A cover letter, also called a letter of application, presents you for the first time to a prospective employer or a networking contact. A well-written cover letter completes your application. While your resume includes facts about your work background, your cover letter displays your personality and describes your accomplishments in detail.

When composing employment correspondence, remember all the things your English teacher taught you about writing. Those rules apply to cover letters, too. Use your cover letter to describe a scenario or connect your experience to the position. Choose lively words, but remember to write like you speak. Your cover letter may impress interviewers, but the image you present in writing needs to match your interview. Be interesting, be authentic, but, above all, be brief.

Cover Letters

Often, your initial contact with a prospective employer is by letter. It is critical that your cover letter captures and holds the interest of the reader. The content should include your interest in this particular position with this company, your qualifications and training, and a request for an interview. Address each of your cover letters to a specific individual, not simply to an organization. This will require some research. To begin, you can use your CWRULink account, or other internet research to provide the contact names you need.

Some additional tips for cover letters:

  • Use standard business letter format
  • Address your letter to the person with hiring authority using name and title
  • Create an original document-do not use a form letter
  • Proofread and spell-check
  • Cover letter checklist
  • Cover letter format
Thank You Letters

In addition to demonstrating good manners, a thank you letter is an effective job search tool. A thank you letter provides an opportunity to present a positive image of you. Employers interview several people and it is not always easy to discern who is sincerely interested in their organization. A thank you note indicates your interest and enthusiasm, sets you apart from other candidates and can aid in securing a second interview or position.

After interviewing, send a thank-you letter within two days of the interview to the person(s) who conducted the interview or arranged the meeting. If you went on a company tour, it is appropriate to write a thank you note to every person with whom you visited. In addition, after attending a career fair, write a thank you to employers with whom you met and whose company you want to pursue further. You may also want to write a thank you to office personnel that have been particularly helpful. In short, you should write a thank you letter any time an individual spends more than 15 minutes helping you advance toward your career goals. In high tech industries, an e-mail note may suffice. Take your lead from the employers. If they correspond with you via e-mail it is appropriate for you to do so as well.

The thank you letter should be brief. Two to three short paragraphs will suffice. A written message on a small thank you note card is acceptable. If your handwriting is not legible, type it on standard-sized paper.

Acceptance and Regret Letters

The successful conclusion of your job search means sending an acceptance letter. This letter is a statement of your good faith commitment to accept a position, and should confirm specific details about salary, starting date, and other arrangements. An acceptance letter generally follows a telephone or personal conversation in which the details of the offer and terms of employment are discussed. When you write to the employer accepting the offer of employment, include your understanding of the terms of employment, including the starting date. Clarify arrangements for moving, relocation, expenses and other details regarding your transition.

When you accept a position with one employer, you must notify others. Write a simple note of thanks to those employers and indicate your plans for employment elsewhere. State your appreciation for the time and interest that they have shown in your candidacy.

Informational Interview Letters

When arranging informational interviews, you may choose to initiate contact with professionals through a formal letter. Clearly explain in the letter that you are seeking their advice regarding the profession, and not asking them for a job.

E-mail Correspondence

Follow these important guidelines when using e-mail in your job search:

  • Treat e-mail like any other business communication.
  • Watch your spelling and grammar as your communication skills will come through in your e-mail.
  • Fill in the "Subject" line with concise and informative language.
  • Use an appropriate e-mail address on your resume and cover letter.
  • Refrain from adding too many attachments as it is cumbersome for the recipient.
  • Have a clear "signature block" with your full name, postal mailing address and telephone number. Be careful about including quotations and sayings in your signature block.
  • Check your e-mail daily and respond promptly to e-mail messages.
  • If you really need an immediate response to an urgent question, ("I need directions to my interview this afternoon") pick up the phone and call.
  • Note: It's still best to type or handwrite a thank-you note after an interview.
  • Please do not send Internet jokes, virus warnings, dancing electronic elves or any other related items to prospective employers or recruiters.
  • Include your e-mail address on your resume and on the address block of your hard-copy letters so employers can initiate e-mail contact with you.
  • When you are replying to an e-mail and the sender of the original message has used his or her first name only, then you could safely assume it's okay to use that person's first name as well. When in doubt, use Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Dr. (as appropriate).
  • Don't write in all UPPERCASE or bold; this is considered SHOUTING at the recipient.

And please remember these important final thoughts:

  • E-mail is a form of written communication; it creates a written record and in some cases, a permanent record.
  • Don't let the speed and ease of sending e-mail blind you to the fact that you will be judged on what you say and how you say it.