bridges or be critical. An angry employer might share your name with others in your field, giving you a reputation that can haunt you.

An acceptance letter will clearly state your positive decision and your starting date, as agreed upon in previous conversation. You can also state your understanding that more information about starting date, training date, or other information is expected. In any event, let your excitement show.

If you decline or reject the offer, show your appreciation for the time and effort the employer made in this process, mention the fine qualities that truly impressed you, and your regrets for declining the offer. In this way, you will still be seen as a professional and responsible individual. You may state the reason for the decline if it serves you well. For example, unforeseen family health issues or your spouse’s job offer in another city. However, this is not necessary and is not always a good idea.

OTHER LETTERS

Occasionally, a vacancy ad will state that interested individuals should contact their office for an application form. If time permits, you can write for this form, or you can phone for faster response. In both instances, be clear and polite. Briefly state your purpose in contacting the employer and your request. Provide your name, address, and/or fax number or email address, if they ask.

Many times, individuals write to employers to request information about the company or agency and employment opportunities. To do so, use clear, polite communication. Be specific enough to identify a department, job title, or type of job in which you are interested. Include your name, address, and/or fax number or email address.